Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Hot Pursuit

My first car was a used, maroon 1985 Honda Accord with maroon interiors, and I thought I was living in high cotton. Finally, after 15 years on this earth being driven around by adults who wouldn’t take me exactly where I wanted to go when I wanted to go at the speed I wanted to be taken there, I had the freedom to drive myself. I’m pretty sure these adults were happy to see my taillights pull out of the driveway.

Those days, of course, we didn’t have cell phones or tracking devices. When we drove away, that was it. No way to know where we went or how fast we drove to get there. No way to get in touch with us until we got back. Glory days.

And I’d like to suggest that it was glory days for the parents as well. I know, I know. The parents of today can’t imagine not being in touch with their teens at the touch of a button (or the sound of their voice directed toward the phone). And they love tracking them to see exactly where they are at all times. I’m guilty as well. Because the technology is there. And because I’m trying to be a good parent. But I sometimes wish the technology wasn’t there and I didn’t know. That we all didn’t know, so you wouldn’t blame me for not knowing.

Sometimes I wish the teens would just drive away, and I could sit back with my cup of tea and rely solely on what mothers for generations before relied on to get their teens home: prayer.

There is peace in not knowing some things.

I say this as a mother of four teens, at three schools, two with vehicles, and all with after-school sports and activities. Plus, they want to go out on the weekends. If I lived in days of yore, I could just listen to the plans they chose to tell me, then wish them the best while I prayed for their safety and watched whatever program was on cable. 

Now, it’s like a mother marathon. I listen to their plans they choose to tell me. Then, I track them to see if they are actually going to the location they revealed. Then I Netflix a show, fall asleep, realize I’ve fallen asleep, check my phone to see where they are, call them to ask why they are outside the parish lines, call again because they are driving too fast to get back in the city, chastise them for answering their phone while driving, fall asleep, then wake up to see what time they actually made it home because the tracking devices don’t lie.

Unless the teens turn them off.

Which is when the mother goes into full-blown crazy mode and calls them 17 times to yell then hang up on them for turning their device off. And where are you that you don’t want your mother knowing? And how long have you been there? And when are you leaving?

And then the phone goes dead.

Or does it? Maybe you’ve gone dead because the mother marathon is not sustainable. And once, many years ago, you drove your maroon Honda Accord anywhere you pleased without a tracking device or a cell phone and today you have a family and a job and a house and a dog named Jack. You survived. Your parents survived, perhaps happier for the not knowing.

So in this day of the all-knowing, I would like to suggest that we collectively choose to know a little less. Not that we lower the bar on our expectations. Just that we, as parents, loosen the reigns on the false security of the electronics. That we stop tracking so much and we actually get some sleep. I’ll do it if you do it. 

Plus, there’s a great show on cable, and I don’t want to miss it.