Parental Worry At Leo Carillo
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Noble was sitting by himself, tucked in the woods behind our campsite. He was dejectedly fiddling with some tall grass. Looking up at me, I could see that he was depressed. It wasn’t a surprise, based on what recently went down. He tried to get the whole sentence out without showing me his sadness, but his lip quivering on that final word said it all. ”I just want to be left alone.”
Noble isn’t a depressed kid. When he’s upset he tends to stomp, throw, and/or raise his voice. This new expression of his feelings stung me pretty hard. Ten minutes ago, though, we were in a different world.
We went camping at Leo Carillo. Camp site 136, perfectly tucked into the side of the mountain. Leo Carillo is loaded with plots, many of them packed in together. But ours felt as remote from the other camp sites as you could get in that setting. Behind us was our very own secret trail that wound it’s way 30-40 yards up the mountain until it reached a level dirt trail, just wide enough for a brave biker, that wrapped around the mountainside.
Noble, Alistair and I made our way up to the dirt trail where we had a spectacular view of the ocean, as well as a cool overview of the camping sites below. I tried to take it all in, but kids don’t give a crap about views. They see an open road and all they want to do is run.
Not betraying his youth, Noble took off running. I had to scoop Alistair up in order to rival Noble’s pace. Even then, Noble would wrap around a corner and go out of sight. That’s all it took for me to have intense worry thoughts about a mountain lion pouncing him. Once I have a vision of my child being mauled by a beast, it’s hard to let it go. So out of my pocket I retrieved an appropriately named pocket knife. I wanted to be ready to dive on the mountain lion and Rambo it before it ate my son.
I called out for Noble to wait for us. Eventually we caught up and I was able to put Alistair down. We continued to walk, Alistair holding on to one hand, and the mountain lion slayer in the other.
As we got to a turning back point, Noble took off running again. Alistair wanted to stay with Noble and so I had to pick him up again. But Noble was just way too fast. That kid can sprint! I’m an oafy runner as it is, and carrying a three year old didn’t make me any less oafier. Again, I imagined a moutain lion pouncing and dragging Noble down the side of the mountain. In my scenario, I would be forced to set Alistair down and dive off the side of the mountain in order to reach the hungry lion in time. This would clearly have Alistair alone and a perfect target for the other mountain lion who laid in wait, probably a pre planned effort on their part to get both my kids.
I began to call out to Noble to stay and wait. He didn’t listen. I called ahead again, but he rounded a corner, still not listening. My worry turned into anger as my son continued to choose running over listening to his father. I called again and again. Finally Noble stopped. Not because I called to him, but because he was at the turning point where we would head down the trail to the campsite.
I was pissed.
In my loudest quiet voice, through my teeth so as not to embarass myself further, I barked, “When I tell you to stop, then goddammit you listen to me!”
Yeah, I swore. But I was so angry that if I didn’t actually swear, my face would have imploded. There’s something about a curse word that releases exponentially more tension than a regular word like “by-golly” or “frickin.” That’s why when people stub their toe, they yell awful things…because they might die otherwise. It could be true.
Holding Alistair, I continued down the side of the mountain to the camp. Noble was clearly upset about being yelled at and stayed back a good distance as Alistair and I made our way back to the campsite. At one point I called back to him, “Noble. Let’s go!” I brought Alistair back to Gayle, where she was waiting by the tent. Seeing how mad I was, she asked what had happened.
“Noble wouldn’t listen to me.”
She responded, “I know, I could hear you up there.”
Great. I no doubt made a complete ass out of myself up there. Frustrated, I headed back to the trail. I needed to finish this. As I made my way back to the starting point of our secret trail, I saw Noble sitting alone, fiddling with some tall grass. Still pissed, and in an almost accusatorial tone, I asked, “What’s going on?”
“I just want to be left alone.”
My anger and frustration turned to guilt and heartbreak. I pretty much crushed his spirit up on the mountain. I had to fix this. I took a seat next to him and as we were cloistered in the brush, I did my best.
After a few moments of silence, and putting the tone of my voice in check, I spoke. ”I remember being your age. I loved running around and having fun. And there were times that I didn’t listen to my dad. He would get so mad at me and I never understood why he wouldn’t let me do what I wanted. But what I didn’t realize then, and I suspect you don’t realize now, is that dad’s have a job to do. Our job is to protect our children. If you don’t listen to me, then I can’t protect you. I want to be able to let you run off and have as much fun as you desire. But I can’t do that if you don’t listen to me. I need to be able to trust you, and the more I trust you, the more freedom you will get. I hope you know that I love you, and I love watching you run and have fun. Just know that I will never ask you to stop unless I need you to stop. It may not be fun at the time, but it is important. And on hikes in the mountain, it’s important for the family to stay together.” I waited, and looked down to see if my ramblings had any impact. It was hard to tell. So I inquired, “Does that make sense?”
He nodded. We hugged. And then we played ball together. I think it’s important to do something active with my kids to remind them that I still love them. It’s not always what I say, but what I do that helps seal the deal.
I conveniently left out telling him the gruesome imagery where I thought he was going to be devoured by an angry mountain lion. I didn’t think scaring the bejesus out of him was appropriate to get my point across. That parental worry is my cross to bear. Besides this incident, the camping trip was amazing fun for everyone. It may be hard to convince you that I’m not a helicopter parent, demanding too much of my kids. I will only tell you that there were many other situations where my parental worry imagined horrible outcomes, but I managed to keep my mouth shut. Here they are in beautiful picturesque form: