Coffee with Mimi: A parent’s life

Published 6:44 pm Friday, October 18, 2019


My daughter and her husband are traveling outside the country right now. I am not overly concerned about her safety, not any more than any mother on any day of the year under any circumstances.  Through the wonders of modern technology, we can communicate on a moments’ notice as if she is around the corner. When I woke up to a text on my phone alerting me that she had made a couple phone calls using our shared cell phone package, I wasn’t too concerned.  She and her husband have typical busy lives and it wouldn’t be at all out of the ordinary that they would need to tidy up some business while on vacation.

It was the second text that sent me a tad over the edge. She and her husband wanted to let us know that, in consideration of the unstable and changing situation in their vacation spot, they might need to increase their internet data limit in order to keep up with the trouble spots.  Whaaaat?!

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I grabbed my Google machine and typed in the city in question. Sure enough, the first photo which popped up portrayed a protestor throwing some object into a raging fire during the night — last night.  Her father’s text response was to do whatever they needed to do, but COME HOME NOW. She responded that they have been fine, so far, but the protests are supposed to grow over the next couple days. Sure they are. The weekend is upon us and the protestors’ targeted areas are the commercial and historical districts where the museums and high end designer stuff is.  The very places tourists wander around in while on vacation searching for a great cup of coffee and a cool outdoor restaurant to soak up the general local vibe.

Why should I be surprised by her nonchalance? This is the daughter who wandered away from us in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum when she was 5. She calmly and politely asked directions from uniformed individuals and safely ended up in the security office where she waited happily and obliviously while playing games with the guards. I, on the other hand, nearly accosted any and every uniformed individual in the building until I was guided to the security office.  

It was a frightening incident.  One which could have ended up so many different ways.  She was my child and I was supposed to be in control of her safety.  It was my job and I blew it within the confines of one building.

Today, she is a grown woman. She is a professional, well-educated and independent woman. She can take care of herself. She has all the documents necessary to travel the world. She can read signs and follow directions. What on earth is she doing wandering around in a foreign city in which people are throwing things on open fires in the streets in the middle of the night?  This is not the comfortable Smithsonian where everyone is happy to be in the coolest museum in the world on Spring Break with dozens of other families with sweet little children.

I am her mother and I have absolutely no way to ensure her safety right now, in a situation that could take so many turns. This is not the Smithsonian where the scariest thing for her that long ago day, in the end, was life-sized models of long dead, nearly absurd looking creatures. This is real life where there are angry people throwing objects into open flames in the middle of the tourist district when she is out looking for a cool dinner in an exotic city. I’m not sure there are enough uniformed people out there to guide her safely to the security office. Most likely, that is the furthest thing from their minds as they are dealing with angry people who are unconcerned about her motive for being out and about.  

When she was 5, it was terrifying to not know where my child was and how she was. A parent’s mind goes on auto-pilot to cope with the unreality and disbelief. When I turned that corner at the security office and saw her happy and smiling, I could barely stand. But, I put on a smiling face and hugged her close, maybe a bit closer than normal. I didn’t want her to know what was going through my mind.  A 5-year-old doesn’t need to know that.

Today, I don’t know where my child is beyond a geographic location. I do know she is a grown woman and she is not alone. I do know the circumstances are probably past the stage of predictability given the political and long running nature of the unrest. I completely agree with my husband, her father: do what you have to do with phone calls and internet usage and COME HOME NOW.  It is not comforting that she says it is safe, don’t worry, we’ve been fine so far.

When she was 5, I didn’t want her to know I was afraid for her. Today, I want her to know a parent never stops being afraid for her child.