I was thinking I might give up parenting for Lent.
I’ve sacrificed a lot for Lent over the years. I’ve vowed not to eat chocolate for 40 days and 40 nights. That lasted about 40 minutes. One year I tried to stop drinking Diet Coke, but caffeine withdraw got way too ugly way too early in. I’ve given up potato chips and made it all the way through till Easter. But that was technically cheating because I could probably go a lifetime without craving a chip.
In years past, I’ve challenged my spirituality by reading a Bible quote-a-day during Lent. And I’ve promised to perform a random act of kindness every single day. I start out great; shoveling the neighbor’s snow, even though he refuses to acknowledge it; sending out-of-the-blue-how-ya-doing e-mails; putting $50 in Leo’s bank account (sorry Max), making a super supper for my spouse. But, by the second week, I’m all tapped out. I lie in bed tallying my good deeds and find the kindest thing I’ve done all day is feeding the dog.
I’m not great at this Lent thing. But, I’m not Catholic so I don’t have to be. I know I’m not going to go to Hell if I eat meat on Fridays, I don’t have to get ashes on my forehead and I really don’t have to do or give up anything. But Lent has always given me an excuse to think about what I could or should be doing, or not doing, if only I were a better person.
Last week I came to the conclusion that there would be nothing more perfect than giving up parenting for Lent. It’s got all the elements. It’s got self-denial. I’ve been a parent for 23 years so slamming on the brakes will not come easily. It’s charitable. What child wants their parent in their business anyway? And it’s cleansing to the soul. Imagine a mind free of worry for 40 whole days!
I figured the timing was right. All three of my kids are adults in their own right. They’re all off on their own, having their own kind of fun, making their own decisions, living their own lives.
I’ve been sitting around for the past five months twiddling my thumbs waiting for my new life to happen. But, I find myself checking my texts countless times a day, half-hoping one of the three still wants me for something. I feel a distorted sense of joy when a child admits to needing my help, even if it’s purely monetary.
I was set. This was going to be the Lent of all parentless Lents. I wouldn’t worry. I wouldn’t badger. I wouldn’t ask annoying questions. Setting them free would in turn set me free.
Oh the things I’d do with my unbridled mind! I’d tap into my creative side. I’d finish my novel. I’d read copious amount of books, and magazines and newspaper articles. And discuss them with my spouse. I’d play Scrabble and Mahjong and learn to love my dog. I’d deep-clean my house and re-grout the bathtub. I’d lunch with interesting women with great ideas for making money. And they’d follow through. I’d go on business trips with my spouse and keep journals and see lots of movies and go to the city and discover new indie bands. I’d cook fancy dinners and be the envy of all my friends. I’d be free to be me.
And then came Mardi Gras.
For a good decade, way before I was old enough to have one, Mardi Gras was on my Bucket List. I did make it to New Orleans, ironically the month before I got pregnant with Molly. My spouse and I went for the jazz festival, and while it wasn’t quite Mardi Gras, I got a pretty good taste of the drunken debauchery that appeals to a certain ilk of people.
Molly lives in New Orleans and loves every minute of it. It’s a city with many things that make her happy. It’s rich in culture, renowned in music and filled with good people, good food and great drinks.
Molly had multiple friends travel from far and wide to join her for her first Mardi Gras celebration.
And it’s a good thing she did.
About day three into Carnival, I got a text from Molly’s college roommate, Julianne.
“Molly’s phone was sacrificed last night but we are all alive and well!”
Just what a mother wants to hear. Especially when her daughter is still on the family plan. And had just financed a brand-spankin’ new phone for her not six months ago. When the last phone was sacrificed.
While Molly was carousing with her college friends, the UNC parents happened to be together as well. Carla and Joe were in New Jersey for business and Julianne’s parents invited us over to watch the UNC-Pitt basketball game. All the other parents had caught wind of the missing phone, but Julianne, from 1200 miles away, was the only one brave enough to tell me.
I decided to play it cool and just sent a “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA” response, knowing Molly would know I didn’t think it was the least bit funny.
But hey, she’s young, she’s legal, she’s semi-intelligent. Let her have her fun. Besides, I was practicing for Lent and not worrying.
“We’re still responsible humans though, don’t worry about us,” Julianne wrote a little later on.
Now, I’m no stranger to a good party, but when the pictures got posted, I had to wonder.
And while she’s always been known to be a bit spacey, I can’t help but question if that is indeed Molly beneath that helmet, where she got the costume, how much she paid to wear it, and whether she got her deposit back. I didn’t even let my mind go to the yard-long drink in the left hand or to the two-fisted drinker to the right.
On Sunday, our pastor actually put in a prayer for the Mardi Gras partiers and in particular, for the safety and sanity of Molly and Nick, another church member who goes to Tulane.
While the decadence is done by Ash Wednesday, or at least at the Mardi Gras level, I woke up this morning knowing I wouldn’t be able to give up parenting for Lent after all.
It’s just way too much fun living vicariously through my 23 year-old daughter who shares way too much of my DNA.
But I am going to give up worrying. After all, she’s got that Fleur de Lis tattooed on her ankle that will surely protect her all the days of her life.