When my son asked if he could travel across the country to stay with his friend’s girlfriend’s family, my husband and I told him we would discuss it more seriously once we had all the facts. That was not something new for us; we’d been there before.
He knew what was required and he dutifully provided all the necessary details. I spoke with the mother of the girlfriend and I asked all the essential questions (in addition to gathering the basic information: name, address, and phone numbers) a responsible parent would want answers for. Big concerns of mine were how often a grown-up would be present; whether there would be alcohol or drugs on the premises; what her opinion is about alcohol and drugs with underage kids (to see if we're on the same page of zero-tolerance); you get the idea. She passed the Malkotsis Inquisition and so my husband and I agreed to let our boy go.
I’m finding that as my kids get older and become more independent, the hardest thing is recognizing when it’s time to step back, to let them be, to allow their own instincts be their guide without my or my husband’s interference. Hopefully, everything we’ve taught them over the years has resonated enough and we’ve done our jobs well of equipping them with the right tools for good decision-making, however big or small.
Allowing him to travel unsupervised by air was something I graduated to last year. This year, it’s keeping my mouth shut in the car while he drives and I’m the passenger. Even though his skills are excellent and judgment dead-on, I still have trouble containing myself and blurt out when he should change lanes, when to stop, and when to go -- as if I actually have any kind of control or am providing some measure of help. Instead, I create confusion and muddle his otherwise keen instincts to making perfectly good driving choices. He pointed this out to me very diplomatically and I clearly (finally) saw what I was doing (and what I needed to stop doing).
It’s been about two weeks since he’s returned from his trip and he just received a call from his friend, who told him that the mother who passed the Malkotsis litmus test allegedly was driving while intoxicated and thrown into jail for three days. (Side note: Time to revamp the questionnaire!) My son turned to me and said, “Well, if I were still there, I would’ve been her driver and this could’ve been avoided.” Seems she must’ve been drunk while he was there, and he had indeed been her driver, maybe even on more than one occasion, which is troubling.
The fact that he ended up being the designated driver speaks volumes about his level of maturity and ability to determine when unsafe conditions warrant an intervention. It tells me something I’ve always known about him, even from a young(er) age: that his sense of right and wrong is, and has always been, acute. I think I can breathe a little easier as I continue to loosen the reins with him, but that’s not to say my maternal urges to blurt out things will go away anytime soon.