Privilege Blog

The Kid Alarm, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:11am

My son graduates from college in June.

Oddly, I’m not overwhelmed by the usual “Where Has The Time Gone, Only Yesterday He Had No Hair.”

Instead I’m repopulating my imagination with his future world. Factually, this involves a job on Wall Street, as an editor for an international news service startup. Don’t know yet where he will be living. Don’t know whether he will have to walk up dark stairs, eat ramen, and face Sunday afternoons alone. Or whether he’ll figure out his slow cooker, find comfort in subway rumbles, and rumpus with glamorous buddies.

No matter what – I need to start sketching possibilities to deal with the Kid Alarm.

Those of you with children know the Kid Alarm, right? The one that goes off, with no warning, “Ding Ding Ding! Where are my children?” Babies set off the bell upon arrival. In the early days, the alarm is almost constant. “Where is my baby? Oh, in my arms. Where is my baby? Oh, asleep next to me. Where is my baby? In the other room, at a friend’s house, in college.”

Apparently when my son was little, one night I woke up and said, “Where’s the baby?” When reminded he was right there, in the bed, I said, “No, where’s the rest of him?”

These things aren’t rational.

As kids grow up, our alarm rings intermittently, but still without warning. I might be walking down cubicle corridors, in full work mode, and to my mind unbidden comes, “Where are my children?” I am recalibrating the answer, boy child mode.

If I can envision, just a bit, where he might be, the alarm quiets. Same is true for my daughter of course. And once I know where my children are, I can be useful. Which has been my sturdy goal all along. Maybe yours too.

If you feel like winning a really gorgeous bag, please remember to click here and follow the steps. Have a good weekend.

32 Responses

  1. Oh yes, the baby alarm.
    Were I in your place, I´d hear the bell ringing all the time, I think..
    USA is such a big country, and your children live far from you.
    I´m lucky to have mine closer, at least for now.
    Do you think that the fathers hear the bell?

    1. My husband has a HUGE alarm ringing for our babies all the time. And he is terrified of flying with them-which coming from someone who has been to 5 continents and travelled extensively, is a lot to say.

  2. I’ve found that there are still plenty of ties that bind.

    Hopefully your child will get his own health coverage, if not you can feel motherly in providing that, no small thanks to Obamacare. Will he be getting his own cell plan, E-Z pass, auto insurance?

    It probably isn’t quite time to feel totally childless.

    1. No car required, health insurance provided, already pays his own cell. I hope I NEVER feel childless:).

  3. It’s odd…my eldest has been on his own for more than 10 years. We talk nearly every day, even if it’s just an IM saying, “Hi, how’s everything?” So if I don’t hear from him for more than a couple of days, I get antsy. He’s going to be 29 in June, and I still get a bad case of “Where’s my baby?”

    Don’t ask me how I deal with my daughter living in Las Vegas, because I’m still not sure.

  4. My daughter is almost 29, and it’s still the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. Where is she right then. I’m lucky that she lives nearby and we see each other often. I don’t think for some mothers, (and perhaps fathers) that feeling ever goes away.

  5. I am trying to console myself that back in my day (and surely yours) our parents only had letters and phone calls from dorm payphones without answering machines. As my oldest will shortly begin driving and not quite ready to leave the nest for a couple years, I still have these moments of panic about how it will be when he’s gone. You — and others — seem to handle it so well. It’s hard to believe I will be able to, but maybe you grow into the job.

  6. Ah yes, I know those bells. After the oldest moved into an off-campus apartment, I made him show me around his neighborhood–the grocery, his bus stop, coffee shop, and so on. I’d visited the campus before, but not this new neighborhood. I told him I needed to have some context for him. I can’t imagine that need ever changing for any of my children; I just hope they’ll be mildly indulgent. Yours, too.

  7. The rest of him … That might be it. That is what we have no/lose our grip on and maybe the reason why we resort to wanting to know the physical whereabouts. Well, you can only trust he’ll find his own whereabouts either way.

  8. Our college senior is focused on an international field and headed to graduate school in New York by way of a small, rural LAC. No housing plans yet, doesn’t know the city well and likely to be in complex situations post-grad. This is how I do it: I call post-conflict situations in developing nations “complex” and make no reference to the dangers. Yes, as they move ahead to write their own stories, I scribble as fast as I can, re-framing their journeys into mom speak, making the unknown bearable.

    Best to all Moms everywhere. .

  9. All of a sudden I’m beginning to understand why/how I’d pick up the phone well into my 50s, and hear my Mom on the other end asking “Where is my baby?”

    Unable to give birth to my own children [having only “mothered” stepchildren], I didn’t “get” the coded question AT ALL. If you hadn’t published this post, I’d never have gotten it!

    I kinda want to cry, really. Mom was well into her late 80s, still opening with “Where is my baby?”

    Alright that does it, I’m a mess now…..but thank you for opening that window I’d never have been able to crack, never.

  10. Mine are young adults, half moved-in, half moved-out, I go into panic mode when I haven’t heard from any of them for a few days, but often can check into the social media sites we share and find out what’s going on! I’ll sometimes have to force myself to not peek because I do believe in healthy boundaries, however … I HAVE to know everyone’s at least OK if not thriving. I don’t expect that need to ever go away, and, perhaps that’s OK too. It’s a life-long love affair.

  11. My children are 3 1/2 and I still wake up in the middle of the night and go check if they are breathing. My mum has the same alarm for my brother and myself and I am 36, so I guess it never goes off…

  12. Funny-I call it the Mom Alarm. I am a little stressed to know it will still be going off when they are in college and beyond. One of my rules for my 12 and 10 year old kids is that you cannot scream or cry bloody murder unless it is really happening. I am an old Mom for kids of that age and the Mom alarm can be hard on me. Thank you for this post!

  13. This post resonates for all the above reasons stated by your readers and yourself Lisa. My own mother used to say ‘once a mother, always a mother’ and it was not until I became a mum myself did I truly understand the meaning in her words. My two are now in their twenties and I love them more ever.
    To my dying day my kids welfare will be the most important issue in my life.

  14. Let us not forget that while the parent alarm never stops, it is expanded when you have grand children!!!

  15. I just got off the phone with my 22 year old son, who is living 1800 miles away. I miss him so much that it physically hurts sometimes. I have six children, four are adults. The other three are within a hundred miles radius and I see them often. Those motherly fears never go away.

  16. Having 17 years since egg #1 left the nest, I kid myself that I’ve adapted. Then we’ll be far away, in Paris say, and I’ll feel the same compulsion to phone and check on the kids as I did when we left them with grandparents for a weekend when they were wee. Happy to have my son and DIL-to-be sharing the house with us this weekend. Happy that when they leave, they’re only 90 minutes away. . .

  17. My mom is in her late 70’s and still calls to check on me once a week, just for trivial stuff because her MA goes off! I still check on my four chicks who are well into their adult years constantly. My MA goes off all the time and I figure it’s a call to check on one of them when it does. At least they all live close to each other and I get reports of what’s going on with the others when I talk to one of them. And FB and email are good runner ups for that.

  18. I love your description of the “where’s my baby?” alarm. I have it, too, but am lucky enough that the answer is right in the next room, with the exception of an occasional sleepover. They haven’t even done away camp yet, though with my daughter in fifth grade, that’s on the horizon. I don’t know how you handle it! But wonderful news for your son, with a job all lined up and his plans in place. Congratulations!

  19. My baby is graduating from college too, this spring! And now that my older son is married, I have another “kid” to be “alarmed”about. But it’s all good!

  20. This is so true. We have had an “empty nest” for several years now, but I do have a sixth sense about when the silence has gone on too long and often, I will check in. More often than not, there is good reason I did. I believe in this intuition stuff.

  21. My father is a lot more connected to us, it seems. Perhaps that’s because he wasn’t stuck with us 24/7 when we were growing up.

    He’s on Facebook to keep track of us – he absolutely loves it.

    My stepson checks in almost every day, except when he’s offshore, then no one sleeps very well.

  22. It is so odd that with 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren; there are times I wish I still had a small child at home.

    Lisa,Come over to visit, I have a New Giveaway I think you will love!

    Art by Karena

  23. Love that you call it an alarm. That is so true, it goes off and you do a quick mental check list to remind yourself that they are safe. Graduation from college is so full of possibilities!

  24. Mine are just at the age when they are past “play dates” and are “hanging out”. It seems so foreign to have days when both kids have plans and my husband and I are free to go where we will. I’m sure as it becomes more frequent we will adjust. I just wasn’t quite expecting it NOW! Terrific post and best of luck to your son as he embarks on his next new beginning.

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