PANTHERS and GATORS and SHARKS, OH MY!
Danger Avoidance Specialist
In the fifth grade, I played the role of Dorothy in our school’s presentation of The Wizard of Oz. It was a magical experience that began my love of acting and the theater. I can still remember the words to most of the songs—my favorite being “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” I loved the idea that following the path would lead to a happy ending. Of course, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion were there to make sure Dorothy knew about all the possible dangers. The Tin Man and Lion cared about Dorothy, and they wanted to protect her.
We all have people in our lives like that. People who love us and want to protect us. And sometimes, a little too much. They mean well, but without intending to, they can kill our confidence and belief in ourselves. I had wonderful parents that encouraged—and even indulged—my ideas and dreams. I did have a few schoolyard run-ins with classmates, but luckily, I was never a victim of the mean girls that proliferate teenage culture today. Honestly, on the days I’m feeling sad that my children are grown and gone, I’m thankful they aren’t still teenagers. Parenting ‘tweens and teens can’t be easy in these digitally fueled times.
For a few years, my teenagers proclaimed me the “Meanest Mom Ever!” I did things like enforce a curfew—11 pm in high school. And if a friend of the opposite sex came to the house, the door had to stay open during the visit. However, the worst was what they called “Slave Labor.” I insisted that they complete household chores before giving them their weekly allowance. Looking back on it, the rules still seem appropriate, even if I was the meanest mom ever. I just hope I didn’t somehow undermine their confidence or dreams.
Maybe I didn’t deserve the title, but I did expect the rules to be followed and wouldn’t accept excuses. My husband, on the other hand, could be a big softie. Underneath his rugged exterior, he always found time to listen to the “reasons.” He could spend hours commiserating, which was usually followed by a get-out-of-jail free card. I suppose he played a good Yin to my bad Yang.
In our house, my husband also played the role of “Danger Avoidance Specialist.” When we went to Hawaii on a family trip, he made sure to warn the kids and me not to sit under a coconut tree because hundreds of people die from coconuts falling from the treed and landing on their heads! When our son and his friends practiced wakeboarding in the local lake, he would send them out the door with a warning about alligators. As the boys were hooking up the boat, he would regale them with stories of violent attacks, and possible ways to avoid being pulled under the water to certain doom.
Closer to home, a visit to the beach was not complete without a reminder that we live in the Shark Bite Capital of the World! I’ve told you that my husband loves facts; this includes facts about sharks. He can rattle off shark species and bite radius stats as easily as ordering breakfast at the local McDonald’s.
Most recently, as I headed out for a bike ride, he warned me of the resurgence of the Florida panther, pointing out that a panther can most certainly run faster than I could pedal.
He means well, and just wants to protect us. Just like the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion wanted to protect Dorothy. As our family follows the yellow brick road, our song will start off with . . . Panthers and Gators and Sharks, Oh My!