The Parent Trap: Was alert a fuzzy-headed notion?

Maybe it’s the warmer weather, or perhaps the end of a long school year is within their sights. Whatever the reason, as the spring nights begin to get shorter, the evenings in our home have become longer. Bed checks written in stone in September now seem to mean little to anyone at home but us parents.

As I often say to my son, who has convinced himself that I am, in fact, ancient, it was not that long ago that I was the one who drove my parents crazy. So I get that they want to stay up late, in case yet another television show starring a talking sponge is about to air. I understand that my daughter waits until the last possible second to come in from playing outside. It doesn’t concern her that I have called out the door three times.

One night last week was particularly exhausting. I was parenting on my own, which happens when my wife’s work calls her out of town. Now I understand that many single parents view this predicament as run-of-the-mill. Our former next door neighbor in Lawndale raised two outstanding daughters on her own, and would legitimately scoff at my complaint. But I have been spoiled in having a partner, and miss when she is not around to back me up.

The kids understand this, and milk it to the hilt. Calls out the door were ignored. Requests to change into pajamas were not heard. Finally, I resorted to begging them to please get up the steps to their rooms. Even then, the parade down the steps to ask ridiculous questions about lunch-packing options took what seemed like hours. Even after their doors slammed, the floorboards above me creaked, alerting me that they were still refusing to settle in for the night.

Finally, blissfully, the noise subsided. I tried to watch the ballgame, but in a matter of minutes, it was watching me. And then, the buzzing started.

Now we all know about the Emergency Broadcast System, that occasional alert that we see on our televisions or hear on the radio. “This is a test,” we are told, and then are subjected to a sound kind of like amplified scratching on a blackboard. I’ve heard that test many times. Last week, the sound awakened me, but it was no test.

The alert stated that there was an emergency throughout the area, because of a child being abducted. I still wasn’t sure if I was dreaming the alert. Then, it went away.

The house suddenly seemed too quiet. I was dizzy as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. I stumbled up the stairs, and breathed a sigh of relief as I opened the bedroom doors. Everyone was curled up and asleep.

Back on the couch, the ballgame was back on but the score didn’t seem to matter. Did I correctly read the emergency notice? Checking the newspapers later didn’t reveal any stories about child abduction.

Were my eyes deceiving me? I still don’t know, and would really appreciate if any faithful reader saw the same alert. But it certainly reminded me that safety can be taken for granted, especially in a relatively safe area like Northeast Philadelphia. Also, there are more important things to worry about than restless kids on a spring evening. At least, thankfully, they are still curled up and under the covers.

The Parent Trap is a weekly column by Patrick P. McNally that will appear on every Tuesday. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

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