Curfew Time Doesn't Follow Normal Rules

My teen-age daughter came home late last night. She was supposed to be home at midnight and, instead, arrived home at 2 a.m. Which is two hours late, unless you happen to be a mother. Then it is physically possible for the time between midnight and 2 a.m. to be 10 hours and 43 minutes.

That's what worry does to your frame of time. Minutes seem like hours. Or at least they do to my wife. I was fast asleep.

This morning, we grounded our daughter until the Second Coming. Not for missing her curfew, but for not calling. In terms of Kirby Family Crimes, not calling is second only to mouthing off to Mom within earshot of Dad, doing something to the dog that requires expensive medical attention and misplacing the television remote control.

In our family, kids keeping their curfew is important. Part of proving to your parents that you can be responsible is keeping your deadlines. However, keeping deadlines is not as important as calling us if they're going to be late.

Not calling is worse than being late because two minutes after our kids are supposed to be home, my wife starts thinking aliens got them. Worse, she wakes me up to explain her theories.

It's a maternal thing, the logic of which fathers can appreciate but never duplicate. When the kids are late, official Mom behavior goes something like this:
  • One minute late -- "I'm starting to get worried, dear."

  • Five minutes late -- "Oh, I just know that something bad has happened."

  • Ten minutes late -- "Call the police and hospitals."

  • Fifteen minutes late -- "Why isn't someone dragging the lake and putting up roadblocks?"

  • Twenty-one minutes late -- "I'll have to buy a dress for the funeral."

  • Anything over 30 minutes late and Mom wants to bring in Mulder and Scully.
Meanwhile, Dad is trying to get some sleep. He has to go to work in the morning. All he really knows is that whatever actually happened to the kids will be best dealt with tomorrow by a person not crazed from the lack of sleep.

It's not that fathers don't care. We do. It's just that a father's official worry clock runs on hours rather than minutes. Furthermore, a father has the added worry of what the lateness means in terms of dollars. If a kid is five hours late, the father is frantic, mainly about what might have been done to the family car.

Parents worry because they know bad things can and sometimes do happen to kids. It's something that most kids haven't clued into. Every kid in the world thinks he is almost immortal, if not actually too cool to die.

My daughter naively thinks that she can take care of herself. I tell her that the only reason she believes this is that she isn't familiar with some of the truly evil things lurking out there in the dark. I never tell her that the reason I know about those things is because I used to be one of them.

When I was a teenager, I had a curfew. It was 11 p.m., the local curfew for juveniles. I never kept it. Somehow, whatever was going to happen to me for breaking curfew -- lecturing, beating, grounding -- wasn't as important as persuading Suzy Buchowitz to stay out after curfew.

Parents and teens should talk about curfews. As a kid, I strenuously argued for a curfew of 4 a.m., on the following day. My father put his foot down (barely missing my neck) and said that my curfew would be whatever the law said it was.

Dad's logic was that if the police couldn't trust juveniles to be out after 11 p.m., he sure wasn't about to either. Especially since we were talking about me. Having since been a teenager, father and cop, I can say that my father was right. Besides, I know for a fact from my grandma that his curfew was sundown.

My daughter wept and screeched about being grounded. She called her curfew unreasonable and said it was because we didn't trust her.

She finally got something right.

EDITOR: Humorous story -- but the lack of communication and mutual respect in this family diminishes the humor for me. As someone that has worked with teens, and adults, I've found as a manager that people (regardless of age) tend to respond in the way that they are treated. That's right.... I don't know your teens -- but I sure hope YOU will get to known them, before it's to late.

"For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged."
(Matthew 7:2 NLT)

"Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life. "
(Proverbs 22:6 GNB)

[ Robert Kirby, The Salt Lake Tribune -- from Andy Chap -- Ed:Anon ]


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