Sunday, October 15, 2006

The trouble with tribbles.... er, teens

Yawwwwwn. At least it seemed like a house full of tribbles.

William had half the neighborhood over last night, or so it seemed, and they stayed up playing video games and plundering the kitchen until the wee hours of the morning. Actually, the entire neighborhood seemed to be up and about all night. Someone was shooting a B.B. gun at the neighbor's house, the police were called, the kids at my house kept wanting to go watch the exitement and to run home and back to get more video equipment. I spent the whole time juggling how much I could and should set limits on what someone else's child (teen) could or could not do on a Friday night.

On one hand, they were all good kids and they were doing nothing inherently "wrong". And we've never been a normal family, in bed at ten, that sort of thing. The kids are used to our home being open day and night. I have many a fond memory of being out under the stars with the kids watching for shooting stars, playing "Ghost in the Graveyard" or making snowmen by moonlight. But teens are in that dangerous zone between being watched and being on their own and recent teen deaths in our community are proof that no matter how much they need to be allowed to stretch their wings, they really aren't capable yet of understanding the consequences of their decisions and I don't think it's safe to give them freedom without any limits at all.

Too, I knew that part of the reason these particular kids were all hanging out at our house was because they had all chosen not to hang out with other neighbor teens who were spending their Friday night in less socially acceptable, less chaperoned ways. Nothing really wild, but not completely okay either. I suspect there was alcohol or pot involved. Definitely cigarette smoking. Did I want to give up my Friday night and my house to video games and soda cans everywhere? No. But I did want to give the kids an option that didn't punish them for making a good decision.

I knew all the families of all the kids who were here, except one, a kid from William's football team. They're all nice families, but I knew that all the kids were here that late because they'd all asked to spend the night somewhere and I doubted that here was where at least some of the parents were told they'd end up. I don't really know. I know I would never let William spend the night at anyone's house without talking directly to a parent.

Although, that said, the parents all probably knew that William was one of the kids in the mix and I suspect that part of the reason the kids weren't asked for their whereabouts to be more specifically accounted for was that they knew that I'm pretty strict about where William is allowed to go and what he is allowed to do. So, were there parents out there that assumed I was in charge? Or were the kids spending the night at James or Brandon's house and just hanging out over here? By the time it was a question, it was too late to start calling and waking up parents. Ironically, it was my very familiarity with the kids that made it a question at all - if they'd been kids I didn't know (or who's parents didn't know me), phone calls would have been absolutely in order. With this particular bunch, I knew that all the parents involved generally trust my judgement.

I know, it probably sounds like I contradicted myself a few times in there. But that's it, really, I was struggling to sorting it all out in the moment. It feels kinda like trying to navigate a rockbed across a stream by moonlight - is it just fun? Too deep? Dangerous? Can I really see all all the possible choices? Is this a good idea? Am I saying no just to say no when the worst case scenario is wet clothes? Is there a dangerous deep spot I can't see in the halflight? It was the same thing when my older kids were this age - it's a constant balancing act.

In the end, I decided 4 am was late enough for me to not be able to sleep. They were being pretty quiet, it's just I can't sleep with people up in the house. And I knew what dealing with a sleep deprived teenager is like - so NOT fun. So I told them to call it a night and find a sleeping spot. They all decided to take their video equipment and head two doors down to Brandon's house where the all night gaming could continue. All exceptWilliam, who chose to stay and go to bed, so I suspect he wasn't upset about calling it a day... er, night... morning? Eventually all the kids must have fallen asleep somewhere. They've been trickling back over to the house all afternoon.

Parenting - not a sport for the weak.

Parenting teenagers - an X-treme sport for the those that like to push sanity to the very edge!


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