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Published March 31, 2009, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: Stay or go: A mother’s perspective on Valley flooding

This past Friday morning the kids and I threw a couple of days’ worth of clothes into the minivan and fled our beloved but flood-ravished community.

By: Roxane Salonen, INFORUM

This past Friday morning the kids and I threw a couple of days’ worth of clothes into the minivan and fled our beloved but flood-ravished community.

I’d grappled all week with whether we should stay or go. What would be the prudent move for a mother of five?

Then Red River crest predictions spiked to an all-time – a shocking – high and my mother-hen instincts to gather the chicks and run for cover took over. While the city considered evacuation possibilities, I devised my own exit plan.

Thus ended an almost weeklong interior battle over whether I should be doing more to help save the city. Though I did venture out to assist, an even stronger calling to be near my children prompted a U-turn. While others worked the trenches sandbagging, I stayed home, shoring up my kids’ emotions.

The energy I’ve expended fielding questions from my children in recent days brought to mind the film “Life Is Beautiful,” in which a father and his young son are sent to a Nazi death camp. To protect his child from the harsh realities ahead, the father makes a game of the trip, tricking the child into thinking the journey is part of a wonderful adventure.

In between listening to flood updates the past few days, I tried valiantly to temper the stress rising steadily through my body like river levels, intent on fostering normalcy amidst chaos.

When my 6-year-old learned we’d be staying with a friend who has four boys – and lots of boy toys – he beamed. His 3-year-old brother began singing, “We’re going on a trip!” I bent down to hug him, feeling grateful life could be so simple for at least some of us.

The older ones were more reflective. My 8-year-old followed me around as I tended to necessary housework, inquiring about some of – though not all – the details. My oldest insisted I become a prophet and tell him our chances of getting flooded out. “I don’t know” didn’t do, but it was all I had.

And my 11-year-old proved she’s making a quick exit through childhood when admitting she used to think flooding would be fun. “Now I know it’s not just about having lots of water around, and it’s not fun at all.”

I’m proud of the way my kids graciously helped me move items from the bottom to top floor of our home and packed their bags promptly upon request.

And this morning, after a somewhat harried but (thankfully) uneventful departure, we arrived at the safe-haven home of my friend. “I’ve got lots of comfort food,” she said, opening her arms to me. “Make yourself at home.”

In that moment, the burden inherent in being a mother in crisis began to lift. I could feel the letdown of my mother guard in the company of another who’d once been in my place.

And I realized that when it comes to saving a city, everyone does his or her part. In bringing my children to safety, I’d helped to do mine.

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and husband Troy are parents to five children. She also has a blog, www.areavoices.com/peacegarden