Mary later explained that she wanted to give Riley some time. She and her friends come up with ideas, but often never follow through. That's why Mary said we'd think about it. Odds were, it would never happen, and Riley would feel that we respected her enough not to say, "No way!" immediately, which is precisely what I had wanted to do. There's definitely a reason I let my wife speak first.
Mary and I spoke and we concluded that if Riley and her friends really planned to follow through with this idea, that we'd have to politely tell her "no."
1. We didn't know where she'd be exactly (Riley had been unsure).
2. Those girls are too young to stay in hotels.
3. Even if they weren't, where'd they get the money?
4. Even if they got the money, it's just too dangerous. And,
5. Riley is a child still. Her prefrontal cortex is not fully developed. Besides, if something were to happen, CPS would be all up on us for not taking proper care of our daughter.
Guess what! A couple weeks ago we find out that the girls were planning to go through with this after all. Riley asked, "So, what about the road trip?" We sat our daughter down and told her how much we trusted her, but that we just couldn't let her go on a road trip with two other teens for four days, and we laid down the list above.
But, then Riley told us things we didn't know. Mary and I talked alone, and I can't believe it, but we let her go. She's in Tahoe right this moment. I know, what irresponsible parents, right? But, before you call Child Protective Services on us, here's what changed our minds:
1. The two other girls she was traveling with are really good kids.
2. It was for one of the girl's (Sasha's) birthday. And, Sasha is the most straight-laced teen I've ever met: incredible grades, polite, goes to bed early, terribly responsible.
3. Sasha would be driving (been driving for two years, has changed a tire, has called AAA).
4. Sasha's parents gave the trip their blessings, and they are self-proclaimed "hoverers." They keep a close watch over her. "The Eagle-Eyes" we call them.
5. They would be staying with Sasha's aunts, cousins and sister along the way.
6. We had an itinerary, addresses and phone number put on a spread sheet, just in case.
We asked Riley, "What happens if Sasha goes to sleep at 10:30 one evening and you and your other friend decide to get up and explore."
"We wouldn't ditch, Sasha. This is her birthday trip!"
We really put thought into it, and realized that we would let Riley go on a road trip with her friends four hours to spend the night at a family friend's home. So, what's the difference if she comes back home or travels to another family friend's home? We felt comfortable with who she was traveling and staying with.
So, they've been gone for their four days. They drive back today. Riley texts us daily and we speak every night. She's more communicative with us since she's been gone. They've had so much fun: hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, exploring San Francisco's Pier 39 and more, a trip they'll never forget. Turns out Sasha is almost more of a parent than we are: not allowing loud music in the car as she drives, dissuading her friends from buying unhealthy food, recommending going to bed early, and having that "parent GPS" (always knowing how to get back from where they started).
I am so glad that Riley, Sasha, and Sasha's parents made it easy for us to give Riley a thumbs-up for this trip. She's growing up. We have to start letting go now so that when she becomes an adult it won't be so hard on us. And, it helps that she can prove her responsibility and that she can make good choices.