Mom trying to hug son

Letting My Son Be a Man

When is it ok to let your kids travel without you? Is there an appropriate age, or does it depend on the individual child? That is something that I have had to think about lately as my oldest has become more independent. On one hand, he is the oldest, so he naturally gets the most freedom of the three. On the other hand, he is my first-born. My baby. The boy with whom I enjoyed all of the joys of being a parent first. In other words, my experimental child!
The way I just described him, one would probably think that he’s a young kid. He’s not. He will be 17 in a few weeks. It’s hard to know where to draw the line between smothering him and letting him feel free and independent to stretch his wings and become a man. Is it time to cut the apron strings?
I don’t mean to make this a cultural issue, but as a Mexican woman, I am terrified of becoming one of those mothers who will baby their sons forever. Sometimes women wait on their sons hand and foot, cooking and cleaning for them constantly. The old-school ladies in my family, who will go unnamed, wait on the men in our family as if they are some kind of royalty that the world revolves around. If you have one (of those women) in your family, you will know exactly what I am talking about. It may be a generational thing. I absolutely do not want to raise my son to think that any woman should ever wait on him. I want him to be self-sufficient. Let me be clear that there is a difference between doing those kinds of things for someone because you want to and doing those things for someone simply because you are a woman and it is your duty as such.
My mother-in-law was one of those women. She was one of the hardest working women I have ever known. She waited on my father-in-law til the day she died. And any time we would go to their house, she would wait on her sons and serve them anything they needed. The only problem that I had with that was that she raised her sons to expect to be waited on. Well, see, that didn’t really work for me. We didn’t live together before getting married. As we got settled and started a family, it became clear to me that he expected me to assume the role of wife and mother that he had grown up with.
Giving my son freedom means giving him independence. I can’t encourage him to mature and then treat him like a baby.
Last week my son asked me if he could go to Laughlin with a friend and his family for a few days. I said yes. I know the friend and that influenced my decision. He’s a very nice young man who is always very polite, although sometimes those are the worst kids! Remember Eddie Haskle?
So I let him go to Laughlin with his friend. On the outside, I was very calm as I asked a few questions about the details of the trip. On the inside, several questions ran through my head and I was filled with worry for my baby. What if he was hungry? What if he forgot one of his toiletries? What if he forgets to put on sunscreen? The thought of him wanting or needing something and me being unable to help drives me crazy, but I can’t tell him that. I want him to know that I trust him and I believe in him. There’s no need for him to know that I’m worried.
When he is home he feels the need to tell me anytime he is hungry or thirsty or needs anything whatsoever. He’s a big boy. My response is usually “take a hike” or something similar. I want to help him but he needs to learn how to do things himself. If I continue to do everything for him, he will continue to rely on me for everything.
He’s played club soccer for the past few years, so he’s always been unable to go anywhere with a friend during vacation. There’s always practice during the week and tournaments and games on the weekend. He could, of course, take a few days off, but I’ve always told him that if he’s going to make a commitment to play then he needs to keep it. This is the first time that he hasn’t had anything soccer related that got in the way of his social plans. He has worked hard and said no to plenty of invitations. He deserves to go enjoy himself.
I helped him pack his bag and made sure he had everything he needed, gave him some money, and dropped him off at his friend’s house. At some point, I think I have to have faith in him, and the job I have done raising him.
They’ve been gone for four days, and will be returning tomorrow. I’ve tried to only text once a day, asking him to check in. I hope my visions of drunk, topless ladies philandering around is all in my imagination. Maybe he will have done some growing up, having been on a trip without me for a few days. I remember when he went to science camp for a week in fifth grade. It was my first time being away from him overnight. I was a SAHM so he was never away from me. They weren’t allowed to take phones so I literally had no contact with him. I was a nervous wreck. When he finally came home, he was different but I wasn’t able to describe how. Maybe he was just more mature.
Usually, when I sit down to write, I actually talk myself through my own situation. By the time I’m done writing, I’ve answered my question and have a better grasp of my own point of view. I think my son is old enough to be more independent and travel with a friend, so long as the parents will be along. How old do you think a kid should be before he or she is allowed to accompany a friend on vacation? Does distance matter? What about the length of time they will be away?
I’m hoping I’m not a helicopter mom, or a negligent one either! I look forward to hearing from other parents regarding this issue.

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