Originally published in the newspaper, Hill Rag, May 2008.

As parents, we naturally want the best for our children.  Each of us thinks our kids are the pinnacles of human existence, and we’ll do anything for them.  I used to sleep until ten, stay up ‘til one and the food I wore on my clothing was mine.  Exclusively.  This all changed when my water broke at eight-thirty one fine Saturday morning and The Boy arrived on the scene.  I’m smart enough to know that these early lifestyle changes are small potatoes in comparison to the grand acts of love I will perform in his honor.  But I recently learned there are lines that, quite frankly, we shouldn’t cross.

I was sitting on the lower mezzanine of the Capitol steps considering my identity, my “to-do” list, and when I might be able throw my maternity underwear away, when the shouts of a Capitol Hill police officer pierced my reverie.

“Take the shot!  Take the shot if necessary!”

A feisty cop sprinted by me, continuing to spit orders into his walkie as he leapt the barricade and raced up the steps.  Above me, a sniper was poised to strike.  A cluster of Capitol Hill’s finest swarmed the interloper who was quickly secured and corralled down the stairs.

All civilian eyes expectantly awaited a peek at this threatening personage.  Only, not so threatening.  It was a rather innocuous-looking blonde woman in her late thirties.  But she was holding something.  A bomb? A vial of Anthrax? A banner inciting revolt?

Nope.  A crayon and paper replication of Flat Stanley.

Stanley is a children’s book character who has risen to international fame as a teaching tool.  Children draw their own Flat Stanleys and mail them to friends and family all over the globe to participate in “where in the world is Flat Stanley?” photo shoots.

It was such a photo op this woman planned to capture.  Finding the public mezzanine uninspiring she had set her sights beyond the barricade.

The Capitol Hill Police wasted no time, vigorously interrogating her as if she were juggling hand grenades and wearing Osama Bin Laden as a hat.

Yes, she noticed the “do not enter” signs. Yes, English was her primary language.  No, she wasn’t stupid.  No, she didn’t have a criminal record.  She was a mom; a mom trying to get an Annie Leibowitz caliber picture for her kid’s school project.  Trying to get the shot, she had almost gotten shot herself.

More cruisers arrived, lights flashing, and I wondered if an actual arrest was in her future.  I thought of her being photographed with Flat Stanley in Capitol Hill prison.  Unique and educational.  Far more impressive than a generic postcard shot of the dome.  However, not to be.  They let her go after sternly informing her she would not be touring the White House.  Ever.

While her actions were misguided, I know many a parent who would jump the barricade.  I don’t mean the literal Capitol Hill barricade.  Any Capitol Hill parent worth their salt could get Stanley behind the podium with Pelosi or riding along with Larry Craig on the Senate subway.  The barricade is different for everyone, but it represents the same thing.  It is The Sacred Line.

I could see myself stupidly hopping over the rules and weaving around guidelines and feigning ignorance as I wandered into the Red Zone to perform some Maternal Miracle for The Boy.

Whether this woman was wrong or right wasn’t what vexed me.  She was wrong, and had she been fallen into a certain aesthetic profile, the sniper may well have taken the shot.  It was her motivation.  The need to say, “yes, I am aware of the barricade, but My Child is special.  This rule clearly wasn’t meant for him.”

If we teach our children that there’s nothing we won’t do for them; nothing they can’t have; no rule to which they’re not an exception, we’re asking for it.  We’re raising a bunch of spoiled barricade jumpers who will make the selfish little boy in The Giving Tree look like Tiny freakin’ Tim.

Parents, do you want your parental epitaph to read “She died honorably, clutching a paper drawing, trying to get the awesomest photo for her son’s class project?”

Intense moms, let it go.  Do it or die dads, chill-lax.

The barricade exists for your protection.

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