My teenage daughter has been babysitting a lot of under-10s over the weekend. Every house is different.
Some parents are very strict - no TV, children in bed by 7pm, lights out at 7.30pm. Others are much more laid-back. Basically, as long as the kids brush their teeth and get to bed before stuff on TV gets frightening, they're pretty relaxed.
This wide variation continues once the children become teenagers. But it gets more complicated. This is because:
1. Whatever rule you come up with, it's your teenager's job to argue against it
2. You're basing your rules on what happened to you as a teenager in the Dark Ages
3. You'd much rather she was tucked up at 7pm with her teddy bear, but at the same time you realise that would turn her into some kind of weird social misfit
4. You have clear and embarrassing memories yourself of being 15 and falling into a bush after drinking too much cider
5. You have a horrible feeling that setting sensible boundaries for teenage behaviour is like being able to crash land a Boeing 747 - desirable, but way beyond your capabilities
Your job is to be firm and consistent. But sometimes there's a little lost voice at the back of your mind wondering if you're being totally unreasonable.
Is he right, this 6ft fourteen-year-old, that getting the bus back will be perfectly safe? How can you judge? It was only yesterday that he was two years old and frightened of the dark.
A friend of mine once said that all you can do is follow your gut instinct. If something makes you uncomfortable, you have to say so. And it's different for all of us.
The worst thing is the realisation that we don't know half the stuff they get up to anyway.
Oh, it was so much easier when they were small.
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