Everybody wants to feel important.
Speaking as a parental unit, we get to feel important a lot. We get hugs when kids are tired or scared. We get snuggles. Unless you're me and your child has a ridiculous song and dance about germs, we also get kisses. Parents generally get lots and lots of love and appreciation, especially when candy, french fries, money or stickers are involved.
But the time too-quickly comes when we are unceremoniously dumped on our self-important behinds. For those of you who aren't there yet, I'm here to tell you, there is no early warning device and no color coded system to alert you to the fact that you are no longer the sun in your child's planetary system. It just happens. Boom.
Last Thursday, we all got up at the crack of Wednesday night to get TinyTuna and all her accoutrements to the bus which was to leave for Detroit (with or without her) at 6am sharp. She was a bit bleary-eyed, having spent the evening prior at the theatre watching Little Shop of Horrors, but she made it with plenty of time to spare.
I didn't know what to expect from this child of mine, who really hasn't spent any time away from home and who has never ridden on an airplane. I worried on her behalf -- to the extent that is allowed in the parental handbook -- and hoped there would be no meltdowns as she prepared to leave.
As the group was making its final preparations, GramTuna and I were chatting with another adult. Suddenly we realized that TinyTuna had taken off with a stream of kids towards the bus. No goodbyes, no tearful farewells, not even a "I'll miss you" thrown my way out of pity. Nothing.
We meandered towards the bus and THEN TinyTuna came lunging at me with the hug of death. Phew!! We gave lots of hugs, and told her to have fun, gave her a stern look and told her to BEHAVE (also a requirement in the parental handbook), and then I whispered in her ear, "I saw some other kids with friends," (meaning stuffed animals), "so it's probably ok if Fluffy comes out of your backpack."
She said ok, smiled and ran off.
As I watched her get on the bus and sit down, the reason for her earlier disappearing act instantly became clear. THIS was why she took off so quickly. THIS was why she didn't say goodbye first. THIS was why she didn't whimper or cry. THIS was why she snubbed my all-consuming parental need to feel important.
She was sitting on the first seat of the bus.
Directly across from the conductor.
I lost to a BUS SEAT.
It was a sign.
After pulling ourselves together at home, GramTuna and I set off to drive to points unknown in Pennsylvania. As we drove and chatted, I periodically glanced at my watch to send some good karma around 11am: TinyTuna's scheduled takeoff. I would interrupt my normally inane conversation that is liberally sprinkled with nonsensical comments on the price of gas at every sign I see ("Hey, $2.20...not bad) with normal parental announcements and concerns on TinyTuna's behalf.
"It's almost time for takeoff."
"They are up in the air now."
"I wonder how her flight is going?"
"I hope there isn't much turbulance."
"They should have landed by now."
"I wonder when she'll be able to give us a call?"
Our plan had been that once they arrived in New York and got themselves situated in their hotel, she would give me a call with all their phone numbers so I could call after that. We didn't hear anything for a long time. Nothing to awaken us from our coma induced by the lovely state of Ohio. No cellphone chirp to brighten our spirits from the militant state of Pennsylvania, who spent the entire time yelling at us:
KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE
BUCKLE UP -- EVERY SINGLE TIME!!
This of course, got hysterical after awhile, as I took to growling EVERY SINGLE TIME at the end of every sentence (I humor easily).
Finally, FINALLY my child calls late in the afternoon. My child, who has never flown on a plane, and never really been away from home. My child, who was on an adventure of a lifetime chock-full of firsts, whom I WORRIED ABOUT the entire day, offered up this conversation:
GreenTuna: HEY SWEETIE!!! HOW WAS YOUR TRIP?
GreenTuna HOW WAS YOUR FLIGHT??
GreenTuna DID YOU LIKE THE PLANE RIDE??
GreenTuna WAS IT SMOOTH OR BUMPY???
GreenTuna DID YOU HAVE A WINDOW SEAT???
Now I'm worried. I'm offering up softball after softball question so she was tell me about her trip, and I'm getting one word answers. Is she sick? Is she scared? Is something wrong? Do I have to find her and save her?
And then it all became clear, as she spouted in a voice of sheer exasperation dripping with a 'Woman, will you please just leave me alone!!! sort of tone:
MOM, I HAVE TO GO BECAUSE WE ARE GOING SHOPPING IN TIMES SQAURE RIGHT NOW!!!
Somewhere, my self importance is licking its wounds. In the course of twelve hours I moved several notches down the parental food chain -- lower than a bus seat, and lower than T-shirt and trinket shopping. And somewhere along the way, TinyTuna grew up a whole lot, and handled herself like a pro. All in all this was a good thing.
I only sniffled once or twice.