I had a lesson in cutting the apron strings on the weekend. The manchild was off to the football, given the green light to head out to Spotless Stadium, parent-free, with three of his mates to watch the GWS Giants play the Gold Coast Suns.
I left him bolting for the station, looking like he was 40 years too late to join the Orange People, decked out in his precious Mumford jersey and the rest of his Giants clobber, with a sack full of extra bits and pieces bobbing on his back - "in case the boys need some, Mum."
He was catching a train to meet his friends further down the line and then continue on to Sydney Olympic Park. He was beyond excited.
I was fine with it all - well, mostly.
His dash for the station began at 2.45pm. By 3.16pm I was calling to check he had made the train OK. No answer. Voicemail.
3.19pm, tried again. No answer. Voicemail.
At 3.34pm, I texted: "Did you get the train OK?" No reply.
Had he dropped his phone? Had he been mugged by an errant Gold Coast Suns supporter lost in Sydney's train system? Maybe taken by aliens? Scenarios were building in my head.
3.40pm. Another text: "Can you text me when you get to the ground please so I know you are OK?" No reply. Another call. More voicemail.
Right. Ring his father. "Have you heard from him?"
"I just want to know he made the train OK."
"Ah, he's probably with his mates having a good time."
"Yes I know. But I want to hear from him and I stupidly didn't tell him to text me when he got there and he could've fallen over because I made him run for the train because he was going to miss it dawdling and what if he lost his phone and what if he is lying bleeding unconscious and he hasn't any ID and nobody knows to contact us and what if he has been ABDUCTED BY ALIENS."
"OK, I'll try to call him now."
At this point it occurred to me that in 1973, aged 6, I was walking a kilometre to and from school without my parents. By 12, I was regularly arriving home alone from school, changing, then racing to catch a bus from Jersey Rd, South Wentworthville to Parramatta Station, then walking the kilometre or so down Church Street to St Andrews Church Hall to attend the Wendy Greenaway School of Ballet, where my parents would pick me up three hours later. And all this, alone and without a mobile phone.
How did my parents cope? (Mum, if you're reading this, stop smirking, Maureen!)
Have I become one of those hovercraft or helicopter whatsit mothers? My son is now 15, so far a totally responsible, fully functioning teenager with reasonable intelligence and initiative, who hasn't even shown signs of entering the grunting phase yet.
Besides, he has been in more dangerous situations when he has been with me, like when we went accidentally birdwatching through a crocodile nesting site or when we hiked like tightrope walkers along narrow Balinese rice paddy walls hunting for eels in the dark with locals when he was six, without realising we were on the edge of a ravine. (Whoops, Mummy!)
So what was with the panic? We'd only been talking that morning about how his school is giving the Year 10 kids more independence and how much he is loving it. I told him it was because the school trusted them to be responsible. If the school could do it, why was I gripping those apron strings so hard?
And then the mobile went. BING. Scramble for phone.
4.20pm, "Just got here."
Cool as a cucumber I text back. "That's great. Just wanted to check you were OK. Have a great time. Text me later when you are on your way home... or whenever you like."
Five words from him. Fifty worst case scenarios dispelled for me. And I realised that this parenting gig is an evolution. I haven?t had other kids to practise on, so I will always be learning on the job.
The weekend lesson for me was that he needs me as a consultant now, rather than a fulltime tie-up-your-shoelaces-spoon-feed-you-mashed-potato parent. My weekend epiphany was that teen parenting is about love and trust as much as it is about letting go, letting those apron strings fray just a little bit, for your own sanity... and theirs.