Where are you going? Who are you going with? Who else will be there? Who's driving?
If I put a dime in a jar every time I ask these questions in the four years that my freshman daughter is in high school, I'll be able to retire to that island home in spite of my 401K status.
Sure, we all want to know who our kids are hanging out with. But the surprise for me is that I want to know who my kid's friends' parents are.
Spending grades K-8 in Cupertino's Mandarin Immersion Program was like being in a small private school. Because our daughter was with the same kids since kindergarten, we knew all the parents. Now parents are mysterious shadows in cars and doorways, or voices on the other end of some teenager's smartphone.
Our daughter just finished participating in Homestead High's theater production "The Love of Three Oranges". The cast went out for the traditional Denny's post-show party. When we heard this plan, we made up a brand-new rule on the spot:
No riding in a car with a teenage driver until sophomore year, and probably not then.
Then, we volunteered to drive. But after the show, our daughter informed us that she had a ride with Christie's mom. Huh. Who is this Christie's mom? What's her driving record? How about her jail record? Can I see her resume, please? Health history? Does she smoke? Did she ever? If so, what? And did she inhale?
Since Christie is a junior, the only thing I know about Christie's mom is that she must be two years older than I am (I wish).
If my daughter had become friends with Christie in kindergarten, I'd have stood next to Christie's mom every day on the playground before the school bell rang. We'd have chitchatted about pink galoshes and where the best swim lessons are. I'd have invited them over for a play date at which Christie's mom and I drank coffee while the girls alternated between running in circles in the yard, and coloring outside the lines. I'd have become friends with Christie's mom, and totally comfortable with her driving my kid around town.
Now, imagine that I managed somehow to identify which mom was Christie's mom at the Saturday night performance of the high school play. Here's a sure-fire way to mortify your 14-year-old:
"Hi, you must be Christie's mom. Would you and Christie like to come over for a play date tomorrow afternoon?"
Softball season is coming, and if my daughter plays, then maybe, just maybe, I'll sit next to the team's parents in the bleachers on a regular basis. If any of us can get off of work. Maybe we can even offer to take the kids to a batting cage together. Ah, but you don't really need two parents to do that, do you?
Sure, I could volunteer to help with the grad party, residency verification, and even become CEO of the PTA, but in a high school of over 2,000 kids, that won't help me get to know my kid's friends' parents.
Those parents will ever remain shadowy figures in cars and doorways.