The Boy is fourteen, and a good kid. I’m lucky that he’s got a strong head on his shoulders and a definite understanding of right vs. wrong. His adolescence hasn’t been easy for him. Not that it’s easy for anyone, of course, but he’s had some struggles lately. He’s not as open with me as Hollywood has always been, so getting information out of him can be a delicate balancing act. I don’t know if that’s because he’s a boy or if it’s because his personality is just naturally more reserved. I can’t push too hard to get him to tell me about what’s going on in his life, or he closes down. But I can’t wait for him to come to me all the time, because he’s not an attention-seeking kid, and I’d have a long wait if that were to be my strategy.
All of this is to say that I worry about what I might be missing with him. He has a friend (Friend D) who has been going through a troubled period and making bad choices. The Husband and I decided that we didn’t feel comfortable letting him spend the night at this friend’s house anymore, unless another friend was there too. Friend J is another good friend of The Boy’s. He lives down the street and is a well behaved, responsible kid. So as long as Friend J goes along with The Boy, we decided that they could sleep over at Friend D’s house. Yesterday, they planned a sleepover.
Last night, I was in bed trying to fall asleep when The Boy walked into my room. I about jumped out of my skin because I didn’t hear him come into the house, and he was supposed to be gone. He was clearly agitated – pacing back and forth and running his hands through his hair, which are classic signs of distress from The Boy. I sat up and said, “What’s wrong? Is everything ok?”
He took a deep breath and let it out shakily, and then told me what happened. Friend J and The Boy were over at Friend D’s house, when Friend D decided he wanted to go to Casey’s (a gas station/convenience store). Hey – we live in the middle of nowhere. That’s what passes for entertainment around here! Friend D’s parents had gone out for a quick errand, and weren’t home. Friend D decided he would just take his sister’s car and drive to Casey’s himself.
Friend D is also only 14, and doesn’t have a driver’s license. (In Iowa, you can’t get your license until you turn 16.) Driving to a convenience store five miles down the highway is clearly not a great decision. Friend D asked The Boy and Friend J to go with him, and they declined, knowing they’d get their asses handed to them if their folks found out they’d gone along. Friend D went anyway. While he was gone, his parents came home. The Boy and Friend J had to tell them where Friend D was, and they awkwardly stuck around, not knowing what to do. A few minutes later, Friend D came come and after a brief conference with his angry parents, told the boys they had to go home.
They came to our house and The Boy explained what had happened. As he told me the story, he was so agitated and nervous that I worried he might be omitting something. But he assured me that he was flustered only because he didn’t know what to do in that situation. I told him he did the right thing, and that I was proud of him.
And I am proud that he made the decision not to get in the car with Friend D. It would have been easy to rationalize the wrong choice. Nobody will know, we’ll only be gone for 10 minutes. I can get a RockStar Energy Drink, that will help me stay awake all night long while we play X-Box for hours on end! But he didn’t. He knew it was dangerous, and wrong to ride with Friend D. He’s got a lifetime of similar decisions to make ahead of him, and I can only hope he continues to make the right ones. But as I tried to fall asleep last night, thoughts of reports about underage drivers and fatal car crashes danced in my head.
Oy. Parenthood. It’s not for wusses.