That statement from my son struck fear into me instantly. I had visions of him riding in a car with other 18 year olds on lonely and unlit Texas highways, complete with various wild animals jumping in front of their vehicles at every mile. Despite these thoughts, his dad and I agreed that it would be a good experience for him. His last semester of high school had been stressful, and it seemed like a good opportunity to unwind and get some much needed guy time with good friends. Plans seemed to go smoothly until it was determined that the number of travelers had increased and another driver was needed. “No way,” I firmly stated.
I’m a life coach. I can set limits and boundaries, right? My son, with the knowledge that no meant no, quietly accepted and didn’t push back. Over the next few days, I felt really bad for him. I sensed deeply that he needed this trip, but my fears of driving and motor vehicle accidents overpowered more rational thinking. One night, the discussion came up again. I adamantly stated that there was no way I felt comfortable with him driving 18 hours across Texas! “It’s only 8 hours!” he exclaimed, “I checked.” I looked on the map he had pulled up on his laptop. He was correct!
Hmmmm, 8 hours suddenly seemed like a mere trip to the Houston suburbs after I had mistakingly thought it was an 18-hour long trip. Long story short, he and two other drivers, (7 kids) packed up their Jeeps and head out to Marfa, TX. For those of you not familiar with Marfa, it is a small quirky Texas town known for its art colonies, Teepees, and “Marfa lights.” Marfa lights are a mysterious occurrence that draws hoards of onlookers, some of whom ascribe the lights to paranormal phenomena.
In order to keep in touch with the moms of the boys, I created a “Marfa Moms” Group Chat. Interestingly, the concern of each of the moms varied greatly, from “Don’t worry, they got this,” to those us who closely monitored the tracking apps (or as my older son calls them, “stalking apps”) and anxiously awaited for proof of life texts. We shared the (limited) photos the boys sent and kept each other updated with their location. I can see why kids enjoy group chats! These were a lifeline for our shared anxiety and excitement.
The travelers arrived safely in Marfa, dutifully stopping every two hours to refresh and for my son to taste test all of the machine generated lattes in roadside convenience stores. While in Marfa, they walked around the lazy town, checking out art installations… and I am not sure what else. It’s important to not ask too many questions. After a couple of nights sleeping in the Marfa Teepees, the boys gathered their belongings and set out for Big Bend where they spent one night camping. Their campsite was another four hour drive away, and they would be without cell coverage (horrors!) while there.
It wasn’t long before the mobile signals disappeared and the tracking apps were useless. Interestingly, I had little concern or anxiety about their safety. By this point, I was pretty well versed at practicing acceptance and trust. I asked for prayer requests in two of my Facebook prayer groups, and the knowledge that others were offering prayers in two states helped to soothe my fears.
Finally, later the next day, my group chat notifications were noisy and frequent. The boys returned to cell coverage and were making their way to Austin. New worries about driving in an unfamiliar city surfaced, but I pushed them away. I concentrated on sending positive vibes and hoped that he was having a good time bonding with friends and creating special memories to take with him to college in August. There was very little contact, and I think the boys collectively decided that one of them would contact his mom, and that would suffice for the entire group. It worked for us. As long as we knew they were safe, we were all happy with the knowledge that they were having a memorable experience.
Later the next evening, my Texas traveler arrived back home tired but happy, regaling me with stores of hiking in Big Bend, sleeping in teepees, and life on the road. I asked him what he most enjoyed about this adventure, and his answer surprised me: he thoughtfully stated that driving was the most pleasurable part of the trip. He said he found driving comforting and relaxing, while listening to music, talking with his fellow passengers, or enjoying an easy silence. Imagine that! What I most feared was what he most enjoyed! He added however, that the absolute worst part was driving on 290, a dreaded highway always under construction that links north Houston to the 610 Loop.
On this 1500 mile trip, my son learned a lot about himself. I learned a lot from him, too. My son, who I still see as a little blonde, big eyed, precious baby, proved to me that he is a capable young man, responsible and trustworthy. This trip provided him with skills and confidence that he can use as he begins an independent life far from Houston. At the same time, I know that he can handle a lot more than I could imagine. He will tackle college life just as he embraced this adventure: with enthusiasm and excitement. Because of that, I can be confident that he will be okay. His passion will take him wherever he wants to be, and I will encourage him to dream big and accomplish whatever goal he works toward. If he posses confidence and self assurance, there is no limit to what he can achieve. My job is not to restrain him, but to encourage his dreams, his spirit, and his sense of adventure. I will continue to be his most ardent supporter and cheerleader, even though the route he takes may be uncomfortable for me.
This article recently appeared in LiveLeadPlay/One Idea Away, an online coaching website. https://www.oneideaaway.com/my-18-year-old-son-went-on-a-road-trip-across-texas-and-i-survived/