Our story begins with the father of one of the girls in Cole’s 12th grade class offering to buy discounted tickets for all 13 kids in the class to this weekend’s Illini vs. Wisconsin football game. It’s a big game and the price was right, so when our kids asked us for ticket money, we forked it over with a smile and enthusiastically agreed it sounded like fun. (I know—it may surprise many of you in this day and age of helicopter parents that we are so casual, but our kids are city kids and planning their own outings has been a way of life since their first solo ride on the CTA.)
Fast-forward a couple of weeks to a gathering of 12th grade moms, where the conversation turns to the upcoming Illini game and one mom mentions she has just found out the game is in Champaign-Urbana—about two and a half hours from Chicago. The rest of us express surprise. Another parent throws out the tidbit that the game time is 7:00 p.m. More surprise. And then one of us wonders how the kids are planning to get to the game.
Upon learning the details of who, what, when and where, we were motivated to learn a little more about the how. It was heartening to find out that our kids had, in fact, taken responsibility for planning their road trip to the game: My teen was a designated driver along with a couple other kids; some kids wanted to drive home after the game (driving over two hours home, after midnight on one of the busiest and most dangerous highways in the country); other kids suggested it would be a better idea to turn the road trip into an overnighter and so hotel rooms were being researched; the thrifty kids in the group suggested parking at a rest stop and sleeping in the cars; and Cole suggested a campout in our tent at a local park in Champaign-Urbana. Armed with this new information, the parents of the class of 2014 sighed: Clearly we were going to have to ruin our kids’ lives. At least a little.
Our kids are used to a lot of freedom, so reining them in suddenly and taking over the planning of their road trip was not something any of us wanted to do. And, of course, there are the newly minted 18-year-old adults ready to play the “I’m an adult” card—legal adults without money, car titles, or a pot to heat a can of soup in…but adult enough to handle their own lives, at least as far as the law was concerned. We would compromise.
The kids wanted a chaperone-free trip; we understood. However, we were concerned about late-night expressway driving, and some of us with overactive imaginations felt unchaperoned co-ed teen hotel rooms might lead to an unacceptable level of partying, just sayin’. On the other hand, sleeping alongside the road seemed like such a Third World option.
We parents presented a solution that we thought might work: One very cool mom (not me, I have plans Saturday night) would drive one van to the game, and Cole would drive my van (minus the tent) to the game. The cool mom is so cool, she agreed to let her son drive whilst she sits in the passenger seat with noise-canceling earphones on, not engaging in conversation for the entire trip. (We were told that conversation among the kids would be severely limited with a parent along for the ride. Really? Tell us more!) When the vans reached their final destination, the kids would go one way, while the cool mom would hide on campus in an undisclosed location and play on her phone or read a book until the kids informed her they were ready for the return trip home. The hour would be late, but Cole has some experience as a highway driver, and I hope I can trust him to follow, rather than lead, on the way home.
The kids, of course, think this plan is totally unreasonable—and, in fact, when the cool mom told her own kid about the plan, he said, “Mom, I cannot talk about this until I have spoken with the rest of the group.” They have a board of directors?!
I then overheard some of their conversation, which amused me:
Parents complicate everything. (Do not! Kids complicate everything. Grow up!)
Well, maybe this will teach some of you not to tell your parents every [bleeping] thing. (See, you should listen to us more. We have told you and told you that silence is golden.)
You don’t think they might notice if we were just missing, or didn’t come home? (Finally, a voice of reason.)
Only some of them. (Wait one minute! We would notice. OK, most of us.)
The tent was not a bad idea. Homeless people sleep in the park all the time. Are we so much better than the homeless? Ask them that. (This was from my son, the philosopher.)
We should have lied like they did in the old days. (Truthfully, the parents had this very same thought. They could have told us 20 years from now about how they all slept together in a tent in the park in Southern Illinois while we thought they were with a married friend of a friend. No, we wouldn’t have checked. Stop with the judgment, already.)
As it stands now, we haven’t heard back from the board of directors, but our offer is firm. It’s high time we set our kids straight: THEY ARE NOT THE BOSS OF US.
I’ll keep you posted on the Parents vs Teens game score. Tomorrow I’ll post some amusing comments from parents. The names will be changed to protect them from their kids.
Odd Loves Company!