House rules seemed much simpler when I was growing up, and they were inherently understood. There were no discussions, no debates; the rules were the rules, and that was that.
Once I became a teenager, curfews were set and they were enforced. When I was a freshman in high school, I had to be home by 10 p.m., a curfew that was extended by a meager half hour each consecutive year until I graduated.
I thought this was ridiculous and restricting. My mom used to tell me that she could not go to sleep until she knew all of us were home safely. At the time, I felt my parents were being unreasonable. I had to be home earlier than all of my friends. It was embarrassing to have to be the first one dropped off, knowing that my friends were not going home right away.
My parents wanted to know specific details about plans I made, who else was going, what the time frames were — almost every bit of planned time had to be accounted for in some way. If I was on a date and went more than five minutes past my curfew, even if I was just in front of the house, my mom would flick the front light on an off as her warning. I knew it was time to get inside and call it a night. I swore that when I had kids I would be a lot more lenient and understanding. And now the time has come for me to set boundaries for my kids.
My high school freshman is extremely social and always has plans with friends on the weekends. This usually equates to going to someone’s house to hang out with group of kids, going to the movies or grabbing a bite to eat. Because I have done the majority of the driving in the past few years, I have felt comfortable knowing where she was and who she was with, and whether other parents were home.
Now, several of her older friends can drive. This is not a combination that I am comfortable with, considering many of these kids have had their official license for less than a year. Combined with understanding the dangers of texting and talking on cellphones while driving, this really makes me nervous.
I really don’t trust these young and inexperienced drivers with my daughter’s life. It has become a heated issue in my household regarding whether or not my daughter should be allowed to get rides from other teens and how late she should be allowed to stay out regardless. There need to be ground rules.
I knew that this day would come, and I put myself back in high school when I wanted to be able to get rides from friends. For the most part, this wasn’t a big issue for me growing up; however, this enforced my curfew even more.
And now I don’t blame my parents. It has more to do with not trusting other people on the road than with trusting my daughter or her friends. Driving at 10 p.m. is less risky than driving at 1 a.m. when bars are closing and patrons are getting into their cars. I rarely drive late at night myself for the same reason.
Also, the longer a teen can stay out, the more opportunity there is to get into trouble. Really, what is there to do after 11 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday night for a 15-year-old that they can't do earlier? Of course there will be exceptions for special occasions or if I know my daughter is going to a known friend’s house with no plans to leave. If I’m comfortable with whom she’s with and her proposed plans, I’m open to being a little more lax. It really depends on the circumstance.
Some parents are off the hook when it comes to setting teen curfews because Florida is one of many states that have imposed curfew laws for minors as a way to keep minors and communities safer. These curfews have caused some debate, so not all cities and counties have adopted and enforced such laws. Contact the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to find out whether your city has a teen curfew.
Pinellas County also offers a teen driver challenge to help students become safer drivers. The program is currently on hold, but registration will reopen once a new location for the driving portion of the class is approved.
There are also driving curfews for minors in Florida (Hallelujah!). A licensed driver who is younger than 17 may not drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless driving to or from work or accompanied by a driver in the front passenger seat who is 21 or older and has a valid license.
The same applies for licensed drivers who are 17 years old; those drivers are prohibited from driving between 1 and 5 a.m.
My kids will have to learn to accept that curfews are in place for their protection. I’m still ironing out exact house curfew times, depending on whether my daughter is with another teen driver, but I know I need to figure this out soon and then be consistent with enforcement.
The world is a scary place, and when our kids walk out our front door we worry about them. I’ll try to be reasonable but appropriate. When everyone is safely home and the house is locked up, Mom can sleep.