I’m going to track my teens and young adult children until they no longer allow it. When they ask me to stop, I will.
In the meantime, I use the Find My Friends app with my children’s permission to occasionally find them. They are okay with it because they know that in a world gone mad it gives me slight, if only momentary, peace of mind. I know that control is illusory and that anything can happen in a split second, but knowing that my kids are where they need to be, helps.
When my youngest son started driving, the first time he drove to school I asked him to text me when he got there. If you don’t know where this anecdote is headed, you’ve never done teenage boys. Of course being a 17-year old boy, he simply forgot. Instead of having to pester him or worry all day, I pulled out my phone and checked that he was at school. He was, and I was able to carry on without bothering my son or the school. I call that a win-win. Am I under the illusion that having registered our locations wraps us in a bubble of protection? No, but at least we were all where we need to be.
My middle son and his friend drove 14 hours home from their college last night. When I say night, I mean that they drove through the night, the whole of the night. And, I worried. I worried enough that I woke up every few hours to check Find My Friends. It was a decidedly moot attempt to relieve my anxiety and the real relief came only when the door chime signifying his arrival tolled. Relief and the desire to wring his neck for keeping me up half the night battled for the upper hand, but that’s a tale for a different day. Merely being able to watch their forward progression without disrupting them was useful.
I don’t want to get in my kids way, I don’t want to control them, stifle them or invade their space. I don’t need to know every detail of their lives, just as they don’t need to know every detail of mine. Relationships, after all, are built on trust and we all have secrets that we should keep to ourselves. They have my trust (insofar as you can trust young men to be “smart”). But, quite simply sometimes I like to know that they are out there in the world and if knowing where they are gives me a modicum of comfort, then so be it. I won’t make excuses for using a technology that allays my fears and keeps my anxiety at a low simmer.
My kids like to know where I am also. In fact, anyone who wants to track me is invited to do so. It may be akin to watching paint dry, only slightly less compelling. Big scandal of the day-mom went to Starbucks twice. From the bank to the grocery store to the post office, round and round I go. So, I throw down the gauntlet, follow me if you can bear it.
When the tracking app was first installed on my phone, my kids were still home and it largely lay fallow, unused and forgotten. As the nest begins to empty, the avenues through which you know your kids begin to narrow. And days can go by without hearing from them. When they live away from home, technology is a small but potent tool that you can use, not to bind them to you in a strangulating way, but to keep them just a bit closer.
I’ve found that checking in on my kids sets my mind at ease and we all seem to be okay with that. I’ve given them a lot. They can give me this.
Sometimes late at night I’ll check that everyone is “home” and if they are home, then I am home too, even if they are not physically with me.