“Something happened last weekend that was nothing short of a miracle. You know, one of those the ‘sky opens up and angels descend singing the Halleluiah chorus while strumming their mini harps’ moments. Remember a couple of years ago when we had a full solar eclipse, and everybody was all excited because they hadn’t seen one like that in almost 40 years because the event was so rare? Yeah, it was like that. It was a surprise. Pretty much a shock. Totally unexpected. Yes, friends. My teenage daughter was the responsible one. Let me repeat that. My teenage daughter was the responsible one.
You see, it was my birthday. I had a few drinks. Judge me if you want, but I’m allowed. After all, I’ve been turning 21 for 26 years now, so I’m legal. Wasn’t driving. Not bothering anybody and not overly intoxicated. But, silly enough to take a walk through my neighborhood after dark with a friend of mine to the neighborhood park. It is possible we were going to try to do cartwheels, but whatever, that’s not super important to this story. And no, you can’t see the video.
What is important is we got lost on the way back. Well, I didn’t. I mean, I knew which way I lived, but my friend insisted, absolutely insisted, that I lived the other way. I knew I didn’t, and trust me, I protested but they would not have it. So, off we walked to the south when I knew we needed to go north. Please don’t ask me why I didn’t just grab them and drag them back to my street. I was busy laughing and it may or may not have had something to do with my favorite two-word phrase: mer-lot. Or maybe it was the fact that I was enjoying feeling young again. Maybe the air was just warm enough for a midnight walk or maybe there was a rush of excitement feeling like we had snuck out. Because we did, you know. We didn’t even tell the kids where we were going. We just left. We just walked out like schoolkids and we didn’t say a word to anybody.
I don’t know how long it took them to notice. I’m guessing about 20 minutes because that’s how long it took them to call me. We giggled when we saw the caller ID. I shushed my friend as I tapped the phone screen to answer it.
‘Hello?’ I over enunciated my words and tried to stand in place.
‘Are you guys ok?, my daughter inquired.
I looked at the phone to make sure it was her. ‘What?’ I asked.
‘Are you guys ok?’
‘Yeth.’ I shifted my weight and tried to balance.
‘Are you lost?’
‘Well, I’m not but, yeth.’
‘Okay, put me on speaker.’ I fumbled, then I did. ‘Okay, so go to your settings. Click ‘share my location’ and send it to me.’ I held my phone out at arm’s length so my old eyes could see and did as she said. Within seconds, she instructed me to, ‘stay where you are, I will be right there.’
We did exactly as we were told. Within minutes, we saw two headlights coming towards us, and a little white car stopped where were stood. The doors unlocked from the inside. We shuffled towards it, opened the doors and crawled in. She said nothing as she drove us home. She forced a smile when we got to the house.
‘Just go to bed’, she said.
We nodded. And as we walked into the kitchen, she handed me a bottle of water. And it was then that I realized something spectacular.
All those months that I chased her around, all those sleepless nights when she stayed out too late, all those times when she didn’t answer her phone, all those moments when I screamed into my pillow, all those times I rolled my eyes because of one of her snarky responses, all those times I wanted to make her sleep on the porch or only feed her cheese sandwiches, yes, all those times I thought I would not survive this round of parenting – it all finally came full circle.
Because on this night – she was the responsible one.
It was a phrase I never thought I would use.
And as proud as I am of all my kids, and of all their accomplishments, I am most proud of this one. Because life hasn’t been easy for her. Life has been cruel. Life has been so unfair. Life has been sad and hard and challenging. There are so many ways we lose our innocence when we are kids. Maybe it’s something we see on TV. Maybe it’s something we read. Maybe it’s when your friends whisper life’s secrets to you under the bleachers. But, no child, and especially not a little girl, should lose their innocence as they hold their dad’s hand as he dies from cancer. No 13-year-old beauty should watch him take his last breath. They should not see that. They should not hear that. They should not experience that kind of pain. Because there are times for her when the nightmare is too much. And there are times where she rebels. There are times when her pain seeps out of her and she doesn’t know what to do with it. And there are times when her loss hurts so much that she tries to run from it.
But not that night. No, not that night. That night, she was the responsible one.
Her broken heart is healing.
My heart is full.”
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