Last weekend, while sitting in the waiting area of Olivia’s dance studio during her lesson, I listened to the moms of some older children discussing parties and other events (like concerts) that their children ask to attend.
One mom said it was really surprising to her that when her daughter was as young as seven, a friend’s parents would just drop their daughter off for a play date and drive off without so much as meeting her. And now that her daughter is a junior in high school, it seems parents are even less involved.
She faces situations where her daughter wants to attend concerts at large venues and while she (the mom) understands that and trusts her daughter to be responsible, she finds it frustrating that other parents simply let their children arrive at the venue in the early afternoon – to tailgate – hours before the concert begins.
She is placed in the role of “bad guy” by telling her daughter that yes, she may go, but at 6:30 for a 7:00pm start time. That there is no reason a sixteen year old girl needs to be tailgating in Hartford. Any pushback from the daughter is met with, “Well, you don’t have to go at all.”
I sat there simultaneously silently fist bumping her and being terrified for my girls to reach these ages. It never does get easier, does it? Just different.
Another scenario she described was being surprised that rarely any parent ever confirms that their child is indeed sleeping over their house. She always texts or calls to say thank you for hosting and/or can her daughter bring anything? – This is out of both politeness and to confirm that 1) the parent knows about the event and 2) will be there.
More silent high fiving from me. More snuggling my two year old closer and being grateful that our biggest fights are over how many donuts I let her eat.
Just this morning I read about a local parent being arrested for hosting a party last summer during which he allowed underage teens to consume alcohol and illegal drugs on his property. After leaving that party, a seventeen year old girl was killed when the car she was riding in hit a tree. The driver was a classmate and had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit for an adult.
Of course, this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Some parents allow their children to drink at home and even let their friends do it with the caveat that they must stay over afterwards. It seems that was the rule for the party I described above. Obviously, drunk teens aren’t going to obey rules. Especially when they’re being “enforced” by adults who – hours earlier – broke the law by allowing them to drink in the first place.
Now I’m even more unsettled. I felt better after listening to the mom at dance describe how she checks up on her children. She knows who they are with and what they are doing. She is a good parent. She’s doing her job. Setting limits, enforcing curfews, and without apology. That’s her job. I plan to do my best to parent my teenaged daughters similarly. I want them to like me, but not enough to knowingly jeopardize their safety.
However, it hadn’t occurred to me at the time to consider that maybe knowing a parent would be home and “supervising” isn’t enough. Not only do I have to be aware of who my children befriend, I have to know their parents.
Right now? Their social lives are the easiest part of parenting in that respect. While shuffling them around to various activities, classes, practices and play dates can be chaos, I’m the one driving them (or at least I am 100% confident in the people who are driving them) and I choose the activities, classes, practices and play dates. I stay for them. They want me to stay. I know many of the parents of their friends well enough to consider them my own friends. One day, that will change.
Just when I thought I couldn’t wait for them to get a little older, a little more autonomous, a little more self-sufficient and less clingy…
I take it back.
I’ll hold on as long as they let me.