We were on I-71, somewhere in the middle of our 6 hour drive through Ohio, headed to my mom's new home in Kentucky. It was a two-car caravan led by Mom. I was the 16 year old driver in the second car.
I was finding the drive to be quite easy. My biggest annoyance was having to find a new radio station every time we moved through another town.
That is, it was easy until we came to the long line of red tail lights all road trippers dread. A traffic jam. By the looks of it, a traffic jam that was going to make our 6 hour drive a whole lot longer than 6 hours. We putzed along, inching our way closer to the open road on the other side of the construction.
We finally came to the cause of the backup; construction walls were funneling us down to one lane. Being such an inexperienced driver, I was not skilled in the art of merging traffic. A car got in front of me. He let another car in front of him. My panic rose with each new car that ducked in line ahead of me. As I craned my neck to keep an eye on Mom's car, more and more cars got between us.
Finally, there were just too many.
I lost sight of her.
With absolutely no idea how to get to her house in Kentucky.
With everyone now in single file, our speed picked up. I was in full-on, 16 year old, what-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-do mode while traveling at 55 mph with a cement wall on one side and a long row of orange construction cones on the other. For miles. It wasn't pretty. Driving through construction with limited space in the lane is hard enough, but doing it while panicked that you will be lost in the middle of Ohio for the rest of your life is downright terrible.
At one point, I actually hit a cone and sent it flying. I was close to losing my gourd. Clearly my litany of "What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?" wasn't working.
I finally got so scared I started to pray. "Help me. Help me. HELP ME!!!"
I was led to get off the freeway. I can't say I made the decision, because, honestly, my brain wasn't working well enough to make a decision. I simply remember feeling that I should take the first exit I came to and get out of that line of cars.
With my heart pounding, I pulled out of line and onto the ramp, completely clueless as to what to do next.
With no idea of where I was, I simply got to the end of the ramp and turned.
To find my mom had done the exact same thing. I found her waiting for me, in a bit of a panic herself.
It was one of the happiest moments of my short 16 year life. The relief didn't wash over me, it crashed.
We got out of our cars, yellled/talked our stories to each other, made a plan for what to do if this were to happen again, and headed back to the freeway.
As I watch my kids get older, as I hand cell phones to each child as he hits the Christmas of his 8th grade year, I think, "In many, many ways, kids have it so easy these days."
If Phoenix and I were to have this same drive, with the same traffic jam, there would be no fear. There would be no panic. There would simply be a phone call to say, "Hey, meet me at Speedway at exit 14". It certainly wouldn't be a story to tell 25 years later.
There were so many stories like this growing up. So many scenarios where a cell phone would have made life so much easier. Yet, it is through these scenarios that I learned to trust my instincts. It is through these scenarios that I learned to be independent. It is through these scenarios that I gained confidence in myself and my ability to solve problems.
I'm torn. Part of me is glad my kids won't have to go through these sometimes scary experiences, but part of me feels like I'm taking away some growing experiences which would come in very handy as they become adults and move away from home.
I'm thinking I'm going to walk a fine line with the cell phones. It's going to be hard. The paranoid parent in my will want to use the phones to make sure I know exactly where my kids are at all times and micromanage their comings and goings. The smart parent in me will need to loosen the grip. I need to give them space to make choices. I need to let them make bad choices so they can learn from them.
I want my kids to have stories. I want them to have stories about struggles they had and experiences they got through. I don't yet know what those stories will be, but I do know one story they won't be able to tell, because I learned from my experience 25 years ago. They won't be telling stories about being stranded in the middle of Indiana, because my kids will always know the address and the directions on how to get where they are going.
Do you have a story from when you were growing up in which a cell phone would have been very handy?
Have a lovely day!