This is the first time I’m raising teenage girls in a suburb. And its starting to bother me. When my boys were in high school we lived in Tokyo, a city of 20mm people and plenty of trains, buses and taxis to get them where they needed to be. Which meant their dependence on me was minimal. It was also a city where teenagers didn’t drive – as in never. The cost to get your license in Japan is prohibitive, not to mention you need to have legal proof of a parking spot in order to get a car (again, prohibitive) so teenagers JUST DON’T DRIVE. And, they don’t need to or want to. Bikes are another huge method of transportation for kids of all ages. And even though there is a drinking age in Japan (20) its not anywhere near as strictly enforced as it is here in the US. Most likely because they don’t have a lot of underage DUI. So no one’s beating down the doors of their government demanding stricter laws on underage drinking. Which means there is MUCH MUCH less binge drinking for teens. Why binge when you can sit down at a club and just place an order? And drugs are so illegal in Japan that being caught sends you right to jail without the American phone call – your kid could literally rot in jail for a week and you would have no access to them. So that pretty much puts a big damper on the drug thing. So, I had it easy. Boys, big city, transportation, very few barriers to entry for having a good time, independence, etc…
Now, back to the American suburbs. All I hear from my teenagers is there is nothing to do on weekends. Very few parents allow parties because they either end with the cops coming or kids leave when they find out there are rules and there won’t be any alcohol or drugs. And when a kid is stupid enough to throw a party at their house when their parents are away (you would think they would learn from their friends’ past mistakes) it ALWAYS ends with the police as it did a few weeks ago in a neighboring town. Not only did the police come and shut it down, they made the parents of each kid come and personally pickup their child. The line was down the block waiting to get in.
I try to make suggestions: go for dinner with a large group of boys and girls (boys don’t do that). Go ice skating (no). Movies (anti-social). So what happens is they end up walking through town, hanging out on the corner of Starbucks and basically doing nothing that resembles fun. And the weather is getting colder which will make it even less fun.
And yes, we did pretty much the same thing when I was in high school however there is a big difference – technology. Back in the 80’s if you wanted to have a few friends over to your house it was fine. It hardly got out of control because NO ONE KNEW WHERE YOU WERE. No cells, no texting, no apps that track your every move. Once you were out for the night, you were out. You couldn’t find anyone unless you happened to randomly bump into them. Now, our kids can’t go anywhere without everyone knowing where they are. This makes it very hard to have people over with limitations. So, parents, fearful of having the entire 10th grade milling around their backyard, just say no to parties and friends. And then there are the lawsuits. I just don’t remember anyone threatening to sue if someone drank my father’s stoli.
I’m not sure what the answer is or if there even is one. I imagine this situation is pretty common in many small towns in America. If you have any good ideas, i’m all ears.