Independence over invasion

Graphic by Suzanna Creasey

We’ve all received those notifications from our parents.

Four missed texts, three “Find My iPhone” pings and anywhere from one to nine voicemails flood our phones as we study at the local Starbucks or see a movie with friends.

“Who are you with? What are you doing? Why aren’t you picking up the phone?” When we finally respond, we are scolded for not answering instantly.

Sound familiar?

“Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Dad. I’m studying right now,” we say with exasperation.

The calls from our parents demanding our whereabouts hold us back from the so-called freedom teenagers are supposed to be given as a rite of passage to their adulthood. Yes, our behavior might not always be stellar, but without the freedom to make our own choices, our parents are preventing us from making mistakes. If we don’t have the opportunity to make mistakes, how are we supposed to learn?

We should be given the chance to solve our own problems while we are young and have the ability to reach our parents if needed — a convenience we may lose when we eventually leave for college.

Our parents track us because they want to keep us safe, but ultimately this surveillance destroys the once-healthy relationships we had with them. We see the countless missed notifications, causing our stomachs to drop and our anxiety to rise, knowing a one-sided argument will follow when we return the call or text. Have our parents lost their faith in us? Why won’t they give us space? They were never tracked by their parents, so why do we need to be tracked? The intense fear some teenagers experience when their parents’ names flash on their phone screen should not be the instinctive reaction.

It is necessary for teenagers and their parents to have a conversation about what it means to be invasive and what it means to grant independence. Transparency regarding the needs of both the teenager and parent is crucial when establishing limits to freedom.

We want to have a better relationship with our parents, one without the constant nagging and incessant interrogating. We want a relationship in which the first question we’re asked isn’t “Where were you?” but rather “How was your day?” We want to be trusted, not doubted.

Mom and Dad, we will do our best to text back quickly next time, but please give the interrogation a rest and give us our independence.

We can handle it.