Checking In

Long-distance parenting during a crisis?  Not my cup of tea.

Long-distance parenting during a crisis? Not my cup of tea.

“Mamá?” Laura’s voice quavered slightly when she answered the phone. “I hope you’re not mad, but the police came by the house today and –“

“What?! The police? What for?” Shock and outrage flew through the line. I tried to modulate my voice by the second question.

“At first I thought he stopped because I had the stereo turned up.”

“Oh?” I tried to encourage her with a neutral voice. Loud music at our house, now that’s an understatement. Who can blame a ten-year-old for blasting music when her father does it on a regular basis? In fact, I couldn’t wait for them to have some teenage rebellion and deliberately annoy their father by playing soft music—Del Delker ought to drive him over the edge.

“When someone knocked on the door,” Laura continued, “I peeked out the window to see who it was. I could see the cop car, so I turned down the music and ran to hide in the closet.”

“You didn’t need to hide, Sweetie,” I assured her. Police officers are our friends!” Phone parenting doesn’t allow for the context. What expression did Laura have on her face? What did her body language reveal? Was she really afraid of police officers?

“Yeah, I know.” She sounded sheepish. “That’s why I finally answered the door.”

“What did he want?”

“He wanted to know if the people with the Washington license plates were here.”

Great. My mom and dad were probably still at school when the officer arrived…I can see the headlines now, “Teacher Jailed for Child Neglect!

“What happened next?” I held my breath, wondering how I’d make bail.

“Mor mor came into the living room.”

“So what did the officer want?”

“I dunno. I had to go do my homework.”

“I’m sure it was nothing big. Everything else o.k.?”

“Yeah. I miss you. How’s Papá? When are you coming home?”

“I miss you, too. He’s doing great—gained a pound since yesterday. I’m not sure, we’re still waiting on the stem-cell harvest numbers from this morning.”

“Oh. You wanna talk to Mor mor?”

“Sure. I love you!”

“Hello?” My mom’s voice came through the earpiece.

“Hey! What’s this I hear about police?”

“Yeah, the sheriff stopped by today.”

“Because?” Why couldn’t someone blurt the story out? My sense of panic had calmed a little, but I still needed to know what happened.

“Oh, that lady down the street that complains about everyone at the school keeps calling the sheriff’s office because we don’t have Montana plates on our car.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Turns out she used to work at the DMV, and her pet peeve is people who don’t register their vehicles for the state in which they work.”

“Does confusion count?” I joked.

“Poppy explained to the officer that Mrs. Myler had already spoken to him, he’d explained to her that the rules state that one doesn’t need to register one’s vehicle if one is in the state for less than three months, and leaves for a least a week.” Her voice sounded tired.

“Glad Poppy was able to quote that statistic for him. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fighting a bug. Now I know why women have children when they’re young,” she said. “I need to go make supper. Would you like to talk to Sarah?”

“I hope you feel better soon! Thank you for all you do and yes, I’d love to talk to Sarah.”

“Mamá!” Sarah’s voice was music to my ears. I could tell, just by the way she said my name, that things were going well.

“How’s it going, Baby?” I asked. “Did you do anything fun at school today?”

“We had art class!” Sarah enthused, and launched into a detailed description of what she’d drawn. I listened, while making a mental list of all I needed to do if we should have to stay a few more nights for stem-cell harvesting. “…is it ok if Poppy cut up one of our hangers?”

“Poppy had to cut up a hanger? What for?” I really needed to listen more carefully.

“I dunno.” I could hear and see Sarah’s shrug. “I have to set the table for Mor mor, it’s almost time to eat. I love you!”

“I love you, too, Baby. Is Poppy around?”

“Here. Oops!” I could hear Sarah in the back ground as the phone dropped to the floor.

“Dad?” My voice went out in space.

“Hey, Jay-baby,” my dad answered. Good, the phone still operated.

“How was class today?”

“The kids are doing fine. Everyone’s found a novel to read, and they are making vocabulary lists and just working away.”

“Thanks for taking my classes for me, Dad. I hope my lesson plans aren’t too confusing! So, why did you need to cut up a hanger?”

“The police officer asked for one.”

“What?!” Always back to that officer. Would I ever get the entire story?

“Yeah, he stopped by because Mrs. Myler keeps bugging them about our license plates.”

“Mom mentioned that.”

“When we finished our discussion, he went out to his cruiser and came right back to the door. Evidently he locked his keys inside.”

“No way!”

“I asked him if he’d like to borrow a phone, and he said he’d prefer a hanger since he didn’t want anyone back at the office to know what had happened.”

“I can understand why!” I laughed. “How embarrassing!”

“And cold,” Dad added. “It was about twenty below.”

“Gotta love the weather up there!”

“I took him a coat and some gloves after ten minutes. He was having a hard time breaking in to his cruiser.”

“Seriously? The poor guy. Did that help?”

Dad chuckled. “I let him stew another ten before I went out and offered to help him.”

“You broke into a police cruiser? How long did that take?”

“Sixty seconds.”

“Great, Dad! Now you’ll really have a reputation in Bozeman. Not just the guy with the illicit license plates, but an auto thief as well!”

“Nah,” Dad laughed outright. “That’s one story that won’t go past the officer’s lips! He’d never live that one down.”

“True, true.” I added, “Maybe that will keep the cops at bay!” Our conversation ended with a laugh, and I shook my head. Checking in was so hard…maybe I should try an asylum?

Today I’m linking up with Kirsten Oliphant’s group that meets each week to tell their Not So (Small) Stories. In this fifth edition, the prompt is ‘Word. Speech. Language’ and the goal is to develop our voice. If you’d like to join us, the link is here (the link up is open until Thursday evening).


Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • What a story! I am impressed your dad is such a pro at breaking into cars 🙂 Sound like a very handy skill.

    • Ha, ha! I’ve never asked where he acquired his skills ;).

  • Ha! I love how you capture so much going on through this one phone conversation. It’s so true that phone conversations cannot convey the love, warmth, fear, excitement, or presence as much as being with people face to face. This makes me miss many of my friends who live far and near! But, luckily with some people it doesn’t matter how long you have to wade through these “checking in” moments–the love is still there. And that also comes through in your little story here.
    Katie recently posted…Learning to read at 60My Profile

    • Thank you! I love the kind of people that you can-pick-up-where-you-left-off with ;). I’m glad the love comes through–even though I hate phone conversations, I love talking to my family and I’ll settle for the phone if I have to ;).

  • Oh, goodness! Such a fun and nerve wracking story! Such a fun read.
    Becky Daye recently posted…4 Reckless Words I Don’t Want My Kids to UseMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Becky :). I think that’s my all-time favorite family cop story!

  • Barbara Frohne

    Love your story. Glad everything was ok at home. What a life!

    • Thank you, Barbara :). Everything turned out well–not just that day, but with Pedro’s cancer as well. God is good.

  • Awww, poor little me! I love how that’s the first thing I told you–always the drama queen. 😉 I vaguely remember that day. Lovelily written, Mom!
    Laura Melchor recently posted…Afternoon Tea, Willa Cather, and Old PlantationsMy Profile

  • This had me hanging on until the very end! I can only imagine what you were thinking throughout the conversation!

    • ;). It was a crazy conversation, to be sure!

  • Amy

    Would not have guessed the story would end the way it did. I have a friend who got a job with the United Nations because she found a briefcase one of the employees left at a coffee shop with confidential information. He could have lost his job. You never know where being helpful might get you!
    Amy recently posted…“Fluffy” Gifts: Why Words MatterMy Profile

    • :). Helpfulness and kind words are habits to hang on to, that’s for sure!

  • Fantastic! I love how long it took to get the whole story, isn’t that how it always goes! Thanks for sharing!

    Favorite line in this piece: “Phone parenting doesn’t allow for the context. What expression did Laura have on her face? What did her body language reveal? Was she really afraid of police officers?”
    Courtney recently posted…The Might of WordsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Courtney :). It seems like I still do a lot of phone parenting (one baby birdie is in Argentina for the year), but at least we have FaceTime and Skype to help us with the context ;).

  • I enjoyed that. Made me smile.

  • Any call with mentioning a police visit will get me stressed too! Glad to hear it was nothing too serious!
    Roaen recently posted…Product Review & Giveaway | The Choopie CityGrips and CityHookMy Profile

    • ;). I agree! It’s actually pretty funny and goes to prove that we’re all just human and make mistakes some times.

  • Funny and sweet. At one point, my job kept me out of town a good bit and there were times I would call and check in, then think, maybe it’s best if I don’t get all involved in ths particular fiasco. 🙂
    Jenny Mac Rogers recently posted…Did Jesus ever say “Meh”?My Profile

    • It’s certainly tough to be an out-of-town parent. I’m glad you survived your out-of-town times!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Checking InMy Profile

  • Don

    As one of the players in this story, I enjoyed your tell of it. I have not always been the most helpful to authorities of the law. I probably shouldn’t have let him wrestle so long with his dilemma considering the circumstances, but this was probably the turning point in my life for being helpful at every opportunity.
    Of course it should go without saying, one should always be on the lookout for new skills to learn. You never know when you’ll be called upon to be a “tool” for God.
    Good storytelling skills, Anita, God bless you as you use your tools.

    • Thank YOU for all of the times you’ve come to my rescue–you were setting a great example of being helpful at every opportunity.

  • I like how the conversation leads somewhere, keeping me totally engaged through the whole piece. I feel like writing extended sections of dialogue is a huge challenge for me, but you do it well!
    Emily @ Light and Loveliness recently posted…OpportunitiesMy Profile

    • Thank you, Emily. I’m glad you stopped by :).

  • What a great job of describing a multitude of happenings, personalities and emotions in just one piece. Really enjoyed reading.
    Peach recently posted…Know better. Do better.My Profile