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February 12, 2007
THE WITCHING HOUR
It's 3:15 p.m. Do you know where your children are?
Happily, on most days, I know where mine are. They're just out of school and on the nearest available cell phone, pulling me from my office cocoon into the microdetails of their afternoon.
It doesn't matter what I'm doing: holding a meeting, talking on the other line, editing a story. Everything comes to a standstill as I make vital decisions about playdates, help answer homework questions, or try to referee a sibling altercation when each claims the other one started it.
It's household management from afar, to the point that when my cell phone rings after 3:00, my coworkers announce, "Amy, your son is calling."
I don't know how often fathers take part in these mid-day conversations from the home front. In my experience, it's mostly the moms who are summoned. We're usually the go-to parent when the school secretary calls to tell you your kid forgot to bring his lunch, or the nurse informs you that he's in her office with a stomachache, or the babysitter wants to know what to feed him when he's rejected everything she has offered.
These calls invariably come at inconvenient times, they often disrupt my concentration, and they can send me into paroxysms of anxiety and guilt. Yet on another level, they tell me I'm doing my job as a mom right. I may not be in their face, but I'm on their mind.
The important thing is that the kids understand you're always available to them wherever you are, that you'll figure out some way to help them, and most importantly, that you're the parent and you're still the boss.
When my cell phone rings at 3:15, I smile before I pick it up. Because I hope never to be one of those moms who has to moan to her kids, "You never call, you never write."
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