Spawn went on his first solo trip out of state this past weekend. I suppose he wasn’t really solo, seeing as his girlfriend went with him. They wanted to visit a mutual friend from high school who got married a few months ago and moved to somewhere outside of Indianapolis.
We loaded him up with gasoline, proof of insurance, an emergency road service number, my obnoxious Garmin navigator, an emergency-only credit card, and more good advice than any teenaged boy wants. He and his girlfriend headed off mid-afternoon, and, as they left, I hugged him, told him I trusted him to be safe, hoped he had a great time, and not to worry about calling until he was on his way back on Sunday. He was so thrilled.
When he first proposed the idea, my gut said, “NO! ACK! Road dangers!” and then I remembered that I’m supposed to be showing him trust and letting him grow up. My husband let his gut talk for him, especially once he heard about the girlfriend going along, but at least he said all the parent things to me, not Spawn. I told him that I understood and then pointed out that he and I had not only been taking road trips together for quite some time when I was 19, but that we also went to Michigan on a motorcycle, too. He looked like he wished my memory weren’t quite so good, but he also gave a wry grin and said, “OK, I see what you mean.”
I was glad I didn’t have to argue too much in favor of letting Spawn scamper across state lines; I’d have felt horrible if anything had happened and I had been an unwitting party to unfortunate events. We made a team decision and told Spawn that we were fine with him going, that we just had a few ordinary, commonsense restrictions that we felt obliged to say aloud, and he was truly delighted that we had OK’d the trip. I think he expected more of a fight.
Well, Spawn arrived home last night happy and healthy and clearly pleased beyond compare to have made a big road trip without a parent. I have no doubt that he worried a little, silently, in bits, since this was his first such trip. I’m also quite sure that he made sure to be sensible and prudent without sacrificing his fun time. He was full of road stories, which was cute – the main road there was closed for a section and they had to detour down a spooky road, and Garmin made sure they were able to find their way back to the main drag. They encountered new traffic patterns, got some experience on interstate highways, learned how to travel as a couple, and laughed and talked.
Then Spawn said something that made me realize that behind the goatee and the earrings that same smart kid is still chewing things over. He said, “You know, I understand now why road trips are such a part of American culture. You’d think it would be the big things that made road trips interesting, but it’s not. It’s the little things that you see or talk about along the way, and how people can relate to each other differently on a road trip. We didn’t do anything particularly different or huge, but I feel different now that I’ve done a road trip.” And then he started eating up all my cheese again.
It’s different from this side, too. It was nice that it turned out well, and I feel good about it myself. I’m glad to see him building confidence in himself and taking risks and trying new things. I’m happy to see him maintaining distant friendships and evaluating other people’s choices without making judgments. I’m glad he and his girlfriend got away from their family stressors and related with each other and peers for a few days.
And breathing and sleeping were a little easier last night and today, too.