Chasing Down the School Bus

Last night we cranked up the tunes while doing the dishes, and had a family dance in the kitchen. Sunday night, we were all home—it was kind of fun, and…let’s face it….we live in the middle of the woods. Who is going to see us? Daniel eventually got annoyed with the geeky family spectacle he was born into, but Shelby schooled us. Who knew? She can dance.

This morning Shelby and I had to chase down the Gunflint Trail school bus—all the way to Loon Lake. She has a routine to tame her hair, and I have the routine of holding back on the nagging…and since Daniel (and Andy) left early for the orthodontist, no one was monitoring the time…. It is no trivial inconvenience to miss the school bus 47 miles from town, let me tell you.

I’ve always got room for improvement in this motherhood dance— letting them make decisions and live with the consequences. Sometimes, I think I’m really really good at letting go, at offering choices, at gentle parenting. And other times, just ask my kids, I’m ridiculously opinionated about their “choices”.

This morning

I was in the car with our highschool daughter, saying not one judgmental word. How could I? Promptness is not one of my virtues, and there is nothing like a pointed stare to emphasize my obvious word/behavior inconsistencies.

I was reflecting: not so long ago when I was driving Shelby to preschool, I thought I had a whole lifetime to perfect the parenting. Those days, I would buckle toddler Dan into the car seat,then return to “help” an independent four year old get to the car, insisting only that her attire be relatively clean and warm. Apparently even that much was an invasion of her feisty independence, because there were some days when I would eventually pick her up, grab a handful of clothes, buckle her defiant self in, and toss the clothes on top of her, as we drove away. Even though I was silent, the thick tension in the car was unfortunate for sensitive little Daniel. Shelby got herself dressed, but she was MAD! Sometimes she’d throw the clothes she didn’t want up to the front seat, and I was left wondering how the morning turned into the motherhood grade of C- or D+.


11 years later, I realize this is not a lifetime of raising children, but a chapter with adolescents finessing their way into adulthood. This morning I was hardly even frustrated—I know she is going to be OK, even if she has to miss a day of school. Still I struggle with the puzzle– how much to guide them– how much to let them fill in their own blanks.

I was talking to a friend on the phone yesterday about balance, about how much steering is just right. We didn’t come up with a solution, or even agreement, but I did realize the importance of friends like this—of surrounding myself with wise advisers who care about my kids—and pick apart my ideas. It’s a lucky thing really.

She made it to Grand Marais, Denali and I are getting ready to go clear off the skiff of snow, and enjoy the sunny weather–that is 50 degrees warmer than 48 hours ago. It really is a beautiful winter at the edge of the BWCA. And for today I think I earned a solid B grade for the parent balance . Well, for the morning anyway. Life is good.