whistle.jpgMrs. G. and her daughter were out shoe shopping running important errands months back. Mrs. G’s daughter was driving (she was due to get her license in a couple of weeks), and Mrs. G. was drilling her on all the safety tips she should know before she backed out of the driveway and headed off on her own for the first time. Things like: locking the door at all times, checking the backseat before she enters the car and screaming bloody murder and fighting like holy hell should some perv approach her unexpectedly in a parking lot. While Mrs. G. knows that her daughter is a cautious, quick-witted cookie and a safe and conscientious driver, she still lays in bed some nights fretting, trying to think of additional ways to keep her daughter safe. Things like: hot glue gunning airbags to the outside of the of the car or installing a maternal version of On Star, so that she can verbally check in to make sure her daughter is wearing her seat belt and obeying the speed limit and that the doors are locked and there is plenty of gas in the car. Mrs. G. can’t help it. She feels like her main job in this world is to keep her children safe.

So it struck a chord when out on their drive last week, Mrs. G’s daughter reminded her of the whistle. Years ago, when her kids were 12 and 8, Mrs. G., after much fretting and lecturing that involved traffic charts and crosswalk safety re-enactments, finally decided she would let her children walk together, holding hands, up two blocks and across a busy street to the QFC grocery store. The fact that they were willing to hold hands the entire way bears witness to how long they had been begging to make this trip alone, how desperate they were to get away from Mrs. G. purchase candy and pop on their own terms.

Mrs. G’s husband liked this idea even less than his wife, but he recognized his inclination to be overprotective and agreed to let the kids walk to the store…on one condition: they wear these gargantuan whistles around their necks.

Mrs. G’s daughter who, keep in mind, was twelve, wasn’t pleased at the idea of wearing a jumbo whistle around her neck, much less a jumbo whistle on a neon orange lanyard around her neck. It offended her sense of self-reliance and fashion. She fussed, she fumed, she cussed him behind his back mocked her dad, but she relented because, much like today, she wanted to roll with a little freedom. Mrs. G’s son didn’t care one way or the other. He was just in it for the Skittles.

“What was more frustrating than the size of the whistle,” said Mrs. G’s daughter as she drove, “was the fact that I knew it was pointless. I knew, even then, that if I blew this whistle, all that would happen is that someone in the neighborhood would hear it and think who is that idiot blowing that whistle, and when are they going to stop?”

All these years later, Mrs. G. sees her daughter’s point. The whistle really wasn’t a state-of-the-art security measure. But she also remembers her baby girl’s toothless grins and how her first steps on this earth were in the direction of her dad’s knees. Mrs. G. remembers rescuing small hands from drawers about to shut and kissing boo boos when she wasn’t there to break a fall. Mrs. G. understands that most parents will do anything, no matter how illogical, no matter how embarrassing, no matter, as in the case of Dad’s whistle, how futile, to keep their children safe. And, all in all, that’s not a bad way to parent-to do the best that you can. And then a little bit more.