A New Chapter in Parenting: Teen Drivers, Trust and Sleepless Nights

Leah R. Singer | Leah's Thoughts
3 min readFeb 16, 2023

When Sophie was just a few months old, my family doctor told me something that’s never left my mind:

“When your kids are little, you worry about them playing in the street and getting hit by a teenager driving a car. And then they become teenagers, and you worry they’re the ones driving the car that hits the little kids.”

It dawned on me this past weekend that I’ve hit a new chapter in parenting. At 15-years-old, Sophie is at an age where she hangs out with friends who drive. And later this year, she will be driving. Parents are no longer required to transport to and chaperone the social scenes.

All the parenting worries and fears … they’ve changed and nothing will ever be the same.

With friends who drive comes a list of new concerns — safety, car accidents, being out late, joy rides, being arrested, driving under the influence (and other cars on the road with drivers under the influence), late nights with no adult supervision. …

Sophie was in a play this past weekend. And instead of the typical children’s theater cast party of post-performance cupcakes and snacks, she headed to IHOP with her fellow castmates at 10:30 p.m. She didn’t need me to take her to the restaurant or pick her up because a few of her castmates have their driver’s license. The next evening, post-performance, was more of the same (burritos at the “open until 4 a.m.” Mexican cafe).

On one hand, it’s a relief since my bedtime falls close to the start time of the IHOP adventure. But on the other hand —and what I quickly learned—how does one sleep when their teenage daughter is out late with other kids?

Those two evenings equated to two awful nights of “sleep.” I was tossing and turning, my heart racing and my brain playing out all kinds of scenarios while I constantly checked the “find my phone” app so I knew where she was located. My phone alerts, which are generally turned off at night, were enabled. I didn’t wear earplugs to sleep because … what if the phone rang? There was no melatonin consumed. And I didn’t dare take a Xanax to quell the anxiety because … what if I needed to pick her up in the middle of the night?

As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I thought to myself … Will I ever be able to rest comfortably when Sophie is out with friends? I feel like I’ve raised a responsible person. But is that enough?

You take all the precautions. You don’t forbid, but you caution. You have the conversations about drugs and alcohol. About drunk driving. About sex. You talk about friends and peer pressure. You’re honest and share your own experiences. You admit to your own mistakes. …

You can do everything right. And yet, everything can still go terribly wrong.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a clever answer or ending to this post or these thoughts. I don’t have a roadmap or reading guide for this new chapter.

I suppose in the end, it comes down to trust. … I have to trust Sophie. I have to trust God and the universe’s plan for us. I have to trust myself.

Trust can be a tall order. … But I think it’s the only way through.

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Leah R. Singer | Leah's Thoughts

Writer • Runner • Yoga • Nature • Vinyl • Folk/indie rock • College writing teacher • Asst coach, college cross country+track • Books • http://leahsthoughts.com