To curfew or not to curfew

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The school year is just beginning and already my 16-year-old is lobbying for a later curfew, effective immediately.

Entering her junior year, she feels ready — even entitled — to enhanced freedoms and independence. I’m hesitant to give her more leeway.

Already, she’s routinely allowed out until 12:30 am with some wiggle room for special situations like a transportation snafu or late movie. More importantly, my gut says there is nothing a teenager needs to be doing later that they can’t do at someone’s home.

When she was younger, a curfew was something closer to a bedtime. Not so anymore since I know she can stay up until all hours given any opportunity. At some point, it was about my knowing how late I had to stay up, but these days, she often finds me asleep on the sofa when she gets home, rousing me to let me know she’s safe.

In my mind, a curfew is about safety, but are the subways and streets any more dangerous at 1 am than 2 am or even 3 am? Is my daughter at any greater risk doing whatever she and her friends are up to before midnight than she is doing it after?

I know the real danger lies in the choices she makes. Kids end up in ambulances at all hours, going to the hospital for doing too many shots or using various substances. Teenagers seem to seek out opportunities for recklessness, oblivious or immune to the risks of their actions.

Demanding my girl is home at a certain time only means she’ll be doing what she wants earlier in the evening.

In the end, this curfew thing is about setting limits and communicating values.

When I say it isn’t okay for my teenager to be at a party, or sneak into clubs, or even go to a movie until all hours of the morning, I’m announcing what’s out of bounds for my child, which she often can’t do for herself. In her mind, if one friend is doing something, then it should be all right for her too.

I suspect she tries to get around my scrutiny by arranging to stay with friends when there’s a party, or seeking a more lenient home that will allow a later night out.

What ends up happening is a group of girls go home together, staying up to watch a show, raiding the kitchen and sleeping in a pile on someone’s floor until the parents rouse them late in the morning. In my mind, this is perfect.

Let my girl be with her friends, stay up late, eat popcorn, even sneak in a couple of beers — just do it in someone’s home, with an adult present.

I’m not ready to cave in on the curfew, but perhaps some negotiation is in order. We could try some tests to see if she can make good choices when given more freedom, but she’s got to understand there will always be limits on what she can do.

Today, I’m setting them but, someday, she will set them for herself.

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Reasonable discourse

STEVE from downtown says:
We know that she'll be able to sneak in contraband . It's important she knows your values : at 16, NO Alcohol. Good thoughts, thanks.
Sept. 5, 2014, 9:07 am

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