Being a parent is no picnic – especially being the parent of teenagers. They’re too old to be treated like children, yet too young to be treated like full-grown adults. You know you don’t want them to do anything stupid, like get pregnant, or quit school, or experiment with drugs. Yet, they have to make their own decisions when they’re out there with their peers. That urge to protect them at all costs is so deeply ingrained in your psyche, that letting go is almost like pulling teeth.
This year, my youngest daughter is a junior in high school. She has many friends who drive, and she gets picked up for school each morning and often goes out at night or on weekends to the mall or into town or to the beach with said driving friends. And this, I find, is when I have to bite my tongue the most.
Each time she gets in a car with one of her friends, I’m tempted to remind her to wear her seat belt, don’t distract the driver, don’t get in a car with anyone who’s been drinking or getting high. I want her to insist that the driver not speed, in case there might be a person/animal/obstruction or black ice on the road. I want her to call me or my husband if she needs a ride home from anywhere.
You see, these are all things I’ve said to her a hundred times. I’ve asked for the cell phone numbers of her friends, the make and model of the car she’ll be in, the names of her friends’ parents, and even their addresses. I’ve asked her to text me when she leaves one place and goes to the next. (When I DO get her texts, I breathe a small sigh of relief that she’s OK.)
I’ve talked and talked about the dangers of teenagers in cars so many times, I’ve lost count. And her reply to my warnings is always the same – “I KNOW, Mom.” And I know she knows. So, in an attempt to reign it in a little, lately I’ve just been saying, “Please be safe. Keep in touch with us. I love you.”
Last week, two teenage boys in a local town were killed after crashing into a tree on a dark road. One died in the car; the other died later at the hospital. They were coming home from hockey practice. And every single parent of a teenager who drives, or has friends who drive, said a little prayer. I did.
We can’t hold them back. We can only try to guide them, and warn them of the potential dangers that are out there. That’s our job. It isn’t an easy one by any stretch, but it’s what we signed up for.
We can love them, shelter them, protect them as much as we can, nag them until the message we’re trying to convey sinks in, and then set them free and say a prayer.