Leaving teenagers home alone
What possibly could go wrong?KATHRYN CALVERT
OPINION: We'd never done it before. Through nearly 20 years of child-rearing, we'd never left the kids home alone for the weekend.
It was a pretty tough call. For several weeks, I asked every parent I came into contact with - preferably those with children in their late teens to extract the most fresh and up-to-date experience - what their thoughts were on leaving a 17-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl at home by themselves for approximately 36 hours.
Surprisingly, that opinion evened out roughly 50/50. The older parents generally said to try it and see what happened.
Those with kids the same age paled at the thought and warned us against Facebook party invites and debauched orgies of KGB mixers and party pills.
Others said we'd raised our children well and the fact that our son was not only sensible but incredibly responsible meant we had nothing to worry about. Those under 25 pursed their lips, winced at the thought and said they'd stick pins in their eyes before they'd let two fresh-faced Calverts fend for themselves against everything the world had to throw at them.
Of course none of this helped us in our decision. Hubby - whose favourite aunty under 60 was having a birthday party in Taupo, necessitating our trip south - initially said there was no way he was leaving two kids at home in Auckland unsupervised, particularly with Little Weenie being a bit of a handful at the moment.
I argued that they were both well-balanced children with mature outlooks on life.
My favourite neighbours George and Barbara said if they so much as sensed more than four bodies in the house at any one time (son, daughter and daughter's two 'bestest friends forever'), they'd be knocking on the door for a quick squizz.
Several good friends offered their emergency contact details, and grandma agreed to ring the house several times during the 36-hour period.
''Well,'' I said to Hubby last Friday night, ''I guess we need to throw caution to the wind and give the kids a bit of space to prove themselves responsible enough to stay home alone.''
He looked at me sideways. ''This from the mother that still makes their school lunches, makes their beds and provides an inappropriate amount of help with school projects. We're going to be at least four hours drive away. Can you handle the pressure?''
I wasn't sure, and articulated my concern to the kids. They looked at me blankly. ''How old do you think we are?'' Little Weenie finally asked. ''We finished kindergarten a long time ago now, Mum. You just have to trust us.''
With those words, I knew I had to.
So the list of rules was stuck to the fridge. No alcohol, parties, excessive noise, going outside after dark, going to the dairy before 9am and after 7pm, going in cars with boys (obviously one for Little Weenie), or opening the door to anyone after 7.30pm.
No forgetting to turn off the oven/dishwasher/microwave/George Foreman grill/GHD hair straightener, no junk food, no excessive phone/iPad/computer use, too much mess or inviting anyone over for a visit without express permission from at least two consenting and sane adults.
They had to remember to feed the cats, have showers, brush their teeth, always keep the cordless phone on the charger so they could hear the phone ring, turn off the telly when they were finished, have at least two minutes of fresh air outside each day, get in the washing, vacuum the lounge and lock all doors night and day, even if they were still in the house.
Any infringements would result in grounding until Christmas 2014.
To my communications-savvy daughter, I had one more rule. In all circumstances, bar none, she had to answer texts from me within five minutes of dispatch. Not six minutes, not 10 minutes, not a 'sorry Mum, I was on the toilet' situation .th.th. within five minutes or I'd set the neighbours on her.
Of course everything went fine. We left and came back to total calm and tranquility. But, on checking my text dialogue that night, I was amused to see where the conversation between my daughter and I had spookily rotated 360 degrees.
Her: 'Going to Burger King.' Me: 'Not good for your hips.' Her: 'Thanks!' Me: 'That was a message from Dad, not me.' Her: 'Thanks Dad!'
Me: 'You okay? Still raining?' Her: 'Yeah and yeah.' Me: 'What u having for tea.' Her: 'There's nothing to have. Why didn't you go to supermarket before you left?'
Me: 'You guys okay?' Her: 'No mum, we're smoking marijuana and drinking vodka.' Me: 'Good, then things are going okay?' Her: 'Yep.'
Me: 'What's your brother had for tea? Don't light the fire if you're cold. There's duvets in his room.'
Her: 'Mum...we're okay. Jesus Christ, stop worrying about us and have fun.'
Me: 'Did I leave a window open downstairs?' Her: 'No, you didn't. Why?' Me: 'I opened the windows yesterday but I couldn't remember if I'd shut the one in your brother's room.' Her: 'I'll check.'
Me: 'Have you cooked anything?' Her: 'No.' Me: 'Well cook something then. Have some noodles.'
Her: 'We've run out.'
Me: 'Is it still raining up there?' Her: 'Yup.'
Me: 'Dad's drunk and making a speech!' Her: 'Hahaha...no!!'
Me: 'You all okay? Last time tonight.' Her: 'Haha yes mum, we are okay.'
Her: 'What time do you reckon you'll be home?.' Me: 'Not sure - around 2 or 3.' Her: 'What do I do today then?' Me: 'Hang around.' Her: 'And do what?' Me: 'I dunno. Maybe do homework.' Her: 'No way!'
Her: 'Where are you, Mum xxx?'
Her: ''Where you, Mummy xxx?'
'Mum...answer, for God's sake!'
'Mum. You're in so much trouble. We said five minutes to answer texts!'
Me: 'We're nearly home.' Her: 'Where are you?' Me: 'Going ova da bridge.' Her: 'Ok. We're going to have a serious talk about rules when you get back.'
Oh oh. I think I'm grounded til next Christmas.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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