I have a thirteen-year-old daughter and she loves spending the night with friends. It’s become a regular weekend ritual. Sometimes they all come here, and sometimes she’s at one of her friends’ houses.
I hear stories of lots of great snacks, late nights, movies, and too much Arizona iced tea so I try to put out a respectable spread when they all stay here. They are having the time of their lives and I’m so glad she gets to live out these years making great friends and memories.
I did the same in high school and it still feels like a gift.
It’s Never Easy to Question Someone’s Parenting Decisions
As she’s gotten older, I’ve grown more relaxed about where she goes and I don’t feel the need to collect as many details about her nights out as I used to. I’m fine with simply touching base with the host parent just to confirm that they are going to be home, especially since I already know her friends and have met their parents at sporting and school events.
But something changed a few months ago and I realized I wasn’t asking enough questions about how my daughter was spending her time while away from home.
A friend of hers has an older brother; he’s 18 to be exact and a senior in high school. This brother also has lots of friends who come over to spend the night at his house; something I found out one day after picking up my daughter when she was talking about a boy who was there.
I asked her how much time she had spent with him and whether he had also spent the night at the friend’s house too. And the more I asked, the more uncomfortable she got.
It turns out my daughter and her other 13 year-old friends were in the company of 17 and 18 year-old boys until the wee hours of the morning without any supervision.
As far as I could gather from my daughter, nothing happened except for some hand-holding. I’m not saying anyone did anything wrong, but I felt compelled to call the mother and ask some more questions about what was going on. As soon as I placed a call to the other parent.
I didn’t want to sound judgmental or accuse her of being a neglectful parent by any means. I simply wanted to talk to the adult who was there and get a few more facts about what type of supervision she was comfortable with when other kids came to her house. I wanted to make sure we were on the same page.
My stomach did a flip and I dialed the number.
Right away she felt attacked even though I tried to tread gently. I asked questions about how late the kids were allowed to stay up and hang out in the basement without an adult there. I was calling her to make sure she was being diligent when my child was under her roof. I was trusting her for an evening to watch over my daughter and I didn’t feel really good about the news I’d heard. There was no hiding how I felt and she clearly picked up on it.
I explained to her that her daughter was my daughter’s best friend and she loved going over to visit them and I made sure that I appreciated all the things she did for those girls. I wanted the fun to continue but I also needed to feel better about her being there.
And honestly, if it was okay with her to mix 17 and 18- year-old kids with 13-year-old kids all evening, I was going to have to change my mind about letting my kid sleep there.
A tough spot during our conversation was when she said, “They are good kids, and I don’t want to have to watch them. I don’t want to have to worry about this.”
The truth is, I have an older teenage boy and if he had friends over to spend the night, and so did my daughter, I would be worried about leaving them alone unattended all night. I am responsible for what happens under my roof and while I don’t believe in watching them like a hawk, I feel it’s my duty to make sure everyone stays in their lane. I want to feel that the same thing is happening when I send my kids to someone else’s house.
Our conversation ended up being productive. But it was touch and go there for a while. We both have our kids’ best interest in mind, but it’s never easy when someone questions your parenting decisions or skills.
As a mother, I had to express my concern because it is my child we are talking about. And I know for a fact I am not comfortable with my 13-year-old daughter being unsupervised all night long with kids who are so much older than she is.
It’s not about trust. It’s not because I feel like I have not done my job as a parent. It’s because it feels like too much responsibility to put on her right now and the fear of her being in a situation she isn’t prepared for trumps my fear of having an uncomfortable conversation and feeling like I’m being too overprotective.
I’m sure some parents feel as I do, while others would agree with the other mom–it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we speak up, and at least try to have effective conversations with our kids and with other parents. We need to do the best we can with the tools we are given.
I realize I need to ask more questions before and after my teens go on a sleepover because it’s my job to monitor their independence and not let them have too much freedom too soon.
That can only be measured by me–after all, I know them better than any other adult. And, as their mother, where they spend their time is still my call.
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