Shannon Stacey

A parenting milestone

The Tall Kid is, right this very moment, at the theater seeing Sherlock Holmes. With a friend of his. And no parent. No adult at all.

He’s in the wild.

I dropped them off and he’ll text me when it’s over so I can pick them up. (Okay, I’ll be honest. I walked them inside but only because at fourteen, I wasn’t sure if they’d get hassled about their ages with regard to the PG-13 rating.) And of all the kids on the planet, the friend TK’s with is the one I’d choose for this expedition—he’s a wicked good kid from a very nice family and I’ve known him his entire life.

I have some control issues with my kids. It’s not a secret. Not that they’re always with me, but they’re always in a situation with which I’m comfortable, with adults I trust.

I was sixteen when my friends and I joined the search party for a missing seven-year-old in our small town. You don’t forget looking in trash cans and shuffling through piles of leaves looking for a little boy. And what you never, ever forget is visiting the boy’s mother days after his body was found—she was our school nurse—and feeling that kind of grief. There aren’t even words to describe it. But I’ve seen a little boy’s life—his shoes on the stairs and his pictures on the fridge—with no little boy in it anymore.

“This is a good town, nothing will happen to him here” is not in my vocabulary.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I tried to sabotage this expedition and rework it in such a way an adult would be available to accompany them, but my husband blocked me at every turn. He’s fourteen, he has a cellphone, and his friend is a junior black-belt. It’s 11:45 in the morning and I walked them to the ticket counter. It’s not like they’re running back alleys at two in the morning.

But, ohmigod, this is hard.

I’m pretty sure it goes downhill from here. Last night, during my frantic efforts to derail my son’s freedom, my husband pointed out he’ll be taking Driver’s Ed in thirteen months.

14 comments to “A parenting milestone”

  1. Annmarie
      · December 29th, 2009 at 1:11 pm · Link

    I grew up in the country and ran wild in the woods. There was no mall, no soda shop and no movie theater. It was the woods, the pasture and dance lessons every day from 2:30 to 4:30. (My mama waited in the lobby because it was a forty five minute drive one way back home.)

    Based on our location, this sort of upbringing was my only option. It did, however, cause many problems for me when I went to college. I was very very homesick. I had never spent that much time away from home.

    TK might not be as homesick if he has some independence before he goes off to college. Making the right choices is easier if you have had the opportunity to make choices. Not that I would know what that is like.

    I went to a movie without an adult for the first time this past summer. It was weird.

  2. Kate R
      · December 29th, 2009 at 1:14 pm · Link

    It’s hard. It doesn’t get easier even when they keep proving they’re competent human beings.

  3. Shannon
      · December 29th, 2009 at 1:16 pm · Link

    My husband grew up on a farm in a tight-knit farming community so he ran amok, too. He’d leave the house after breakfast and his mother never knew where he was.

    Even though he realizes those days (the fifties) are pretty much gone, we try to balance each other and he’ll make sure the boys get some freedom. Even if it kills their mother. :lol:

    I’ve only been to a movie without an adult once, but I had three kids with me so I didn’t get in TOO much trouble.

  4. Shannon
      · December 29th, 2009 at 1:19 pm · Link

    But…but…how do I know he’s being a competent human being? How do I know if he spilled his soda all over the place? Or if he said please and thank you to his waitress? Or if he went to the bathroom and can’t find his way back to his seat?


    One hour and thirty-five more minutes.

  5. Charlene
      · December 29th, 2009 at 1:47 pm · Link

    There are enough kids that go missing or come to harm in every community. Being careful and knowing where your kids are is just a fact of life. But it sounds like he’s starting to fly solo in a very safe and supervised way. Good balance.

  6. Melani Blazer
      · December 29th, 2009 at 2:51 pm · Link

    Here’s my two cents, which may or may not be needed here.

    It gets easier to let them go. You have to be confident you’ve taught them how to handle situations, how to react and what’s expected of them. I’m also a big, big preacher in the “consider the consequences” church. That said, I realize Goose will not be under my wing forever (she’s only there half the time now!) and I remind myself that she needs to experience things on her own so she can be prepared to take on the big bad world when the time comes. While I want her to come back and go “Mom, what do I do?” and get my opinion, I don’t want her to NEED me to answer that every time. Does that make sense?

    You’ve raised a couple of great boys, Shan.

  7. Karen Templeton
      · December 29th, 2009 at 6:05 pm · Link

    Shan, honey…TK’s not a little boy anymore. In any sense of the word. And it’s not as if you let him and his buddy hitch to the movies or anything. ;-)

    ‘Course, I’m currently watching my 5th birdie spread his wings, and this is your first. Me, I’m like, “Go! Fly, for godssake! Just keep me posted!” But for the first…it’s hard, I know. Even so, sounds to me like you’re raising a smart, responsible kiddo who’s not gonna do something dumb.

    At least, not for a few years yet. :roll:

    Hugs, Mama.

  8. Lori
      · December 29th, 2009 at 10:34 pm · Link

    It is hard, I agree. But you have to trust that you’ve done a great job teaching them the important things, and that they are good kids and have actually listened (at least some of the time, LOL). And it helps that you like and trust his friends. I don’t think I could let my kids do half the things they do if I didn’t like their friends.

    We’re dealing with this for kid #2 now. Kid #1 has moved on to things like TPing his buddies (he asked permission the first time, LMAO!) and going to the movies every weekend night, coming home or calling by his 11:00 curfew. Ack!.

  9. Michelle (MG) Braden
      · December 30th, 2009 at 2:15 am · Link

    I wrote a bunch of stuff here, but decided the main thing I wanted to tell you is… I totally understand. Totally. Thankfully my #1 child is only 10. But every day he pulls a little harder on the reigns. Big hugs to you.

  10. Shannon
      · December 30th, 2009 at 9:41 am · Link

    We survived.

    Actually, I survived and he had a great time. They didn’t eat or drink anything, but I’ve been told it’s not because Mommy wasn’t there to order it, but because his friend has to keep his weight down for wrestling.

    I do think I’ve raised them right, but TK’s not socially…adept. It probably would have been easier for me to drop SK off and leave him.

    Now we’ll have to do it regularly so he can build up his skills. :lol:

  11. Jaci Burton
      · December 30th, 2009 at 11:23 pm · Link

    The best gift you can bestow on your children is the feeling of independence. It will serve him well into adulthood.

    The more trust you have in him to do all the right things and make all the right choices when he’s not with you, the more trust he’ll have in himself, which is vital for later decision making as he goes out in the world.

    It’s hard to let go, Mom, but necessary. *kisses*

  12. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · December 31st, 2009 at 3:48 pm · Link

    Since my oldest is the same age, I get where you’re coming from. It’s easy enough to tell ourselves to trust that we raised them right, and smart, and competent…but it’s not always about THEM, it’s about what else is out there in the world. It’s not being in control. The consequences of OUR choices, not necessarily theirs. It’s so hard to find that balance between overfreedom and overprotection.

    But you’re doing great, Shannon, and you’re going to have awesome grown-up children when you’re “done.” :)

  13. Rhonda
      · January 7th, 2010 at 12:01 am · Link

    Whew. I was at home with the girls fighting one illness or the other, so I missed this, but I wanted to add I’m very proud of you for making it through this step. TK is a great kid and this was a big step for you both. Maybe it’ll get a little easier. It drive me crazy when the oldest walks an aisle over in the store or a few bleachers down at ballgame!

  14. baby bassinets
      · March 13th, 2010 at 11:21 pm · Link

    This is all a part of trying to let go and let them become young adults. This is not meant to be easy at all. You are doing your best and your reactions are normal and human.

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