This past weekend, a local teenage girl was killed in a terrible accident. The weather on Saturday was sunny and unseasonably warm. A group of kids were swimming in the river, and walking up onto the trestle to jump into the water. They didn't hear the train coming until it was almost upon them. Two boys jumped in time, but Kristi was not so lucky, and was hit by the locomotive.
For her parents, family, and friends, it's tragic and devastating. While I didn't know Kristi personally, I have friends who did, and they tell me she was a wonderful young lady. Smart, kind and athletically gifted. She was due to graduate high school in a few weeks, and attend a local university in the fall on a track scholarship. Now, instead of getting ready for her graduation party, Kristi's parents are planning a funeral. I can't even imagine their heartbreak.
My older son lost a friend to a car accident during his junior year of high school. Three boys were headed to the store before cross country practice. They were driving too fast and decided to "jump" the car over a hump on a nearby road. The driver lost control and hit a tree. Juan was killed instantly, and his two passengers were seriously injured. All great boys, who made a bad decision.
As a parent of teenagers, these events are terrifying. It reminds us that this could happen to any one of our kids. No matter what we teach them, and how smart or responsible they are, everyone makes mistakes. Or follows an impulse. Most of the time it turns out fine. But every once in a while, the car spins out of control, someone makes a wrong turn, or the train appears. Even though our kids are our precious angels, they're also.....human.
Being a parent requires a tremendous amount of strength, hope and faith. Parenting teens takes it to a whole new level. Letting them learn to drive. Or go out into the dangerous world without you. Find their own friends. Make mistakes. All you can do as they walk out the door is say a prayer that they'll be okay. That they won't follow that impulse, or make that bad decision.
Right now, my younger son is somewhere practicing dance choreography with a group of kids for an end of the year assembly. As he headed out, he excitedly told me that he's learning to do a back flip for the routine. My heart skipped a beat, and my first inclination was to tell him no. But I stopped myself, took a deep breath, and told him to be careful. As hard as it is, I have to let him do back flips. And trust me, it's hard.
Friends whose kids are older tell me it gets easier once they're away at college. Out of sight, out of mind, or something like that. I'm dubious, but I'll be finding out soon enough.
In the meantime, I'll keep letting my heart go wandering around, and be thankful when it returns home each night.