After I dropped Violet off at school yesterday morning, I happened upon a boy and girl in the school parking lot who were hand in hand, walking quickly away from the school, even though school was just getting ready to start for the day. Judging by the fact that they were holding hands, I think it's safe to say that this boy and girl were a couple. And judging by the speed with which they were walking and the furtive glances the girl kept throwing back at the school, it was pretty obvious to me that they were making a break for it and skipping school.
I suppose there is a possibility that they were headed home to study for SATs or to a soup kitchen to volunteer, but I seriously doubt it. Also, it takes one to know one, I guess - my mother will still tell anyone that will listen that I quite enjoyed giving myself free days off from school whenever I felt the need. (At the time, I felt that if I could skip school and still pull straight A's, wasn't I entitled to as much free time as I wanted? I was kind of dumb back then.) As I watched the lovebirds hightail it across the street, my immediate thought was that the parents of those kids had no idea that a day of clandestine debauchery was probably about to go down.
That is one of the things I've been struggling with as my kids have gotten older. At some point they are going to do things, potentially bad things, that I have absolutely zero control over. They could get in cars with people who have been drinking, they could text and drive, they could do drugs and/or drink alcohol, they could skip school with their boyfriends, and there isn't really anything I can do about it. We've established previously that I made some bad decisions in my teenage days, and I'm fully aware now as an adult that those decisions could have had some disastrous consequences. You just don't think anything bad will ever happen as a teenager, though. Luckily, I survived to tell the tales but the fact remains that things could have turned out differently. And back then, my mom was as helpless to stop me from doing bad things as I will be when the time comes for my kids to make their own mistakes.
I know that the best we can do is raise them to be good people, to have good morals and values and to make good decisions and I feel like we are doing that: we closely monitor their friendships, we keep them involved in sports and extracurricular activities, we have open and honest conversations about peer pressure and why drugs and alcohol are a bad idea, we stay on top of their online activity, etc. I also know that my mom did the same with me and it didn't matter - I still made some bad decisions. Everyone does. As a parent, it's hard to know that doing your absolute best probably won't be enough - your kids are going to make some poor decisions along the way and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The control freak in me really hates that.
In my experience, when your kids are younger, you always feel like parenting is hard and you're waiting for the next milestone for it to get 'easier.' Like, 'It will get easier when they sleep through the night.' or 'It will get easier when they can dress themselves.' The thing is, it never really gets 'easier.' It just gets to be a different kind of hard.