Cut the cord or comb the desert


By Betty Slade

PREVIEW Columnist

“I know, I know.”

“No, you don’t know. If you knew, you wouldn’t keep doing it.”

This was a weekly conversation between my Sweet Al and our daughter before she moved to Pagosa. She’d leave late on Friday night and would drive from Albuquerque to Pagosa. She didn’t want to leave the family and would hang around, then drive back on Sunday night to Albuquerque, arriving at 2 in the morning.

Al would tell her again, “Don’t leave at 10 o’clock at night. It’s not safe. Don’t go the back way. Why? It’s dangerous, it’s snow-packed and few cars are on the road at that time of night.”

“I know.”

Al and I would look at each other and shake our heads. She either doesn’t know or isn’t listening.

There were many times when we would receive a call from Dulce, Stone Lake or the teepees outside of Cuba: “Daddy, I hit a horse. I ran off the road and I’m stuck. Would you come get me? Can you bring some gas? I’m almost out.”

“A horse? We told you not to go that way. Why didn’t you gas up before you left? You know better.”

“I know. When will you be here? I’m waiting for you in the car.”

“I’m leaving now.” My Sweet Al would step into his boots, pull on his coat and look for a chain and a full 5-gallon can of gas. He would say to me as he was leaving, “I guess she didn’t listen.”

This has been an ongoing conversation between Al and our youngest daughter her whole life. He coddles her and now she, in turn, coddles him.

It goes both ways. This week I was reminded of the bond between a mother and son. Although when a son is done being coddled, he will go or do whatever he wants. Believe me, I gave my share of mollycoddling to our son back in the day. And, then he left — moving to another country.

We try to protect our children from themselves, but, inevitably, they will do the things that make sense to them.

A friend emailed me an SOS recently: “Please pray for my son and his friend. We think they are lost in the Arizona desert, somewhere north of the Mexican Border. They went to scout locations for their next movie shoot, took an unmarked road and are now stuck in a ravine somewhere. I imagine that they are being surrounded by rattle snakes, bad weather and maybe even the Mexican Cartel.”

Not only were these two young men confronting the elements of the wild because of poor decisions, they now had their must-save-them protective mama bears on heaven’s alert.

The two mothers had been on the phone with the sheriff, state police and Border Patrol, searching for clues to the boys’ whereabouts. They had their bags packed and were ready to go, about to put themselves in unknown territory to find their sons. They were going to brave it all to bring their boys home to safety and wrap them in comfort.

On the phone with authorities, they convinced the Border Patrol to send a helicopter out to hover over the desert floor. They even had first responders on foot looking for them. The boys were eventually found, miles from their car without coats or a clue as to where they were. They were safe and sound. Their expensive movie cameras and equipment went unharmed, but were no match for the cost their mothers were willing to spend to find their sons.

Knowing these two moms, had the boys run in to a cartel, my money would have been on the mama bears. Meanwhile, their husbands went to bed and slept through the intense night that followed.

We love our children, but need to let them be who they need to be. That may mean that they need to run away to where they feel they need to be. It could also mean that they will continue to make questionable decisions, never learning from what they have done.

Final brushstroke: We don’t want to see our children hurt. But, if they never learn how to address their own cuts and scrapes, those will fester when we are not around. We pack our children in cotton, put a dollar in their pocket, then make excuses why we can’t let them go. There comes a time, however, when we have to cut the cord and see what happens. Otherwise, we deserve to be up all night searching the desert or on call to put gas in their car until they are 60.

Readers’ comments

Send your comment to