Last week Zach had finals so he had extra time for lunch. I asked if he wanted me to pick him and some of his friends up and go somewhere out to eat. We made plans... but that led into a conversation about driving with friends:
Zach: Mom. Why don't you let me ride in the car with friends?
Me: You are allowed to ride in the car with friends.
Zach: No. I mean, when a friend is driving.
Me: Yeah. That's not going to happen.
Zach: But why?
Me: Because, I'm just not there yet Zach. I don't feel comfortable having my 14-year-old in a car with another 14-year-old driving.
Zach: But why not? I don't get it.
Me: There is nothing to get, Zach. I am just not there yet. I am not ready. I don't want to go there with you and it isn't going to happen. It's bad enough that it might happen when you are 16, but 14? No. No. Not gonna happen.
Zach: But my friends are responsible!
Me: I know.
Zach: So, I can't drive with ANY of my friends?
Me: Nope. Not yet.
Zach: So maybe someday I can drive with my friends?
Me: Well... I suppose eventually it will happen. But not now.
Zach: So when?
Me: Well, if you keep pushing me for an answer... never.
Zach: Mom. Seriously.
Me: Yeah. I am serious.
Zach: I don't know what you think is going to happen!
Me: Hmmmm... let's see... it is freakin' cold this time of year... we've got snow piles everywhere, news of accidents left and right, glare ice roads and a 14-year-old at the wheel. Wonder what could happen?!
Me: Why are you doing this now? Why this morning? We were having a perfectly nice ride to school! Why do you have to argue about this now?
Zach: Because! You and dad are never going to let me do this! Why do I have to be the oldest! I always have to pave the way! You know what it was like! You were the oldest.
Me: Yes, the oldest bears the burden for the rest of the family.
Zach: See! So you already bore the burden so I shouldn't have to!
Me: Ah. Doesn't work that way Zach. I bore my burden... you get to do your own. I didn't do it for you.
Zach: God! By the time Ethan is 10 - you and dad will not only let him drive, but let him drive around with friends!
Me: Yeah - by then dad and I won't care. We'll be too old. But you are our oldest son and you get special treatment 'cause we like you the most.
I'm kidding about liking him the most, of course.... but he does get special treatment.
Me: We can talk about it later Zach.
Zach: What is there to talk about?! You'll still say no.
Me: Yes. We will say no. But if you want to talk about more, we will.
He hops out of the car, slams the door and walks towards the school building. There is no way in hell I'm going to let him get in the car with another 14-year-old kid. I see them on the street! Some of them can barely see over the dash! I just can't do it.
I get to work and about an hour later, I get an email from one of Zach's friend's parents with the subject line: Apology
The father of this friend (we'll call the friend Tim), writes that he found out that his son drove Zach yesterday out for lunch. Tim isn't supposed to drive a friend unless Tim's parents know about it ahead of time, and the friend's parents know ahead of time. We know Tim's parents very well. Good people. Tim is also a great kid. And getting the email is just one reason we love Tim's parents -- they stay on top of things, just like we try to with Zach.
Ah... our morning argument makes total sense.
At around noon, I leave the office to pick up Zach and his friends from school for lunch. He walks out of the building with two of his friends, Alex and Jake. They pile into the car. Zach takes the front seat.
Me: Hi guys!
I get hellos and thanks from everyone.
Me: Hey Zach? Where's Tim? (I say innocently)
Zach: I don't know.
Me: I thought for sure Tim would be coming with us. (again... innocently)
He is looking straight ahead trying not to make eye contact.
Me: Well... since Tim was nice enough to drive you to lunch yesterday, I figured we should do the same for him! (I give him a super sweet smile)
The car goes silent. I turn to look to the back seat and it is obvious Zach's friends know he is busted.
Zach: I can't believe Evan told you.
Me: He didn't. But thanks for telling me that Evan knew too.
Zach: Who told you?
Me: Zach? Just remember this: I will always find out what you are up to. Always.