Move over Helicopter Parents, Free Range Moms and Dads, and Tiger Mommas. I’d like to propose a new label that will have twirly birds, chickens and felines rethinking their parental strategies. U-Haul Parenting. (Please note, no fees were requested or received from U-Haul Corporation during the writing of this content.) My U-Haul epiphany came to me after a summer of moving my youngest son to college, my oldest daughter across town, my youngest daughter across state lines and my step daughter across the country. This is just the physical shit, loading up the mattresses, moving in on 95-degree days, begging doormen to allow you to use the freight elevator despite the rules and climbing four flights of stairs with the kitchen table in the dark. There are options: The Van, the truck, the hitch, or in my case the 25-year old Red Beast aka Suburban – not to mention the insurance just in case you hit a curb or a car while navigating the tight streets. And this is just the physically demanding part.
The mental haul requires a two-ton truck. Sometimes you are the driver in control, other times you are the passenger along for the ride and in some cases, you’ve veered off the path, fallen out of the truck only to be run over by your own transport vehicle and left with skid marks. There’s no insurance for the heartbreak, the breakdowns, the dents or scratches. I’ve always invoked the line, “you are as happy as your saddest child.” They hurt, you hurt, they haul their emotional problems on you and you feel like you are hauling their mental anguish. Late night phone calls, the tears, the frustration. That load is heavier than the IKEA dresser that eventually made it up the stairs and took seven hours to put together only to find that you have two screws left over. It’s a bigger haul than the queen size box spring that eventually made it to the bedroom only to find out the measurements were erroneous, and the bedroom will only accommodate a twin-size bed.
After packing up the car to bring my son to college this summer, I was thrilled that he kept it simple with our “less is more” motto. As a freshman, he would be greeted by the “goon squad,” a group of upper-class men and women charged with moving freshmen’s belongings into the dorm room, lessening the physical load for students, parents and guardians. What we really needed was someone to help with the heaviness of my son’s anxiety, the difficulty of letting go and the realization that my “baby” had left the roost. In his dorm room we were left with the task of unpacking his belongings, readying him for this new chapter in his life. The weight I felt after leaving him felt heavier than the physical belongings we had packed up. Will he be ok? Will he make it through the first week? Will he like his roommate? Will he be safe? I knew that he also shouldered the same worries.
Time is a good teacher and eventually the load shifted. We simply wanted the reassurance that if either of us needed a tow, we’d reach out. What I’ve learned over the years is that as a parent we needn’t be confined by labels. Since the day I became Mom, I’ve tried to replace my parent’s style with my own, imparting the wisdom I saw as beneficial, correcting their mistakes and making my own faults along the way. The helicopters, chickens and tigers may have shown up during that time, but I’ve learned that our parenting styles are dictated by each day, moment and situation. Most recently a friend asked, “How does it feel to be an empty nester?” I laughed. There is no empty nest label for me. Today, I’m a U-Haul Mom: Available 24-7 by phone, text or email and available for load ins, move outs and storage with no additional fees.