When to Let Go and Of What
Of course, there will come a time when you have to actually let go and trust her on her own. But when? And how? It all comes down to tiny steps toward freedom that she takes with you watching over her.
For whatever reason, girls despise your checking up on their plans. Every time you dial a phone to talk to the mother on the other end of the plans (“We are all going to Bobby's house and yes, his mom will be there”), be ready for the “No one else's parents check up on them like that!” screech from your daughter. As much as your daughter hates this, it's a true act of love and, until your daughter is of legal age to make her own decisions (eighteen for most things), it's your duty to check and make sure she has the right supervision at all times. Don't be surprised if the parent you call tells you that you are the
What if the parent in charge does not seem trustworthy?
Then you need to keep your daughter home. She'll tell you everyone else is going, and they may just be. But it's your job to care for her well-being, not any other child's. File it under “cruel to be kind.”
It is okay, too, to make sure what your daughter claims to be doing is actually happening. Checking movie times (both start and end) may feel to her like you don't trust her, but really, you are setting safe limits for her. As she gets older and she's done these things many times, you'll move to a time when you don't have to check on little things, like movie times. Be sure to point this out to her. While you are still calling parents and checking on things, or not allowing her to drink alcohol even if other parents do allow it (see Chapter 12 for more on this), you can point out to her that she is gaining freedom and spreading her wings, even if it's not as quickly as she'd like.
“Mom, I'm sleeping over Ellie's house tonight.” “What are your plans while over there?” “I don't know. Whatever.” You've heard it before, and for years, you've called the other mother or father to discuss what they allow their child to do and what your rules are. But is there a time when you can just trust your girl to go? In time, indeed there is. The first step is getting to know the other families and girls she hangs around with. You'll see patterns: some girls have rules like your child's, while other parents seem to never know where their children are or what they are doing. Even in the case of a most responsible girl, you'll want to keep tabs on her in the latter situation. But there should come a time, with experience and years, that you can just say, “Go and have fun!” This can happen after you've had many discussions about what you expect from your child and what your rules are. When you do, just let her go, and to compliment her: “I'm so proud that you've come to a point where I can trust you like this.”
Girls will stumble. If they do get freedom and then mess up, take a giant step backward and work with her to win it back again. When it comes to her safety and well-being, it's one strike and you're out.
There may also be some activities that you, as a parent, are more comfortable letting her do. You hate the mall scene, but you don't mind the cybercafé in your town at all. If she asks for something you are not comfortable with, offer up some other options. She may dig her heels in and just stay home, but at least she will see that you are open to some forms of freedom for her. And remind her that the more positive experiences you have with small freedoms for her, the more you'll move toward letting her have complete independence. Remember: more than a few girls who have hated their moms for saying “no” have thanked them a week later when they realized the scene they wanted to head to was not a good one.
As sophisticated and smart as your girl might be, you must hold tight to certain restrictions. Don't put her in a sexually charged situation, like a coed sleepover (more on that in Chapter 11). No matter what others are doing or what your daughter may claim, minor girls do not belong in any kind of intimate situation with boys. The same goes for alcohol. Today parents may say “I'm watching them and they cannot drive anywhere anyway,” but the fact is, underage drinking is illegal and unsafe. Insist she stay away from these activities during her high school years. Do not fall prey to the parents who feel that teen girls should experience all this so they can handle it. And don't listen when your daughter complains that “all the other kids can do it.” What matters are your rules, and for now, your rules say “no” to such things. The time will come. But it's not now.