OK, say your 18-year-old son tells you he and three of this friends, all high school students, have decided to drive several hundreds miles, through unfamiliar territory, by themselves.
Say that there are two years of driving experience between them.
What would you do?
That was my conundrum a while back, and my son and I developed a running discussion about it over several days.
The problem was that both of us were able to see the others’ point of view. And since I’m fully aware that I sometimes tend to worry out of all proportion to reality, I wanted to make sure that’s not what I was doing.
He is, after all, 18, and I trust his judgment, to a point. I’ve been around longer, and am more aware of some things. And teenage boys tend on some level to believe themselves immortal. It’s why they’re used as soldiers. That’s just the way it is.
Anyway, we both recognized that in all likelihood, the trip would turn out fine. And we also both recognized there was a real element of danger inherent in it. The question was, did the dangers, given the realities on the ground, outweigh how badly he wanted to go.
So, both of us asked other people. Lots of other people, actually.
We started with people we knew and whose opinions we respected, and eventually wound up asking anyone we ran into, including my hairdresser, the personnel at the clinic we went to, strangers on the street.
At a margin of about eight to one, most people concluded the risks were too great.
My son, however, put that down to these peoples’ desire to not annoy me.
Naturally, I think he’s wrong. I think these people just came to the same conclusion I did, based on the information presented. They asked pertinent questions, like would there likely be drinking or drug use going on, and we gave honest answers, as far as we were able.
We answered no. I answered no mostly because I’m hanging on to my belief that my sons don’t do that stuff. There’s been no evidence of it that I’ve found, and I choose to believe they’re telling me the truth.
I hope my son answered no because it’s the truth.
My brother told me that when he’s faced with such conundrums, he invents a law, as in, “I’m sorry, buddy, I’d really like you to be able to do this, but state law 22lp-14b.1 clearly states that no one under the age of 25 can travel more than 100 miles with more than three teenagers in the vehicle. Tough break.”
Anyway, in our case, the decision was taken out of our hands by the parent of the teenage driver, who evidently interpreted my questions about his son’s driving prowess as a threat to sue him “if anything happened.”
And, despite the fact that such a thing never entered my mind, and suing someone would be the last thing I’d be worried about “if anything happened,” my family has survived the experience with our relationships more or less intact. He’ll get over it.
I figure, all things being equal, there will be plenty of time for this type of road trip once my son’s emerged from the hormone-induced brainlessness called teenhood, and has some driving experience under his belt.
Then he can go. But I probably still won’t like it.
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