Having known my son for all of his 16 years, I like to think I know him pretty well. Yet he never ceases to amaze me. My sister remarked to me recently that he doesn't miss a thing; he just isn't always able to process or make sense of everything. He has this remarkable ability to figure things out - and then not tell anyone about it.
He belongs to a local organization for performing magicians and they meet monthly - just long enough between meetings that I never remember when it's coming up. So despite my frequent requests to please give me some advance notice when he needs a ride there (a few days would be nice), I was recently attending a business networking event when he sent me a text, asking when I would be there to pick him up.
Well at this point there was no way I could get him there, so he just replied "It's OK. I'll just ride my bike." Fine, he likes to ride his bike and is a very sensible and responsible cyclist. He rides a mountain bike. The place is 25km away. It was night time, raining, and it was 15 minutes before the event was scheduled to start. I was quick to reflect to him the various flaws in this particular plan.
His response: "No problem, I talked to mom. I figured it out."
Um ... OK? My assumption, reading between the lines, was that he had arranged a ride.
About an hour later, I get a text from his mom: "Did he make it OK?"
Sometimes I do wonder whether it's us, not him, who have the communication issues. But eventually we got to the root of it: he had plugged his destination into the transit system website and hopped on a bus, and had made it very efficiently to precisely the wrong place. I later worked out that he had fallen afoul of the Vancouver City addressing trap, where you need to subtract between 15 and 18 from the address to get the cross street, depending on where you are. So I found him standing on a residential street corner and brought him home (having missed his meeting by that point).
I didn't admonish him at all. After all, he demonstrated resourcefulness, determination and courage in getting as far as he did; wisdom in knowing when to ask for help; and mostly unwavering composure. So I congratulated him on those things, and then asked him simply, "did you scare yourself?"
"Maybe a little. But I knew where I was and how to get back home. And I had my cell phone in case I got lost."
At some point - and looking back I realize this is probably true of most teenagers - your role as a parent is simply reduced to checking in from time to time, and never ceasing to be amazed at your ability to underestimate their capabilities.