It's awfully tempting to say that we have it so much worse than our parents did. They didn't have to worry about us texting and driving or the ozone layer being completely obliterated by SUVs and hairspray. But this week we've been served a sad reminder that the more things change, the more parenting comes down to one cruel fact.
We can only do so much to protect our kids, but in the end, they -- not us -- control their destinies. Just look at Taylor Sauer, the Idaho teenager whose last Facebook blast, sent out on her cellphone as she hurtled down the highway, has made the rounds of the web. Just before slamming into a tanker truck as she drove home from college, Sauer sent out one last ominous message.
I can't discuss this now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha
Some are calling it spooky, some prophetic, but I have another word. Life. As in, that's life, and even the best parents can't control it.
Obviously Taylor had been taught about the dangers of simultaneously operating a cellphone and a motor vehicle. And just as obviously, she ignored the warnings because -- as her parents told the Today show -- she thought she was invincible:
Isn't that the way it is with kids? We can say the same things over and over and over again, even make them parrot them back, but in the end, they will make up their own minds about what applies to them and what doesn't. We can't "make them" listen.
It's not just the big stuff like dangerous texting and driving. It's the everyday lessons. I don't know how many times I've told my daughter that she needs to get to sleep at night so she can wake up rested in the morning and tackle her schoolwork with a fresh mind. But she is her own person. I can't make her sleep.
Sure, I can make her stay in her room. I can make her stay in her bed. But I can't morally, physically, legally walk into her room, climb into her bed, and hold her eyelids shut so she will actually fall asleep at a decent hour. It's her body. Her decision.
I watched the Sauers this morning, and my heart aches. Because they lost a daughter. Because they tried their best. Because right now, they represent the scariest part of being a parenting: we give them life, but what they do with it really is up to them.
What have you tried to teach your kids but fear they have yet to really understand?
Image via Today