At what point, as a parent, is one supposed to panic?
My mother was (is) a prime panicker with a toleration of about... nil. She was, poor woman, cursed with me as a daughter - inevitably late, consistently inconsiderate about little things like telephoning and asking for permission. It was a terrible combination as I would drag in an hour... or more... after curfew to find her, bathrobe clad and hand-wringing, pacing the halls. I was, she was always sure, dead somewhere in a ditch and the fact that I always turned up irritatingly healthy and (unfortunately) only moderately and temporarily repentant never seemed to ease her mind.
Now me, I'm not terribly good at the Doom Assumption thing which makes me feel vaguely that I'm not really doing the whole parenting thing right somehow.
Take yesterday for example.
One of the children phones from school and leaves a message starting with "Mom, Child is an idiot. You know this already, but [it] is" only later getting to the part where Child was currently in the nurse's office gushing impressive amounts of blood. Almost at once a second message arrives saying airily "No problem, we're going back to class now." Should I, at that point have leapt into the car to come to the rescue of my poor desanguinated baby? Or do I calmly phone the school nurse (who comes on saying "I know who this is! And my goodness, your child is so amusing..."), listen, resigned to the story that involved Child and a cut-down fence pole, and assure her that Child's tetanus shot is indeed up to date and should Child continue to bleed copiously I would get it seen somewhere. Guess, just guess what I did.
It's not that I don't love my Children - I do, deeply, truly and often madly (or angrily depending on the state of the kitchen) - but if I allow every nerve to hum with dread each time one of them bashes, breaks, or bleeds life will be intolerable. So I walk that careful line between protecting them and letting them learn, knowing that we will all frequently be hurt in the process, but believing (usually) that somehow we'll survive. And when I hear, yet again, that Child is bleeding somewhere I just sigh and reach for the bandages.