I'm framing this post as a potential series told in volumes, for as frequent readers of this blog know by now, I was raised with a sort of "benign neglect" (my mother's words, not mine) that turned out OK for everyone in the end. Still, now that I'm a parent, there are many, MANY things I can't believe my mother let me do.
The first one that comes to mind--and which I've often revisited over the years--turned out to be kind of a watershed event of life independence and responsibility for me, both psychologically and practically speaking.
Spring break of my junior year of high school, my mom (and I guess my dad, by deference to my mom and resignation to reality) let me fly from New York to Sacramento to visit my college-aged, not-living-with-his-parents boyfriend for a week. So at 16, my mom let me get on a plane to have a week-long spring break cross-country sleepover, alone with my boyfriend, with full parental knowledge, consent, and approval.
Of course she knew and liked my boyfriend, and she trusted us both, or she wouldn't have let me take that trip. Still, I can't imagine any scenario in which I would be likely to green-light this sort of thing for either one of my kids.
I remember the exact moment when I realized I was being given a serious amount of freedom and responsibility, and I suddenly knew what that felt like. I was in the Denver airport switching flights. I called my mom from a payphone (with a calling card; it was 1994 after all) to let her know I'd landed and was about to get on the second plane to Sacramento. All she said was, "OK, great! Have fun!"
I hung up and just stood there in the phone booth for a minute, looking around the airport and thinking to myself, "Holy shit. I'm in Denver by myself right now, on my way to see my boyfriend. ALONE. I could go anywhere! I could do anything!"
But all I did was get on the plane to Sacramento as planned, where my boyfriend was waiting for me at the airport, and we had a really fun time and I came home safe, sound, happy, and not pregnant, maimed, or otherwise permanently (or even temporarily) scarred or traumatized.
I've always been grateful to my mom for that moment--not because of the trip itself, but because of what it said about our relationship. The amount of trust she put in me, knowing that I could handle it, and wouldn't abuse it, was very empowering and motivated me even further to not fuck anything up.
She knew I was young and in love. She knew I was smart and safe and got good grades in school and worked hard. I was a good kid and she knew I could and would take care of myself. Still, no matter how "good" my kids are, I don't think I'll ever be brave enough to let them do something like that.