Delaney works at a fast food sandwich shop, and a surprising number of people like to eat in just before closing. By the time they get their customers out and the store cleaned and closed up, it’s usually 10:30, and she’s home about ten minutes later. I wait up for her, but we don’t talk much when she gets home, because we’re both so tired. She saves all of her stories and misadventures for the breakfast table.
The other night, she came home from work just shy of eleven. It was a particularly late night, and one of her coworkers was worried she was going to miss her curfew. In the morning, she asked me, “So, when is my curfew?”
I thought for a moment before replying, “You don’t have one.”
She nodded. “I didn’t think so…. Did you have a curfew?”
Now it was my turn to nod. “It was eleven, and I often missed it.”
I did. I missed my curfew all the time. I think it was chosen for parents’ sake, but my dad was usually asleep with a book on his chest when I got home regardless of the time. I’d put the book on his nightstand, turn off the light, and go to bed. I was home by midnight more often than not, but I was still late.
I suppose many parents think they have to draw a line somewhere, and eleven is usually it, but I prefer to take into account a whole situation. For example, if she was out enjoying a street festival, I might expect her home by six, or eight. If she went to see a film with friends, and they were going to stop to eat afterwards, it might be midnight. And if she’s at work, I expect her home when she’s done working.
What this is to me is not so much controlling my teenager’s time and activities as it is common courtesy. We live in community, and it’s polite to let the other people in your community know what to expect from you, and then to follow through. By the time they’re old enough to be out on their own, you’ve hopefully instilled in them a strong Catholic morality, you’ve talked to them about cultural expectations and how to deflect them, and you’ve given them plenty of opportunity to develop their own good judgement. If you’ve done all that, curfews are unnecessary and we need only concern ourselves with the needs of the family community.
Last night, I fell asleep on the couch waiting for her to come home. It’s been a long week, with a lot of late nights, and I was just exhausted. When I woke up, she was standing next to me, wondering what to do. Wake me? Let me sleep? “Always wake me,” I said. And that’s common courtesy, too. I’ve spent seventeen years worrying about her and looking after her and every night of those seventeen years, I have hugged her and told her I love her before she goes to bed. I’ll not have her going off unloved now.
Because you have to draw a line somewhere.