So I have this teenager. Two, actually, but right now it's the oldest (who will be 15 next week) who is on my mind. Homeschooled until his freshman year of high school, The Dark Lord has always been quiet, independent, and not exactly a social butterfly. However his desire to attend public school grew from his need to broaden his social circle and while I had my doubts about how that might evolve at school, I let him go.
The first semester was hard but when the young adult son of The Dark Lord's animation teacher offered to start up and after school manga drawing club, my boy found his people. They had such a good time hanging out together that they decided to keep meeting weekly at the school over the summer. And then I was told that "a bunch of kids were going to go hang out at Alex's house" today. Alex, it turns out is an 18 year old recent graduate who, for reasons unclear to me, lives nowhere near us. "Don't worry Mom. Alex will drive us to his house".
Now I don't know about you but there are few things that fill me with greater terror than a car full of teen boys being driven by yet another teen. I can count at least 5 teens I know of that died needlessly in car accidents. All my crazy fears about these kids hanging out, taking drugs, and having sex all afternoon were completely obliterated by my fear of letting my child in a car with a teen driver.
The Dark Lord, needless to say, felt I was being overprotective and controlling. "Why don't you trust me?" was what I kept hearing from him. What I couldn't seem to get across to him was that it wasn't about trusting him, it was about the other kids, only one of whom I'd met. He begged me to speak with Alex who was supposed to convince me that it was all OK. He told me, quite honestly, that his mom wouldn't be home until a couple of hours after they were getting together but his sisters would be there. He assured me there would be nothing but video games and drawing. And, for better or worse, I believed him.
So we reached a compromise. I drove him over there and met the kids, who seemed like a goofy but completely harmless bunch. No slurred speech or red eyes. Only polite introductions. I invited them to come hang out at our house next week and even provided cookies and soda to further encourage them. And then I left.
Since The Princess is playing at a friend's house and Monkey Boy is at animation camp, I have couple of hours free before work to process this. It feels big, like my boy is taking an important step out into the wider world. And I'm getting challenged once again to find that balance between encouraging independence and keeping him safe.