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Daughter's freeway accident adds a wrinkle in parenting roles

A daughter's fender bender mashes up parental roles for @erskinetimes

Let's catch up with one of the children, some of whom aren't quite children anymore, though we will always worry for them a tad too much.

One of them got rear-ended the other day while stopped at the freeway exit ramp. When she called, my first question was, "Are you all right?"

Looking back, I was proud of the reaction, for given my usual abruptness and inherent fear of insurance adjusters, I could easily have blurted out: "How bad is it?!"

Instead, I inquired as to her health and general well being. Was her neck OK? Could she touch her toes? Yes, she said.

And I was proud of the way my 23-year-old handled the incident. It was only her fourth minor accident, yet she knew to get insurance info and a selfie with the other driver's license.

Through it all, my daughter was a little rattled but not upset. She didn't cry. Tears come easily to her. On the right occasion, she wears them like jewelry.

Note that it was me she called, not her mother, which is a bit of an aberration. Her mother is her go-to parent in times of need — her emotional duct tape.

In short, an easy mark.

Their relationship is almost sisterly: They cocoon on the couch eating gelato together under the winter blankets and can spend an entire Saturday afternoon returning a single pair of shoes.

Generally, it goes like this: First, she and Posh have lunch, then they stop for coffee, after which they'll explore "that cute little shop that sells artisanal pasta." If the day hasn't gotten away from them, they'll maybe make it to the mall to return the shoes.

Otherwise, they put off returning the shoes until the following weekend, when the entire cycle begins again. One time, returning a pair of shoes lasted an entire year and cost an estimated $25,000 in artisanal pastas. I bolt awake at night at the thought of these two planning a wedding.

So, as you can see, it was an honor that she called. On the phone, my daughter was mostly polite, addressing me as "Mr. Erskine" several times.

"How bad is it?" I finally blurted.

"It's OK, Mr. Erskine," she said. "The car's OK."

I'm still having trouble sleeping, and the usual solutions — thoughts of draining three-pointers against the Celtics or chasing a young Angie Dickinson through Paris on a moped — haven't helped as much as you might imagine.

Before the accident, I'd already had a full plate. For months, I've been fretting for a sick friend, and just when he was back eating cheeseburgers and being a general pain in the tookus once again, our adjustable mortgage jumped 0.75 percentage point — a quiver, a caress. Yet it goosed the monthly payment by $700.

As it was, we were barely cutting it. I fear we will be priced out of California soon. Good riddance. It is a splendid place but somewhat overpriced. Besides, who wants to be permanently anchored to a place with so little Greek food?

Next up for us, another country. Greece, for example. I wonder how the schools are? Do they play a lot of Little League? Do they have gyros for breakfast?

Fortunately, the car damage was minimal. It was more of a laugh line than a dent, barely creasing the car's vinyl veneer. The way a long wisp of hair dangles across a pretty cheekbone, that's the way this wrinkle lay across the bumper's plastic shell.

At the very most, it can't cost more than four or five grand to fix. Of course, the Easter bunny will be making me omelets in bed before an insurance company ever calls back. Most likely, I'll have to hound them, or hound my daughter about hounding them. In either case, a lot of hounding will occur.

In the end, I'll end up lunging into the phone, screaming, "Are you kidding me?" to everything they say.

Still, I see this little fender bender as a blessing, not a curse, and a good test for my continued emotional development.

I've been very leery lately of what I call "panicked parenting," by which moms and dads treat child-rearing like a stock market crash or some form of imminent natural disaster.

To me, moms and dads should be measured and wise, not panicked and fretful. It takes a while — and a lot of scratched bumpers — to master that kind of parenting.

Or maybe parenting masters us?

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter: @erskinetimes

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