Trust with Limits


For our twenty-fifth anniversary, my husband and I decided to go out of town for the weekend. We left our house to my octogenarian mother and two sixteen year olds. We placed my spry mother on high alert and took the precaution of informing family and friends of our decision. I clutched my phone like a lifeline during those thirty-six hours, texting my kids (too) frequently.

My twins asked me, when I came back, why I didn’t trust them. My answer was a potpourri of evasive explanations. In the light of recent heartrending events in the town of Saratoga, I have been giving the idea of trust more thought.

The tragic suicide of fifteen-year old Audrie Potts is a searing reminder of teenage recklessness. The Saratoga High School girls and boys availed themselves of a parentless house, drank heavily, and three boys raped and debased Potts while she was passed out. Even accounting for teenage hubris, it is very difficult to explain the complete dissolution of morality.

There is ample scientific evidence to support teenage risk-taking behavior. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study shows that in 2005, 20% of 10th graders and 30% of 12th graders drank over 5 drinks at one time in the two weeks before the study. These numbers are staggering and serve as a prompt to repeat that conversation about trust and consequences with our teenagers.

Largely, it is a question of limits. Realization of personal character has to do with the limits that are placed on us by our parents, friends, neighbors, well-wishers and detractors. These limits often act as moral brakes. Most teenagers test and negotiate these limits. I can personally testify to the countless times I’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not fair!”

While our immigrant experiences have shaped our children’s lives and expectations dramatically, the hyper-connected world they live in also removes some of those cultural barriers and limits we place on them. There is no reliable  algorithm to make sense of this unceasing noise. For pubescent minds, gulled into the hypnosis of instant affirmation, the world pinpoints into like buttons.

At a recent school event, a fellow parent confided, “I trust my daughter implicitly.” It alarmed me because I was unable to agree with her. While I trust my children to act responsibly, for the most part, I am hesitant to qualify that trust with the word “implicitly.”

Truth is, trust cannot be mistaken for love, neither reality for aspiration. I trust my teenage children within limits.

But I love them implicitly.

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