I think the real problem with having a hyperactive worry mechanism for a brain is in a situation like last Friday, where I was taking the teenager and three friends over to a nearby county park to play some pick up soccer. These games are arranged like everything else in their lives – through a sudden mad flurry of text messages betwixt and between, resulting in little mini raves or flash mobs hither and yon. (Fortunately, mostly yon.)
A few blocks from the park, the teenager got a call (an actual voice communiqué) from one of the organizers. “The park is closed to traffic. No cars can come in or out. Apparently there’s an armed robber in the park. So tell your mom she can’t drive in.”
“An armed robber?” said the teenager. “So, should we just get dropped at the road and walk in?”
I try not to eavesdrop on the teenagers phone calls, but this sentence did make my ears prick up.
He had already flipped his phone closed, having seemingly done all the business he had to do on that call. “Drop us off at the entrance, please. No cars can go into the park.”
I pulled over.
“Wait, wait, wait,” I said. “Do we really think it’s a good idea to walk into a park where there’s an armed robber?”
“It’s fine, Mom,” said the teenager.
“He probably only has a knife,” said another.
“I don’t really care if I die,” said a third.
What are you all talking about? I said. There’s a guy. In the park. With a gun. You’re not going in there.
The teenager called his friend and relayed the bad news. An exchange occurred. Then, “Mom, he says the robber has moved on and now the park is closed to cars because there’s a concert there tonight.”
This is the point where I’m stymied. I know I’m an overreactor. But I can’t tell whether this is a reasonable threat to react to. If it were completely up to me, my children would not ever leave the house during a thunderstorm, when it’s windy or during an outbreak of any potentially fatal disease (including West Nile Virus and the seasonal flu).
“We’ll be fine,” my son said to me, again. “Why would an armed robber hang out in the middle of a big open soccer field? He’s more likely to take refuge in a tree.”
In some strange way, this made sense to me. So I let them out of the car. I made them talk to the police officer just beyond the park entrance so they themselves could assess the threat. Then they were to call me and report what they had learned.
“Hey, Mom…” said the teenager. I could still see him from the car but we were now speaking via satellite. “The police officer said the armed robber has moved on.”
“How does he know?” I asked, because for some reason I thought maybe the teenagers would be curious enough for their own physical safety that they might probe a bit.
But my son said they didn’t ask how he knew. They just assumed that if a policeman was letting them into the park that it was safe enough. And I guess in a sane and reasonable world, that should be good enough for me as well.