Five Words Helped Me Win the Summer Curfew Battle With My Teens

Here’s the problem: I can’t sleep at night until I know my kids are home safely. I try, and I just can’t. I’m a worrier.

This makes summer a disaster because my husband and I both work full-time and are up before 6 each morning — meaning I’m a sleep-deprived mess when my kids are out late. It’s also a disaster because our kids (two in college, one in high school) are really unhappy about the 11 p.m. weeknight curfew we impose. Especially our middle child.

While our oldest daughter didn’t like this weeknight rule the past few summers, she accepted it and understood that we have demanding careers and we need our sleep. This summer, she has a full-time internship and a long commute, so it’s not even an issue. She needs her sleep as much as we do.

mom with 3 teen daughters
The author with her three daughters. (Nancy Brandt)

Teens and curfews

Our middle daughter, who just finished her first year of college — not so much.

Anything that resembles a rule or a constraint? She literally can’t. She chafes and chafes and texts and calls and argues and pushes. She sends links to articles about why college kids shouldn’t have curfews. It is exhausting. I’m a person who likes harmony, so all this conflict is extremely tough on me – to the point where many times I’ve wanted to throw up my arms and say “It’s not worth it! I give up! Do whatever you want!”

Please note that our “be home by 11” rule is not rigid — and it’s only for weeknights. We are very clear that if something’s going on and they want to stay out later, it’s fine. Just talk to us about it in advance so we know. We are flexible! We are willing to work with you! We know it is hard to go from being in college with zero curfews to having to consider others and be in at a certain time. We get it!

But no matter how flexible and reasonable we tried to be, no matter how many conversations we had, all our middle daughter could hear was “11 p.m. curfew.” She’s 19! She shouldn’t have a curfew. She was out all the time in college and we slept fine, so why should it be different now? She’s an adult! Adults don’t have curfews. Her friend Jake doesn’t have a curfew! Neither does Sophie!

So, three weeks in, I had a magic moment that I want to share with you.

I said to her, “I literally don’t care when you’re home. All I care about is that I get enough sleep.”

She looked at me incredulously. “So no curfew?” she said with cautious joy.

“No curfew,” I said. “Just stick to the ‘my mom needs to sleep’ guideline and try to be home by 11,” I said.

“But sometimes it’s going to be much later,” she said.

“Yep, I know. You’ll just need to work it out with us in advance so I can plan to only get four or five hours of sleep on those nights.”

And that was it. She was fine. She didn’t seem to realize that nothing had changed except that I was calling it “my mom needs to sleep” instead of “curfew.” It, apparently, was that simple.

It’s 10:20 p.m. She’s home, and I’m going to bed. As soon as my 16-year-old gets in, that is.

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About Nancy Brandt

After an initial career as an ad agency copywriter, followed by 15 years as a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, Nancy Brandt jumped into the corporate world and now manages a communications team for 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota. She’s the mom of three daughters – two in college and one in high school – and is one of three daughters herself. Her older sister says she’s a “classic middle child.” She is a yoga enthusiast and is obsessed with podcasts. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, or her personal favorite, Instagram.

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