This past weekend my husband, mother-in-law, and I threw our 16-year-old daughter a surprise party. It’s amazing to see all that’s required behind the scenes to pull that off and how much extra help is needed. Although I’ve thrown surprise parties before, like when I was eight months pregnant and it was 112 degrees outside, (obviously I didn’t think that one through), I forgot how hard it can be to execute the actual surprise. It’s a bit stressful. What I think is even more stressful and causing me anxiety is her new age. In my house, turning 16 comes with more freedom and responsibility. I feel like screaming, “Help! I have a 16-year-old! Now what?”
Well for one, it means she has more freedom with driving privileges. She’s also allowed to date and will be working a real job. A real job is defined as actually earning a paycheck. All of this means a lot more responsibility on her part.
With her new restricted license she can now drive anywhere between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. according to the law. Unfortunately for her, my husband and I will define “anywhere”. As for car insurance, the cost is going up. I’m just grateful we’re not adding our son yet. If he drives a car anything like he drives a golf cart, we’re in trouble, and he’ll be grounded eternally. It’s no wonder car insurance costs more for teenage boys. Luckily we have the added bonus of living in a small town. If my daughter decides she doesn’t have to follow the rules, undoubtedly someone will let us know. I heard about one teenager that didn’t follow the “prohibited from transporting more than one passenger under 18” rule. Her car was overflowing with friends. When she got home and took one look at her mother’s face, she knew she was busted. She asked her mother who called and outed her. The answer was more like, “Who didn’t?”
Dating is a whole other cause for anxiety. One of our many rules is her date will not text from our driveway to let her know he’s arrived. She will not be allowed to run out the door and jump in his car and flee. Her date will actually come to the door like a gentleman. She is mortified by this rule but does that really matter? A rule’s a rule. As a compromise, we’ve agreed not to play that country music song by Rodney Atkins while her date is waiting. It’s the one where the dad sings, “Hey y’all run along and have some fun. I’ll see you when you get back. But I’ll be up all night still cleanin’ this gun.” Although tempting, I think a few dates might run. (Hmmm. On second thought….) As for her curfew, I’ve accepted the fact she will probably argue with us until she moves out. She insists all her friends have later curfews. My only thought is “good for them.”
This summer she may be in for a rude awakening. She will actually have a real job. We have explained that she will earn a paycheck and need to save part of it. She will now need to use some of her money to pay for things that I know she’s taken for granted. Imagine that? She has no idea how good she’s had it. I have a friend who filled up her kid’s gas tank once and said; “Now it’s up to you to keep it that way.” Smart woman.
Although there may be stress, anxiety, and disagreements in our future, it comes with parenting. In a letter I read from a parent to their child, the last line says, “You will never find someone who loves, cares, and worries about you more than we do. If you don’t hate us once in your life, we’re not doing our job properly.” Hopefully our daughter won’t hate us, but it’s our responsibility to bring her up with love, dignity, discipline, and boundaries so she’ll grow into the woman God intended her to be.
One would think with all the distractions a mom already faces while driving her kids around, why listen to the radio at all? For my family, it’s because we all happen to love music. The problem — we don’t always love the same songs or radio stations. I listen to a variety of music genres but they don’t always include songs my children like to hear and vice versa. This tends to make my children want to change the station frequently. I fear I’m going to get into a car accident from swatting their hands away from the dial. It completely stresses me out. Some days I just flat out tell them, “No radio. I’ve had a loud day.” This statement requires no further explanation.
For a short time, like three minutes, I thought I found the perfect compromise. I turned on a radio station with a mix of older and newer songs. Of course the songs weren’t new enough for my kids. I never thought I’d get to the point where I couldn’t understand the words to their music choices. I’ve officially turned into my parents. (When did this happen?) At times, I’ve been caught off guard by disturbing lyrics that cause me to freak out. Naturally, my son quickly rebuffs me with “Oh mom, it’s not like we haven’t heard that before.” As if this is supposed to make me feel better. I’m not the only one picking up on this. My younger children are like tape recorders. I knew I was in trouble the other day when my 3-year-old daughter sashayed into the living room and said, “I’m sexy.” With my mouth hanging wide open I asked, “Where did you hear that word?” My six-year-old responded, “From an inappropriate song.” This is why I worry.
Thankfully, there are some artists we agree on, so it’s not a total loss. I was relieved when Adele won an armload full of Grammys a few weeks ago. Finally someone with a lot of talent (who also appears to be normal) was in the spotlight. She didn’t even have to wear a dress made out of meat to get noticed.
Unlike the choice of music, volume control is non-negotiable. I don’t insist on always listening to my music but it has to be at a level that isn’t deafening. I’ve learned from experience, if my teenager’s been the last one to drive the car, turn down the radio before starting the engine. The blaring sound has caused heart palpitations (and probably hearing loss), on more than one occasion. It’s a wonder she can hear anything at all.
I’ve come to accept there’s no perfect solution. CDs seem outdated with all the handheld listening devices available. We rarely listen to them and I don’t want to take up storage space in the car. We’re already at capacity with five kids as it is. I need every spare inch. (This makes me wonder where in the world people used to store their 8-tracks. Their kids must have been strapped on the roof.) And if my children listen to their own iPods, I’ll never know what’s going on in their lives. I’d rather hear about their day, even if music plays in the background. Although there will probably always be a battle for the dial, I’m not going to make them always listen to just my music. After all, I’m in my 40s and I still want to change the station in my mom’s car. Go figure.