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October 16, 2019


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Teen time is not the time to look away. I think the phone calls are another way of saying I love you.

I get where you're coming from, but at this age I would expect he'd have the ability to withdraw from an inappropriate situation if one occurred. Since he was raised by you, he's probably got good judgment and would be like "LATER!" if anything happened.

And yeah, I WOULD put a 17yo in a car without verifying there was an adult at their destination because in 1 year (or less), they'd be considered an adult. My kids seem to have pretty good judgment and I trust them to ask these kinds of questions themselves.

But now I'm wondering if I'm wrong? Parenting is hard.

After reading "The Gift of Fear" and remembering a couple of instances where my own parents assumed things were okay where I was headed and that turned out NOT to be the case, I say keep making the calls. Young adults with good judgment still benefit from someone looking out for them.

Most people won't think anything of it. People with something to hide know you're watching, and that make all the difference.

I think this depends a whole lot on the very specific culture in your area, no? I - and all my neighbors - would feel very comfortable putting a much younger child in a car to go to a sleepover without checking. Then again, I would usually get a text confirming they arrived safely and another at night (or the wee hours...) confirming they're asleep. I wouldn't bat an eyelid at the 17 year-old. Which is not to say that you shouldn't! Just that I think there are no hard-and-fast rules, just conventions depending on many factors.

Even w/17-year-olds, I think I'd still like to have contacted the parent where my kid is staying overnight. This doesn't seem like too much, or too old-fashioned, to me. It's safety. It's courtesy.

As I tell young moms, toddlers and teens and very similar. They crave limits and look to the adults to set them. I think very often parents are willing to abdicate responsibility to teens whose brains are not completely developed. They do not always make the best decisions, especially when away from parents in a group setting. Sometimes mob mentality can set in. If he were not in boarding school and attending school while home, you would want to speak to the parents. For me the fact that it IS boarding school makes this even more pressing.

Now, having said all this, everyone’s mileage may vary, depending on their experience with their teen. To toss all caution to the wind by virtue of the fact that he’s 17 doesn’t fly.

The other matter that I’m sure many will disagree with me on, is the fact that he isn’t paying the tuition (I assume). Therefore, you still have rights as a mom to know how and where he’s spending his time.

My oldest is 13, so I cannot say for sure that I will be doing this, but I think I will. Seventeen is still young enough to not know how to leave gracefully. If he were at the local high school, would you be calling the families you don't know to find out what the deal is?

My kids had traveled internationally alone by 17. Not backpacking around Europe, but fly into London and find the bus to Bath for Latin camp, then afterwards check into a hotel near Heathrow before catching a flight home. And a similar journey to a distant country for his brother at about the same age. The 18th birthday present for the older brother was a night in a city in a bordering state with his brother, just the two of them. So I'm probably pretty far over on the independent parent side. Also, my kids are boring.

So by 17 I'd probably have rules for the kid but I might not call the other parent to confirm they are being followed. "Call me if there is no adult over 30 at the house" or something. I mean, this would depend on the kid, but your guy is at boarding school and presumably independent. At that age my kid was going to houses where I didn't know the parents, or meeting up with friends at coffee places. He went to high school about 90 minutes away by bus, so I didn't know a lot of his social stomping grounds. Phones can give you the verification on location, if you are comfortable with that. I was comfortable with this because at 18 and college all the bars get lifted, and I have the philosophy that I avoid giant jumps in autonomy. I prefer a gradually ascending ramp.

But each kid and each parent/child relationship is unique, so I'd trust your instincts.

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