Dr. Phil Doesn't Live Here



I'm in my youngest son's beat-to-death 1998 Toyota, riding with him for the first time. 

It's early evening, just beginning to turn dark. This is my favorite time of day. The darkness is not yet complete, more blue-gray than  black. The lights in the homes along the way cast a cheery, golden glow over the rooms inside.

It's raining and a gentle patter of drops hit the car's roof, more whisper than storm.

Here we are- The almost-grown boy and his mom, enjoying the companionship of a non-essential errand. 

We talk about the news show we just watched and what we think of the cops seizing the children in the Texas compound.  We take the keys back to Ellen's house where the Youngest has been dog sitting. I think, but don't say, what a good driver he is and I feel a tiny bit better about him driving alone out in the world.

And then I blow it.

"What do you think makes a happy home?"

The question, coming out of nowhere, blind-sides him. His head whips to the right and he gives me a quick, disbelieving look.

"Dear God, Mom!" he says.  "What was that?"

I try to cover for myself.  "Well, I was reading this article about the qualities of a happy home and they interviewed these kids and..."

"Mom, God, is this one of your psychological issue questions? You sound like Dr. Phil. What is wrong with you?"

I slink down in the passenger-side seat.  "Well, I just thought it was interesting and..."

"Mom, relax. We are happy," he says, reading right through me. "We're fine."

"Yeah,you're right," I say.  "That wasn't one of my kinds of questions.  I should've just said, 'What band do you think is on the edge of making it big?' instead, because that's really a lot more interesting. Besides, if we don't have a happy home by now, it's too late.  It's just what it is, I guess." My voice trails off, uncertain.

"Wolf Mother," he says.

"What?" The kid thinks I should've been more of a Wolf? Is this some kind of metaphor? Is he trying to say I should've been stronger, more directive, more of a take-charge parent?  I mean, if so, he's right.  I should've been more pro-active, about a lot of things not just...

"Wolf Mother," the Youngest says again.  "They're going to make it big." He looks over at me, like he thinks I've lost my mind. "You know, you asked about the band?"

I laugh, sounding, I'm sure, hysterically relieved.  "I thought you meant you wanted a wolf, or you wanted a wolf mother...you know, as part of a happy home?"

He shakes his head slowly, then laughs. "A wolf? Mom, sometimes I just don't know how you come up with this stuff!"

"Me either," I say, sighing.  "So do you have any Wolf Mother we can listen to?"

We pull over. He gets out his I-pod, puts on the music and we start up again, slowly moving our heads in time to the driving bass, agreeing they are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin.

The Youngest Unnamed One is right about Wolf Mother.  They're a good band. And he's right about everything else, too.

We get out of the car and stop beneath the pin oak in the middle of the front yard. "Isn't this cool?" I say. "The tree's branches are so thick it's like peeking out at the rain from inside a tent."

He stops, not appearing to be humoring me but instead looking up and feeling it with me.  "Yeah," he says. "It is."

We stand there for a moment, listening to the sound of the rain hitting the leaves overhead. 



Note to self-

No more reading self-help/inspirational articles in an attempt to receive validation of my parental abilities. Dr. Phil doesn't live here- we do.

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