I’m not going to lie, I was completely and utterly unprepared for my teenager’s booming social life.

I mean, we had made it 16 years with minimal social activity. A birthday party here, a Boy Scout event there, a school event occasionally, but nothing that required me to ask a thousand questions about where, what, when, or who he would be spending time with let alone doing a background check on the parents (I did not actually do this, but I thought about it).

Sixteen years and two months . . . and then it happened. He wanted to go to a friend’s house for a party. A friend we didn’t know. Parents we had never met. All of a sudden he was Mr. Social. STOP. 

Honestly, it was all too much for me and I made it a big deal. OK, I made it so much of an ordeal that he said forget it, he wasn’t going because I didn’t trust him.

But we talked, my words said I trusted him, and off he went to who knows where to do who knows what. My actions told a very different story.

Thus began the obsessive practice of following his dot.

Well, not literally—that comes later—just using my phone to track him wherever he went. We had one rule that was not negotiable: DO NOT turn off the Find Me app or there will be very serious consequences that will definitely result in the loss of freedom.

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Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds or CSI, or maybe I have an overactive imagination, but the first time I could not locate his dot, I freaked out. I quickly pulled my husband deep into my vicious circle of worry. Up until this point, my husband had no idea that I watched our son move about nonstop when he was not with us. I’m not proud of this and I’ve come a long way. I definitely check it less now. 

We questioned him when he arrived home that night only to be told that yes, he was where he said he was and he guessed the connection was bad in the house.

Yeah right, not buying that one.

Needless to say, this happened a few more times—us not being able to locate him and him making all kinds of excuses.

We finally wised up and my husband (in his pajamas) decided to do a drive-by check to see if he truly was where he had permission to be. Our text exchange went something like this.

ME: Are you there yet? He’s still offline and didn’t answer the phone.

HUSBAND: No.

ME: OK. Text me when you’ve driven by.

HUSBAND: K.

ME: Looks like you’re still driving. Just curious if his car is there?!?

HUSBAND: Driving. 

HUSBAND: Not there yet at a light.

SON (to ME): Getting a friend from work and heading back to house.

ME: OK.

ME (to HUSBAND): Crap. Are you there? Be careful, he’s driving so you probably didn’t see his car. Whatever you do, don’t get caught. He’ll know we don’t trust him.

HUSBAND: We don’t.

ME: But we don’t want him to know that. Just get out of there. If it’s a court, don’t drive down it.

HUSBAND: Too late he saw me.

ME: Yikes.

HUSBAND: Yep.

And just like that, worst spies ever.

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 SON (to ME): Why did Dad just drive by the house?

SON (to ME): I told you where I was.

SON (to ME): I guess you don’t trust me.

ME: I’m trying. I really am. 

SON (to ME): Yeah right.

ME: Just wait until you have a teenager.

We laugh about this now, the night we got caught following our son, whom we claimed to trust.

Our son was embarrassed in front of his friends, but I bet he joins the spy club when he has kids.

When he got home we congratulated him for being where he said he would be and that he had earned points in our trust program. He did not find us funny at all.

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We did survive those teenage years and are deep within the young-adult-who-needs-space-and-doesn’t-think-we-have-the-right-to-even-ask-where-he’s-going stage. So, I wouldn’t even think of spying on him now. Well, probably not. But maybe I might. Alone. My husband gave up membership after that one time. I’m on my own in my spy club of one.

Jennifer Blanke

Jennifer Blanke has a BS in Elementary Education and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing degree from Lindenwood University where she is an editorial assistant for The Lindenwood Review. She is a mother, teacher, and writer in St. Louis, Missouri and has writing published in Mum Life Stories.