It is difficult to stop being a mother to one's child. Perhaps, the birds can shove their young out of the nest and the dogs and cats reach a point at which they no longer recognize their young, but true mothers cannot overcome their innate proclivity to protect. Then, too, sometimes parents do not perceive their teens as adult-like; they still see the child when they look at them.
It is indeed difficult to allow teens, who do not often reason well, freedom because they are old enough to really endanger themselves by taking great chances as they drive or engage in activities that can be lethal. On the other hand, there comes a point in which the adolescent must act independently in order to achieve that important step toward adulthood.
As parents our job is to watch out for our children. We teach them right from wrong. We teach them safe and unsafe. Sometimes as parents we struggle to allow our children the freedom they need to grow because we know how harmful the world can be. As children, we struggle against the ties that bind us to our parents and prevent us (as we perceive it to be) from growing up.
You want to examine the relationship between Jerry and his mother in "Through the Tunnel" to answer this question. Anyone who has been an adolescent knows how hard it is - you are in that shadowy in-between age where you are not a child yet at the same time you are not an adult, and you resent being treated like a child and parents find it difficult to begin to treat you like an adult. What "Through the Tunnel" does is that it gives Jerry a "rite of passage" which allows him to symbolically become a "man" by passing through the tunnel. It is interesting that other societies do not have adolescence as a concept - they have clearly demarcated rituals through which their children pass to become adults. Something we have lost in Western society!
Jerry's and his mother's separate conflicts ring true, I think, as they both deal with his moving into adolescence, especially considering that she is a widow. Jerry feels the need to break away from her and be on his own, to some extent, but he feels guilty when he wants to go to the wild beach without her. She knows he is starting to grow up, and she worries about how she should deal with it:
She was thinking. Of course he's old enough to be safe without me. Have I been keeping him too close? He mustn't feel he ought to be with me. I must be careful.
We are told, "She was determined to be neither possessive nor lacking in devotion." (And she was on her own, the weight of every decision resting upon her shoulders alone. Surely many single parents have felt as she felt.)
This is one fine line to walk, figuring out when to hold on and when to turn loose of a child who is constantly pushing away from us, as is the natural order. And the stakes are higher than high, sometimes life or death for our children. So, there is plenty of conflict to go around as this parent-child trip through adolescence progresses.
Jerry's mother worries a lot, about his safety, about his emotional well being, about his finding his own way, about her own decisions. As the story develops, despite her best efforts, she has no idea what he is doing or why, and when it ends, she has no idea that her son almost died, trapped in an underwater tunnel. Jerry, however, knows what almost happened to him. Projecting into the future, when Jerry is a father, his children will probably wonder why he seems possessive. Perhaps part of the difficulty of parenting an adolescent is knowing what we survived as adolescents, without our parents ever knowing. Just a thought.
Not only is adolescence emotionally and hormonally charged, but it is also the period of time when children tend to rebel more overtly against their parents because these kids are in search of their own identities separate from mama and daddy. In "Through the Tunnel" Jerry faces this very problem: he is afraid to venture out on his own, but he cannot just stay mama's little boy either.
Adolescence is a time when many changes takes place in life of a person. Thees include both physical changes in body as well as psychological changes in mental make up. A person may feel anxiety due to these changes. Another major problem of adolescent is of identity. Adolescents must stop behaving like children and stop behaving like adults. This change does not come overnight, and during this extended process of change they may have difficulty deciding how to behave in a specific situation. Also they may find it difficult to gain acceptance as group members among children as well as adults.
Whatever is a problem for a child, automatically becomes parents for the parents, because they are concerned about their children. Also the may find difficult to react appropriately to the changing moods of their adolescent children.
Adolescence is probably the most tumultuous time for any individual. As young people search for their identity and place in the world, parents have to cope with the results of that searching and discovery, whether it is good or bad. No matter how hard parents try to do the best they can, adolescent peer pressure is even stronger. It is a constant battle between growing up and ensuring that young people grow up. The best that any one can do is hope for the best.