ARM recently returned from a family vacation and it was wonderful in so many ways. A change of scenery and some R&R is always heavenly; then we sprinkled in several growth opportunities for an overall spectacular time.
My teen possesses [an interesting mix of] anticipatory anxiety seasoned with a love of travel. Figure that one out. He’s a homebody who enjoys visiting new places, staying at hotels “with room service and a concierge” and ordering surf and turf in fine restaurants. What kind of human have I created?
As we approached our downtown hotel, my son excitedly announced that an AMC movie theater was two blocks away and a Barnes&Noble was one block away. The wheels started turning. And from that moment, the rest of the trip [heck, it had barely begun!] centered around AMC and B&N. For him, anyway.
I’m writing this after the fact, with valuable perspective. I so wish I’d had this perspective while on our trip because it probably would have helped calm at least some of his concerns and uneasiness as we went about our planned sightseeing itinerary. An itinerary that did not include AMC or B&N. [But all was not lost.]
After the first day, we realized he wasn’t as excited as we were about some of the plans we’d made—even though he was in on the decisions. And he kept asking when we could go to B&N. So one evening, my husband and I went across the street for a nightcap and our son went to the bookstore. Alone. Relax! The city has great police presence, he has a phone, it was just one block away, he’s almost 17, he stands 6’2”, do I have to continue?
I texted once, got no response and figured he was deeply immersed in some film book. As we left the restaurant, we decided to swing by the bookstore to peek in but it was 5 minutes until closing time. I called his phone, which went right to voicemail. I knew he’d turned it off. Oh great! Well, he wasn’t in the store so we were pretty sure he had returned to the room. In the meantime, we ran a quick errand and then went back to the hotel. At the door to our room I could hear the TV blasting, and I sighed a huge sigh!
We entered the room to find him sprawled out on the bed, arms behind his head, watching some world destruction movie. Phew! I was so relieved, so proud, so happy—yet so angry that he had turned off his phone. I tempered my anger by ducking into the bathroom first and getting a drink of water.
After I had re-grouped, I joined the guys and asked my son if he saw any good books at the store. After he told me about a new book that he absolutely needed, I mentioned that I tried to call him but his phone was off. Then he explained that he turned it off when he got back to the room. [Just as I suspected.] So I nonchalantly suggested, “Hey bud, when we’re away from home and you’re not with one of us, your phone must remain on until we’re back together again.” Barely tearing his eyes from the TV, he uttered, “Oh, yeah, sure mom. Sorry about that.”
The next night he wanted to go to the movies, so building on the bookstore success, we said sure. He wanted to see it badly enough, so he decided it would be fine to go alone. Again. What a big guy! And what a relief to me because I did not want to go to a sci-fi movie on my vacation. I guess I just don’t roll that way. And besides, he needs to get used to doing things without his parents [at least that’s what our therapist advises].
So off he ventured, knowing the rules about his phone and general personal safety. He seems to really enjoy his independence, which is great. But all evening I kept looking at my watch. I guess I’m not totally enjoying his independence, but that’s probably pretty typical. As it started to rain I urged my husband to go and meet our son. Besides, it was very late. So his dad was there as he walked out of the theater. They strolled around a bit in the light Seattle rain, then returned to our hotel.
These adventures allowed my son to recharge and have energy to indulge us and cooperate with our sightseeing. I think the sweet liberation even put him in a better mood. A learning experience for all of us.
By the time we flew back home, got unpacked and finally settled at home following the trip, my son was somewhat changed—and so was I. He was doing more and more things without us, many times at our urging. But each time he was triumphant, and, well, success builds on success.
I feel like an empty-nester each evening that he goes out. This new experience is helping to grease the skids for when my husband and I are truly living in a nest that’s empty and echoing.