Whenever I tell someone I have three teenagers, I usually get one of those "oh-my-gawd-that's-the-hardest-time-of-parenthood" looks. It's usually followed by horror stories if they've already been down that path.
For the most part, I've been blessed with three teens who haven't given me too much trouble. For me, the hardest part of this motherhood-of-teens stuff is letting go.
When the oldest kiddo turned 16, he wanted to go camping with two friends for a weekend. We didn't know the family he was going to hang with, so the hubby and I had some apprehension about letting him go. We had visions of irresponsible parents who might be drinking all day and towing the kids around by boat or heck, giving the kids a beer or two...
In the end, we decided to let him go. The kid ended up having what he called "one of the best weekends of my life!"
Just before he arrived home, a picture popped up on Facebook:
My heart stopped. The kid was leaping off a bridge into a lake that he wasn't familiar with. My first thought was, "what the heck were you thinking, son? You could have been paralyzed or killed!" I really wondered about those irresponsible parents I let my son go with.
The moment my son arrived home, he was smiling from ear to ear. He proceeded with story after story about his amazing weekend, from the wild tubing rides to the late-night campfire stories. He conveniently left out the story of jumping off a bridge.
So I brought it up.
"Oh that?" he said. "That was awesome! We jumped off a 30-foot bridge. That was so cool!"
I gave him my lecture.
As it turned out, the family had been doing that for years. They knew that section of the lake and it was a safe depth. The kids had life jackets on. To this day, that weekend continues to be one of his fond memories of his teen years. The kid is now 20 and entering his third year of college. He's the president of Sigma Nu, a collegiate scholar and has won a couple of awards here and there. As hard as it was for me to let go that weekend, it was a lesson of parenthood--of letting go and letting the kid experience life beyond the parental boundaries.
It doesn't always get easier. The daughter went to Croatia earlier in the year. It was tough letting her go halfway around the world, even with a group. Once she arrived home, she was filled with story after story of seeing a whole new culture through her eyes.
This summer, my boys planned a trip to New York to visit some deaf friends and again, the hubby and I wrestled with the idea of letting them go. The what-ifs got in the way-- imagined car accidents and such. My youngest is at the same age as when the oldest jumped off that bridge.
Ultimately, I remembered the joy on my oldest child's face from years before-- and we made the decision to let the boys go to New York. As the pictures popped up on Facebook showing the same joy--the joy one experiences when connecting with friends and new experiences--I knew letting go was the right thing to do.