When your 15-year-old is on spring break with another family for a week, the last click-bait you want to see on your phone is “Tornado Watch from Florida to South Carolina.”
What are the odds, I fretted, as my thumbs speed-texted “U ok? Just heard about tornado watch for sarasota?”
My daughter replied like King Kong casually batting away a helicopter parent: “yeah we r good.”
Despite her nonchalance, shortly after her return home she admitted that my message had, in fact, alerted them to a coming storm, much to her amazement. Begrudgingly, she gave me credit for helping them take shelter as the rain and wind passed. In other words, I had been right.
My moment of sublime triumph, however, did not last long. For I realized that finally, after 18 years of parenting my two daughters and trying not to become my own parents, it was official: I had become my mother. I can explain.
Have you ever seen television news anchors with imperfect hair and no make-up? I hadn’t either until five days after my firstborn’s arrival in Toledo, Ohio, in 2000. My wife and I were sitting on our couch watching a movie while she breastfed the baby. Our finished basement had few windows so we heard little noise from the outside. Midway through the movie, my worrisome mother called from New York. She had just seen on The Weather Channel that Toledo was in the path of a tornado. Because she tended to exaggerate threats and our room was quiet, I didn’t bother to check outside.
Minutes later, a siren penetrated our domestic bliss.
We turned off the movie, checked a television station in this age before cell phones, and saw a shocking image: the local news anchors were struggling to keep their composure as they urged viewers to find safe cover. Immediately! There was a tornado in the area, and one of the anchors actually yelled, “If you’re in a car right now, stop, get out, and jump into a ditch!”
I dashed upstairs. The sky was sea-green, trees were near horizontal, and windows rattled in their frames. (Insert “Holy Toledo!” wherever you see fit.)
I’m not proud of what happened next, but hey, I was a brand new dad
I ran back downstairs, informed my wife, and began brainstorming ways to keep our family safe. After frantically gathering flashlights, candles, and matches, I kept visualizing our brick house raining down on our heads as we stood in a doorway (as the frazzled anchors recommended). So my mind kept thinking “helmet.” All I could find were bicycle helmets, which I brought to the couch as my wife rolled her eyes.
For the record, I must emphasize that at no point did anyone actually put on a helmet.
Regarding the baby, I visualized holding her under my body to shield her from debris, but that was not enough for my addled, panicking brain. It seemed perfectly logical that she would be most protected, if necessary, by lying underneath a turkey pan that I found. Again, an eye roll from my wife, this time more dramatic.
Also for the record, the baby was never actually put under the turkey pan.
Feeling prepared, I sat back down to watch the news. Suddenly our landline rang. I expected my mother again, but it was an old friend calling from Las Vegas. (What are the odds?) He wanted to catch up on a few years’ worth of family doings. I could only issue a tornado-laden excuse and promise to call him back.
Fortunately, the tornado touched down a few blocks away and no one was injured. Our oblivious daughter nursed throughout the evening. While I don’t remember what movie we were watching that night, the tornado experience (and now my daughter’s tornado encore) brought home the wisdom of an old saying: even in adulthood, you should always listen to your mother (or father).
Photo on Foter.com