On Their Own

We have started giving the older kids a little more freedom around the neighbourhood. For example, Gal Smiley at age 11-and-a-half is allowed to ride her bike over to her friend’s house, and then either hang out in the park or go down to the Mac’s Milk for a slushie. Captain Jelly Belly at age 13 is allowed to go to our next-door-neighbour’s house after school for a couple of hours – his parents aren’t home from work yet, so it’s just the two boys in the house playing video games.

It’s that time, I guess, when you set them free and start letting them figure things out for themselves, hoping that all the training you gave them about life stuck in their minds somewhere and they make good choices. Eeep.

Two boys alone in a house with internet access in particular makes me nervous – of course, one’s mind does go to porn. I’ve been on high alert for this, quizzing him each time about what they did, watching for signs of blushing or shifty-eyed changing of the subject. I like to think I’ll be calm and fair and that it’s normal and I just want to talk to him about reality vs. fantasy, and respect for women, and put it all in context. But don’t worry, I do have a Major Freakout on the back burner just in case it seems called for.

Today his buddy was accidentally locked out of the house so they came over to our place instead and it was revealed that the shady dealings of teen boys actually do not involve porn, but do involve Call of Duty, a Mature-rated video game that the Captain is not normally allowed to play at our house. We’ve been limiting him to things rated Teen or under. But we are very good friends with the other boys parents, and we like them all very much, so this is less a case of “hey, you broke the rules” and more a case of “huh, if they think this is okay, maybe we should revisit our policy.”

So they’re downstairs right now playing Call of Duty (we have a copy, it’s my husband’s) and I’m a little fretty and a little unsure and a little sad about the Loss of Innocence and such. But that’s parenting, right?

4 thoughts on “On Their Own

  1. Maybe I’m super naive and live in fantasy world, but I think giving kids freedom is good as long as you keep on talking to them. There is NO WAY they won’t, at one point, stumble upon something questionable online or offline. But if they can tell you about it, it will be just fine. I don’t believe in constant parental supervision (it gives us the illusion of control but accomplishes very little).

  2. Hoo boy do I hear you. At 14, the older one now goes to downtown Toronto movie theaters with his buddies and they regularly hang out in adult free homes. The 11 year old has been given free reign to be home along at times too. Good thing we know all of their friends and those friends parents. It really takes a lot of stress off.

  3. We too are doing the freedom thing a bit more. That’s to say, I’m more open to it than their dad is, especially in light of a few incidents that have occurred in the neighbourhood causing the schools to send policies of street safety out to the parents to refresh the kids’ minds. Having said that, we’re in a neighbourhood that doesn’t require anyone to cross the busy Lakeshore but come next fall my 11yo is taking the streetcar to school and…well, I’m ready for him, I judge him ready, but the husband is still apprehensive. It’s going to be interesting to see the boy’s reaction when dad insists he get a lift to school and suddenly the boy will say “it’s ok I’m meeting friend 1 and 2 at the bus stop”…(there’s at least 12 kids that take the streetcar between our street and the end of our neighbourhood, meaning that by the time they get off at their school’s stop, he’ll be accompanied by 12 ‘friends’.)

    In the meantime, I’m sending them together to drop books at the library, check the outdoor pool schedule, or drop in on a friend’s house. Alone. And “mostly” comfortably so. So far so good (she’s not alone yet, but can go with her older brother).

    But I hear you on the porn thing. I’m sort of half waiting for it to occur somewhere (not here) and him coming home to tell me about it so I can address it in such a way that is similar to how you outlined it. Frankly, I don’t see it happening any time soon, just yet, the boy still has sports on his brain 98% of the time, but as these things go, it doesn’t take much, and I know the time will come. Grade 6 is just around the corner…

    We’ll support each other when it happens, right? Good luck. 🙂

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