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Kelsea is grounded.  She is not allowed to hang out with her friends for a week.

Why, you may ask?  After all, as I’ve expounded on endlessly, she’s such an awesome person and an amazing teenager.  But she wouldn’t be a perfect teenager if she didn’t screw up sometimes, would she?

That time arrived on Friday night.  At 1:15 in the morning on Friday night, to be exact.  I’m sorry, but at age 14, you CANNOT come home at 1:15 in the morning and not be in trouble (one way or another, and frankly, I prefer this way to the alternate troubles.)

I was supposed to pick her up when I got back from Denver, after going out with some friends after work.  About 6:30, she called me to ask if she could go to the movies with three of her friends.  The movie didn’t start until almost 8:00, which would put her home around 11:00, but one of the other moms was driving, and 11:00 is the shank of the evening for these guys.  Fine by me!

I arrived home around 9:30, and at about 10:00, I texted her to check on her timeline.  Her response?  ‘Still at movies.’  That worked from a timing standpoint – a movie can run about 2 hours these days.  She would be home soon.  I skyped with a friend, watched something on the Bonnet Channel, and at about 11:00, tried to call her.  It went to voicemail – not so good.  OK, I’ll wait a while.  I fell asleep on the couch, since going to bed without her being home was not an option.  When I woke up, it was 12:45 – no call, no text, nothing but silence.

I didn’t know what to think.  Be angry?  Yes.  Be scared?  Absolutely.  I called her Dad, so as to put him into the same state of mind – probably not the best idea, since he and I are in a not-getting-along phase, but I felt it was my parental responsibility to let him know what was up, and I just had to bear up under any accusations of bad parenting.

She still wasn’t answering her phone.  I had no idea where she was.  The movie let out hours ago. 

I remember the only argument I ever had with my own father.  I was about 16, and I had stayed out with my friends, lost track of time, and came home about two hours late without having called (this was before the days of cellphones – we used coconuts and smoke signals back then).  My parents had been frantic.  They had called my friends’ parents.  They had called the hospitals.  They had even called the morgue.  I’m not kidding.  I was so angry that they had so overreacted that I told them I was leaving again.  My calm, peace-loving, gentle dad – the man from whom I got my temper – stood in front of the front door with his arms spread and said, “If you’re going, you’re going to have to go through me.”  I thought about that for a split second, my teenage rage boiling like Vesuvius – then turned on my heel (no doubt with some choice words), stalked off to my room and slammed the door.  For me, there were no other repercussions; like me, my parents did not believe in curfews – they believed in our being committed to our words about when we would be home.  But it certainly never happened again.

Back to the present day.  I figured out that if Kelsea wasn’t answering her phone, one of her friends might, so I called Uber-Cool Will, who quickly handed the phone to Kelsea.  “I’m getting dropped off soon,” she said hurriedly. “We’re dropping off Will first.”  Where had they been?  “At dinner at Old Chicago.”  And she didn’t think to call.  She lost track of time.  She had her phone turned off since she’d been at the movies.  Hmmm. 

Ex-Pat called one of her other friends right around the time she and I hung up, so she knew she was in deep.  I was furious by the time she got home – 1:15. 

“Am I in trouble?, she asked, standing in my bedroom door.  ”
Yup,” I replied. 
“What are you going to do?”
“You’re grounded.”
“REALLY?”  She sounded so incredibly pleased. “I’ve never been grounded!”

This punishment wasn’t turning out exactly the way I had imagined.  She’s always been so good, I think she was excited to feel like a “bad” teenager.

“Is this the worst thing I’ve ever done?”
“I think so.”
“Wow!”  She smiled broadly.

What the heck.  That’s tough to parent.  She was extremely apologetic, and clearly understands the worry she caused us.  She wasn’t defensive or combative.  And I know she’s not going to show up on an episode of  “16 and Pregnant”.  Had I been the mother who was driving, things would have been very different. There’s no way I would let kids stay out that late without being sure everyone had contacted their parents – and I don’t think I’d even consider allowing kids to stay out that late anyway.  But I wasn’t in her shoes at the time.

So Kelsea is grounded for a week.  Meaning she can’t hang out with her friends except at school.  She just gets to hang out with me.  Poor thing.  Fortunately for her, the week’s punishment ends in time for the season opening of Elitch Gardens, Denver’s equivalent of Six Flags, which she and her friends have been looking forward to for months.  If I were a stricter, tougher mom, I would ban her from attending.  But I think she’s learned what not to do.  I trust so.

I really, really hope so.

Girls today.  Soooo much more mature at 13 than I was.  Between make-up and physical development, some of the girls in 7th grade look like high school seniors.  This got me thinking today…why?  Is it the hormones in the food we’ve been feeding our kids for the last (at least in my experience) 13 years?  I was never overly concerned with staying organic in terms of Kelsea’s diet – it seemed that you have to go all the way with that attitude or it’s pointless – though I always tried to emphasize healthy eating.  Pat was more the junk-food supplier.

Think about it.  Back in the 12th century, girls were of a marriageable age at 12, which is a year younger than Kelsea.  They were often having kids at 13.  But the average life expectancy was age 30.  And about 50% of children under the age of 5 died.  So it made some evolutionary sense to start procreating early, because you had to work twice as hard to keep your child alive, and you weren’t going to live that long yourself.  Okay, logical.

As we moved into the prim and proper 1800s, life expectancy increased and the acceptable age for marriage and childbearing became more like 15 or 16.  Makes sense – we were living longer, and conditions were somewhat less harsh, so children had a slightly better mortality rate.  People even started naming their children at birth – they didn’t used to do so, since the child had such a low likelihood of surviving.

We then enter the prim and proper Victorian era.  Young women were chaperoned until the day of their marriage – they were expected to be wed and breeding around the age of 21.  With infant mortality rates down to 33%, and average life expectancy up to age 48 by 1901, women could afford to get started having kids later.  But why did their maturation rate slow down – why did sexual maturity start occurring later?  What evolutionary signal was there that said, “Hold up!  We don’t have to do this at age 12.”?

Moving into the kaleidoscope that was the 20th century, we went through different attitudes towards sex, childbirth and the definition of maturity, but we still kept the biological rhythm the same – women developed at about 14 or 15 and up.  

And that’s where we catch up to today.  Life expectancy is as long as it’s ever been – 78.4 years.  The average age for childbirth is 25.  And infant mortality rates are 6.7% in the US.  So why are girls developing so early?  Why are 7-year-old girls dancing suggestively to songs that should be way beyond their understanding?  Why is boy-girl drama starting in 3rd grade?  By 7th grade, it has escalated to who is making out with who in the stairwell (yes, there are 7th grade “players”) and who may be having sex.  I mean, what the heck?

This physical maturity is unfortunately not accompanied by emotional maturity.  You can bet your bippy that at 12-year old bride in the Middle Ages knew how to run a household, even a meager mud-hut household.  A 12-year old girl today can barely run a dustcloth.

What is the point of this evolutionary change?  Particularly since the whole concept of survival of the fittest, which in primitive or animal societies is the natural form of population control, has basically been eradicated due to “civilization”, improvements in medical care, and our system of “justice”?  (And why are all these things that are supposed to be “good” in “quotes”?  Maybe because I don’t think they’re very “good” – or “working very well”).

Perhaps there is something to this whole 2012 apocalypse thing, and we are reproducing and maturing at a rapid rate because survival of the fittest is about to make a comeback.  Or not.  As I said before, I don’t have the answers, I just ask the questions.

Kelsea called from the mall with her friends the other night and wanted to go to a sleepover.  All eight girls at the mall had spontaneously decided they wanted a sleepover, and one of the parents had agreed.  I had never met the parents, much less the girl, and even though I know that Kelsea’s friends are all of good character, I said no.  I wouldn’t want to impose on parents who I’d never met, and who had never met my daughter.  Kelsea couldn’t tell me exactly where they lived.  I just wasn’t comfortable.  Pat agreed with me.  So even though Kelsea called three times, and begged, and her friend Joy begged, I stuck by my guns, and nicely told her just to accept “no” as an answer.

Well, everyone else went.  I picked Kelsea up at the mall a few minutes after they had all gone.  And I felt conflicted.  Was I being unreasonable?  Overprotective?  I had called her on my way to the mall and told her Joy could sleep over at our house, if they wanted, since that’s who she’d gone to the mall with, but it was too late – Joy had already gone with the group.

Kelsea wasn’t really mad – well, she was a little, but she was very reasonable.  She didn’t want to discuss it much – she said she saw my point, and she felt that she had been wrong in not accepting “no” as the answer, since I generally say yes.  And she felt bad that she hadn’t said “I love you” back to me when we hung up.  But she said that things have changed since I was thirteen.  Kids make plans at the spur of the moment and parents need to understand that.

Is that true?  I can recall some spontaneous sleepovers when I had been at a friend’s house and we just wanted to keep hanging out, and my parents usually said yes.  But large-scale, multi-girl sleepovers were heavily planned and much-anticipated events that usually coincided with a birthday.  Not just a bunch of us at the mall after school.

Is it that we have shifted to such a real-time mentality that this IS the norm?  Am I truly behind the times?  I trust Kelsea and her judgement, but she is still my daughter, is still 13, and is still my responsibility.  I just wonder when to let the leash out – or to let her off the leash.

Hmm.  Any other parents of teenagers – or any teenagers! –  feel free to chime in to help me figure this out.  Thanks!

December 2019
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