Let Them Be Big: Why I Let My Teenager Go on a Trip with Friends (and no parents!)

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I am a huge believer in “letting them be little”, but it turns out I am also a huge believer in letting them be big. 

“Mom, hear me out before you say no”, our 16 year old daughter opens the conversation with. Immediately interested in what she is gonna ask I encourage her to continue. “What do you think about my friends (them Seniors, her a Junior) and me going to Disneyland for Fall break?”. Oh wow, I think…N.O. would be the easiest way around this one, but no wasn’t the first word that came to my mind. I was intrigued by her thoughts about the logistics of it. How much has she saved up? How much planning have they actually done? Would they be comfortable driving across state lines and into heavens to forbid California traffic?

She had plenty of money saved up from babysitting. She has never shown us a reason to not trust her. She plays a highly competitive sport that keeps her very busy, she does well in school and is a beloved babysitter in her “free time”. She is a trustworthy girl and we had no concerns with trusting her to make the right choices on a trip like this.

Do I trust the rest of my world with my girl, no. That’s where our hesitation set in. Yet I am also no stranger to the belief that we learn by our experiences and life lessons are our greatest teachers. Plus we raised a smart kid who senses danger, is smart with quick wits, who is secure socially and interacts with adults, probably better than peers so that helped in making this decision. 

We decided to look into this a little further and see if we could make it happen.

First decision, to drive or not to drive. That was (and always is) the hardest decision. It just made sense though to drive and have a car instead of flying and taking an uber everywhere. The pact was that the 3 drivers would take shifts. This worked out really well with our daughter feeling the most comfortable handling the California roads. 

Next, lodging. It’s hard to book a hotel with their ages, but what we were able to do is book an AirBnB. The check in was electronic and the place was safe and near Disney. Also so much more affordable with bringing their own food and snacks. We made it clear as crystal that they read the rules and follow each one. Every rental is different and made sure they were respectful to the property.

Last, trust! The girls texted at every stop on the way. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they got there and they gave us a tour of the place via facetime and then updated us with fun photos of them having the best day running Dinsey like it is meant to be run. 

They drove home the next day and all of us parents marveled at the maturity of our girls and hugged them tight, having them safe back at home again where we all finally regulated our breathing. Because, parenting.

I was equally as proud of us parents for letting them go as we were of the girls for going. It was a first for all of us and we all made it unscathed. The girls learned a huge lesson in responsibility and self assurance and we learned what we already knew, these kids are ready for these next big steps that are coming if we like it or not.

Our story isn’t one size fits all. I am not sure our son will be capable of this in a couple years, maybe he will, maybe he won’t. But the most important thing is knowing what they are capable of. Knowing what they need a little push with and knowing where they need a full stop and wait. 

Just like all parenting and all kids, no one is the same and each kid will have different challenges. This just worked out really well with our girls!

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Kim is an Arizona Native who grew up in Mesa, AZ, and slowly migrated south over the years. She now lives in South Gilbert with her husband, Andrew an EMS worker, and their 5 children. Kim’s oldest daughter, LilyAnna (18), suffers from a rare genetic disorder called CDD (CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder) that causes a multitude of disabilities. LilyAnna is nonverbal, epileptic and delayed in all areas resulting in her dependent on her family and caregivers for all her needs. Kim has been involved in the special needs community here in Arizona and loves being a supporter of newly diagnosed families with CDKL5 and helping other families on their special needs journey no matter their diagnosis. Additionally, Kim is Mom to Andi Jane (16) who stands over 6’ tall, plays competitive volleyball, who is a great student and super helpful at home and so much fun to be around! And to Oliver (12) a super smart, quick witted, hilarious boy who is handling all the things he has to handle at this tender age one smart aleck comment at a time. Also mama to Alfonso (5) a mama loving, animal loving, music loving boy with the best smile life has to offer and lastly (but certainly not least) miss Isabella (4) who rules every empire she comes in contact with. It's her world we are just mere peasants here to keep her fed and comfortable. Kim works from home trying to juggle it all. More accurately she’s just dropping a lot of balls and laughing about it and posting it to her IG stories.

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