Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's 11:00. Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

There was a TV public service ad, years ago: "It's 11:00. Do you know where your children are?" As a young teenaged babysitter, these words, intoned solemnly, gave me the creeps. I knew where I was--on the sofa in the Butlers' living room, trying to stay awake until the adults came home. I knew where the Butlers' children were (bed. I'd put them back there roughly 40 times in the last three hours). But in my mind I projected many years ahead, to a future where I would have children of my own, who'd be out cavorting in the darkness at 11:00 PM, Lord only knows where! Henceforth, I dreaded 11:00 PM, with its connotations of wild runaway offspring and parental cluelessness.

Nowadays, 11:00 PM is 5:00 PM for son Evan. He still has many tropical hours to go before catching up to my time in PA. As I prepare for (or am long in) bed, his Pearl Harbor workday is over. It is time to have dinner on the lanai, or enjoy a little Honolulu nightlife.

When Julie was in London in October, 11:00 PM was 5:00 AM the following day. If I wanted to chat, I needed to wait until at least 9:00 AM (but that would be 3:00 AM Oreland time, so I would not be a very fun telephone partner--unless you didn't mind gentle snoring as a response).

Rosie spent her high school junior year as an exchange student in Chiang Rai, Thailand. In this case, 11:00 PM was 11:00 AM (12 hours earlier). The best time to reach her was more like 5:00 PM (alas, our 5:00 AM). Arranging a time for a Skype chat was a distinct challenge, and we often missed connections.

In these instances, I was keenly aware of the distance between me and my loved ones. Indeed, it felt like they were on other planets--planets where they were midway through days I was only now starting to experience, or on the brink of beginning days I’d already spent.

But what I’m learning is, there doesn’t have to be a time difference for us to feel out of sync. Everyone’s schedules are so various that even those of us on the East Coast can go whole weeks without really connecting. Sheridan has a crazy work life that takes him from NYC to Philly to the Main Line to New Jersey. PJ is in his own Millersville world of classes and practices and yes, the occasional party I’m sure. Rose, now in New York, juggles at least 3 jobs at a time.

So. It’s 11:00. Do I know where my children are? For the most part, no. That’s where I count on God to know. They are somewhere, in dorms and apartments, on subways and buses. I don’t know, but I care so much. Parenting is a slow letting go of control, but never of loving.

Dear God, you love them even more than I do. Keep them safe tonight.

1 comment:

  1. Elise, I had the same feeling as you when I heard that announcement. And now two of my three kids are scattered to the winds, one of them in a different time zone (he's six hours ahead). I can well relate and love how evocative your writing is about family.