Friday, December 30, 2005

On a serious note

It's been a tough week to be the parent of teenagers. Perhaps I should say a tougher week than usual. First came news of the death of Tony Dungy's son -- chilling to any parent, whatever the circumstances of the young man's death turn out to be. Yesterday, closer to home, came the death of two teenagers out joy-riding in Lincolnwood at 3:30 a.m. Two others in the car were critically injured. All were supposed to be at one house, at a sleepover. None were supposed to be riding about in a car.

I didn't know the families. My younger daughter knew one of the victims. My heart aches for all of them, the living and the dead and all their families.

But I can't tell you how many times we have seen our kids -- good kids, generally -- go off in one direction... and return from another. Plans changed, they tell you. Everyone decided to go to so-and-so's house instead. We decided to go out for a snack. No, we didn't bother to call; we didn't think you'd mind. (Or: "We figured you'd already be asleep." Snoring away in front of the TV, probably, physically unable to stay awake until you came home safely.)

You think you are keeping track of your kids' whereabouts -- and find you are mistaken. Thank God that we have not found out about a "change in plans" by means of a phone call, or visit, from the police. Can you imagine the anguish of the parents who were awakened to find that their son -- whom they thought safely asleep at a friend's home -- was severely injured... or dead?

Our kids wonder why we get so upset about these things. They see our hand-wringing as unwarranted and unwelcome interference in their own little adolescent world. We embarrass them before their peers when we 'ground' them upon learning that they went to Friend X's home when we were told they were visiting Friend Y. I know we can't protect them from everything, though we'd like to -- but, if something goes wrong, we'd at least like to start running to help in the right direction.

It's not interference for no good reason. It's our job. It's, well, love that makes us ask all those nagging little questions -- and we will just keep on asking.

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