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Emergency Contact: A Mother's Lifelong Job Description

Laura McTaggart on a mother's life-long role as her child's primary emergency contact. (Cameron Kirby/Unsplash)
Laura McTaggart on a mother's life-long role as her child's primary emergency contact. (Cameron Kirby/Unsplash)
This article is more than 3 years old.

“Mom, can I put you as my primary emergency contact?”

I rolled my eyes.

My nearly-16-year-old was making his way through the daunting stack of documents required by his employer for his first job as a junior camp counselor for the YMCA. Two weeks prior, he had received the documents, along with links to several online training seminars and details about the orientation session for new hires. Two hours before that orientation session was set to begin, my son realized he hadn’t read the email all that closely.

Oops.

...we had The Talk that every parent dreads: I explained the difference between federal and state taxes.

As he scrambled to get all the documents downloaded, printed and completed, I stood back and used my considerable mama strength to hold my tongue. I didn’t wonder aloud why on earth he'd waited until the last minute to see what might be required to know/bring/complete before orientation. Well, maybe I did once, but I was gentle about it.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the kid — 10 minutes earlier, he had been playing Minecraft without a care in the world. He probably knew deep down that he had to be somewhere later, but, he might have thought, Mom knew when, where and with what. He was like a fetus in the womb, floating around in his own personal hot tub. Relaxed and toasty warm one minute, trying to decipher his first IRS document the next. Like birth, it was a complete shock to the system.

Then we had The Talk that every parent dreads: I explained the difference between federal and state taxes, and why there are two sets of paperwork to fill out. I showed him how to complete a W-4. I told him what a dependent is (look in the mirror) and what withholding means (I didn’t mention Bernie Sanders or socialism).

As annoying as it surely was to have me pacing in the next room emitting an “I told you so” vibe while he read through the requirements one last time, he was thankful that he had me. I know where his passport is (the only photo ID this non-driver has). I can find the file with the immunization record and evidence of a physical exam. I have all the family social security numbers, written in a “code” known only to me, so if I ever lose my leather organizer (God forbid), whoever finds it can’t steal the kids’ identities and rack up debt in their names. I am, as they say, “on it.”

Pretty soon, I really will only be needed in case of emergency.

Which is why I rolled my eyes when he asked if he could list me as his primary emergency contact. Isn’t that my lifelong job description? Apparently, I'm so good at it he hadn't noticed. Perhaps he thinks that for all those years, I carried around Benadryl and an Epi pen — not to mention snacks and drinks and extra clothes and toys — because otherwise my purse was too light and I wanted to give my back muscles the extra challenge.

I am my son's lifelong emergency contact. I started training for this when I walked into Babies 'R Us to register for my first shower. Everything but the diapers was superfluous, but I registered for anything I thought he might possibly need, just in case.

Now, the CORI forms and direct deposit authorizations and first job application behind him, my boy is almost grown up. Pretty soon, I really will only be needed in case of emergency.

At which time, I hope he knows to call me.

Related:

Laura McTaggart Cognoscenti contributor
Laura McTaggart is a U.S. Navy veteran and a management consultant specializing in nonprofits.

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