Thursday, June 17, 2010

Where are the parents?!

As I get to know more parents and watch my sons' friends grow into teens, I find myself gravitating towards some parents as friends and pulling away from others I have been close with for years. I must admit it is mainly over parenting styles. At first I was saddened by it, even confused, but the more situations I find myself in, the more clearly my own values are defined. While I try not to judge, its hard not to find it easier and more authentic to align with adults who have similar parenting styles. One example has been the topic of lots of recent conversations with my friends - the issue with parents not being present.

Last summer, my son was invited to a birthday party for one of his new friends about two blocks away. Since I had not yet met the parents, I offered to walk him there so I could meet Mom or Dad and then I'd walk back home. When we got there, there were at least a dozen teenagers running around. They weren't tearing the house apart, but it was chaotic. I asked for a parent and the birthday boy said his parents were not home but would be back in about 45 minutes. We have a rule with our kids that they are not allowed to be at a friend's house unless there is a parent home. And they are not allowed to have friends over here when we are not home.

I didn't want to embarrass my son by making him leave so I decided to go home and come back in about an hour. I walk back in an hour - still no parent in sight. So I asked for the mom's cell phone and called her. I was as sincere and polite as I could be. I let her know about our rule and asked when she'd be home. In about about 45 minutes. I already didn't like what was going on but I'd already waited an hour so I figured what was 45 minutes more. And I still didn't want to be the only parent to make their kid leave.

An hour later and one airsoft gun wound later (my son was shot right above his eye at close range and still has a scar), I'd had enough and made my son come home. Where were the parents?! Who leaves a houseful of teenagers all alone for hours with no supervision? I am not a prude by any means but I was mad and puzzled. The biggest issue with teens (even in our neighborhood) at this age is their experimentation with alcohol, drugs, and the law. Kids are stealing alcohol from their parents, sneaking out at night and hanging out at a local park in the middle of the night, experimenting with pot, and seeing what they can get away with. Pushing boundaries is what they do at this age and we all did it, too. But I am stunned at the stories I hear from both kids and parents where crowds of kids are hanging out at someone's house with no parent around.

I feel strongly this is the time to keep a close eye on my kids. Not for the purpose of hovering over them like police and censoring their every move, but to stay aware so I can guide them. Adolescence is a challenging time where kids are figuring how who they are and at a crossroads with just about every aspect of their lives. They are figuring out what their values are and how they feel about their bodies, their minds, and sorting out their feelings. While I want to give my kids opportunities to become more independent, now is not the time to let their friends and other parents be the biggest influence. I want to know who their friends are, what music they have on their iPods, who their friend's parents are, what movies they are watching, and what games they are playing on the computer.

I used to struggle with thinking I was being controlling by wanting so much insight into their lives. But after watching kids I know choose challenging paths (all have a common thread of little parent control), I am even more convinced that staying involved and present is critical. My kids are not out of the woods yet (we have high school to tackle next) and I have no intention of backing down now.

What are your thoughts? How do you give your kids opportunities to grow their independence and learn responsibility while staying involved? Join the discussion in my community here.

20 comments:

I am blessed! said...

I agree and am kind of dreading the teenage years when we will be giving them more and more freedom. I don't think we're going to let our kids date. It's the whole alone thing that gets us. I never dated and didn't miss it. Well, I dated my husband, but I was 24 when we met! My husband did date and regrets it. We're hoping to encourage the group thing and having their friends over to our house- since we know at least one of us will be present!

I'm a swimmer too, at least used to be. I'm currently swimming through my 5th pregnancy. Now I have 3 swimmers and several in training. I love taking them to meets!

B said...

I'm so unsure of this myself. I adopted my son when he was 7 and was a first time mom so everything has been really unconventional for me. He's now 11 and I would feel exactly as you did in this situation.

Your post reminds me of a buddy of mine who was having trouble with his teenage stepdaughter. They were all in family counseling and I remember him telling me that the therapist told him he would have to step back and allow her to make her own mistakes. That even if my buddy could see that they were going to be big mistakes, that he had to allow her to do that.

I kept thinking in my head that there is no way I could do that. I don't know what that says about my parenting style or if I will change in just a couple of years when my son is a teenager, but the thought of that scares me to death.

You ask a really good question. How do you find the right balance to let them exercise their freedom but keep them safe too? Hopefully I be a bit wiser soon!

Mandy said...

Great post. I do allow my 14 YO and my 17 YO to have one or two friends over when I'm not home. However, my guidelines are that I know the friends, their parents know that I'm not home and I'm only gone for a couple of hours max.

More than one or two friends and I am there. If my kids are going to a friend's house, then if I wouldn't let them be on their own at my house under the same circumstances, I won't let them go to the friend's house without adult supervision.

I think it's really important to know the parents of your friends - it helps you make these decisions.

When they were younger and I was getting to know parents, I would also ask about whether there were any guns in the house and if so how were they stored. I also talked to my kids about gun safety.

正玲正玲 said...

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Mindy Skains Independant Scentsy Consultant said...

I SO COULD HAVE WRITEN THIS POST. Not the drugs and such but the pulling away from old friends that do not hold the same parenting skills and values as you. I have dwindled down my friends group to a hand full. But I can't handle being around parents that let their kids run amok.

Debbie the Happy Maker said...

When my daughter were old enough to go to someones house I always knew the parents and they always knew that I would be checking up on them that they were doing what they said they were doing.

You are doing the right thing. Kids want to know that there parents care what they are doing. How many kids out there say, " I can drink or do drugs, my parents don't know what I am doing and they don't care enough to find out." If you want your children to respect you latter the best thing that you can give them is boundries.

Keep doing what you are doing, that is great and the kids will love you for it. I shows them that you really love them.
Debbie

Sheree said...

I guess this sort of thing has been going on forever. When my now 34 year old son was a teen, this was an endless occurrence! Not just the parents being gone, but as they got into their late teens, 17,18...parents actually buying alcohol for them.

You did better than me, I probably embarrassed my kids by making them leave someones house more times than I can count. Not to mention the fact that they were not allowed to hang out at the mall on a Friday night with the rest of their friends. They thought I was really mean back then, now they thank me! :)

And just to add, I am/was a very easy going parent, but my memory's are fresh in my mind of my teen years. In my opinion even older teens need supervision. It doesn't mean you have to be in their face, just around. And in all honesty I think the teen themselves inwardly appreciate this because it can go a long way to alleviating some of the pressure they feel when in questionable situations with their peers.

志穎志穎 said...

知識可以傳授,智慧卻不行。每個人必須成為他自己。.................................................................

于庭 said...

人有兩眼一舌,是為了觀察倍於說話的緣故。............................................................

Kari said...

My children aren't old into their teens yet, but I had some tough experiences myself as a teen. I am in total support of everything that you just wrote. My parents were the same as you. Probably more strict since I'm female.;) But I look back and I'm grateful they loved me enough to care. I stayed out of trouble while I lived under their roof. I only got into trouble when I moved out on my own and didn't have good enough sense to stay away from bad situations. It sounds like you are a very proactive parent and there just isn't enough of those out there in my opinion.

鄭湘定 said...

你的部落格不錯哦,我來享受一下~~..................................................

Firefly@fireflyblog.org said...

I agree with you completely!

I think about those things a lot, and even though my daughter is only 5, I'm honestly already scared about her teen years.

Many of my friends are not my friends anymore because of the parenting choices. We grew apart, because as they put it I'm just too protective, want to be involved all the time, watch my child every second.

In my opinion I am not, I'm just a normal mom who wants the best for her child, who may I add again is just 5. Am I suppose to let her run loose and turn my head the other way...now or later? I don't think so!

Great post!

與發 said...

如果相遇.你會感到相知.那麼.有一種習慣叫做陪伴;如果陪伴.你會感到珍惜.那麼.有一種甜蜜叫做存在!..................................................................

Jenn Erickson said...

Holly, my girls are 5 and 9, so I'm not quite "there" yet, but it's something that my mom friends and I often discuss. Some of the friendships with parents that were founded in the earlier elementary years have already faded, for the the reasons you mentioned. Parenting style can definitely cause relationships to diverge. I admire your decisions and the way you handled the party with your son. You tempered caring with fairness and were respectful of your teenage son. Your children are very lucky to have such a wise parent.

I'm new to Blog Frog. Thank you for such an amazing community!

于倫 said...

One swallow does not make a summer.............................................................

吳婷婷 said...

如果,人類也像鼠輩一般,花很多時間來吃飯和睡覺,一定會改善健康。 ............................................................

Tree said...

I have to agree with your points on this as well. I am not an "overly" protective mother...we trust our kids WHEN they prove themselves. And as a mother of 5, with 3 being teenagers and one an adult, they have had their share of minor incidents. But, nowhere near what COULD have been if they were left to do what they want. We also don't allow our kids over to someone's house when a parent isn't there...and also depends on how trustworthy we feel the parent is. It's hard to see everything your child is doing, but just a few steps taken to prevent the "worst" is definitely not wrong. Great post!

Dalia - Gen X Mom said...

I'm right there with you. My son has started going to "parties". At this age we just can't be too careful. Like you said there is so much experimenting going on. I am definitely not the hovering mom but I am the aware and careful mom. I too don't want to embarrass my son so am very careful about how I go about it. So far he has no problem with it. I am hoping it stays that way! :) So happy to find your blog!

許志宏許志宏 said...

很用心的部落格 祝你人氣百分百 期待您的新文章..................................................................

HomemadeMother said...

Thank you for this post. My two little ones are still quite little, but when they become teenagers I'll think back to what you wrote. Parents NEED to be around for their kids - from babyhood through adulthood.

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