Monday, May 2, 2011

Driving Dumb

I read a story last week about two 14 year old boys who were picked up at 2:20 AM joy riding in one of their parent's cars. The police of this sleepy seaside town were driving on patrol during the early morning hours, expecting I'm sure a relaxing cruise around town, when they noticed a car driving erratically. As they gave chase, they could see it was two young boys, who were losing control of the car.  These boys were inexperienced drivers, and probably scared sh**less that what started as a "Oh it will be so much fun to take my dad's car and drive around town" idea was now becoming a scary nightmare. As the car skidded to a stop, barely missing a tree, one of the boys ran while the other was caught by the police. Both boys were eventually caught, and the parents called. I can hear the phone ringing now at 3 AM, "Hello Mr and Mrs X , we have your son down here at the police station, seems they took your car for a ride!"

Now come all the "thank gods." Thank god they weren't hurt, thank god no one else was hurt, thank god I don't have to get a new car, thank god these are nice local cops who took good care of the boys .... and so on. Lets analyze this event. Two boys on a sleepover. Parents have probably known their son's friend for years, and he's slept over a million times. Parents go to bed knowing that the boys are snug as a bug in rug down in the basement playing video games and eating junk food, just like all the other sleepovers they have had together. Boys, on the other hand, are looking for more excitement. Video games, ho hum, stealing the dad's car and riding to the beach, now that's a good time. And because teenagers think they are invincible, and because they don't think things through, they only go as far as "lets get the car and go, the keys are just sitting there on the counter...piece a cake.! No one will ever know."Famous last words! What they didn't think through was "we live in small town, and the streets are pretty empty at 2:30 AM, we will stick out like a sore thumb. Also I don't know how to drive, and I might make a driving mistake and hurt us or the car...Nope they didn't think of those things. Just "this will be awesome." And awesome it was.

This is a good cautionary tale about sleepovers. As kids move into adolescence, sleepovers become fertile ground for late night, story making, grand escapades. Impulsivity takes over, and rational thought is left behind. This doesn't mean you have to scrap the sleepover, it just means you have to readjust your expectations. First, just because you know the kids that are sleeping over, and maybe you know their parents,and they come from good families, and they are good kids, that doesn't mean you can close your door and go to bed. This isn't about good kids and good families, this is about kids looking for fun. Period. Now before you go off to bed, you might say:" Hey guys, just want to let you know, I am up and down the stairs all night these days, don't sleep so good anymore, old age I guess, anyway, hope I won't disturb you, (wink wink). And truly, up and down the stairs you should be. Set your alarm for hour and half intervals, and be intentional about going up and down those stairs. Let those kids know that there really is no predictable window of opportunity to sneak out, drink booze, etc without getting caught. Your job is to keep those kids sleeping at your house safe. Parents often get annoyed at me when I suggest this approach to sleepovers stating how exhausted they are, and need their sleep. And I say, when your teen was a baby and you had to get up every few hours to feed them, you never said, too bad, no food for you you, I'm too tired. No you lovingly did everything you needed to do to nurture this life. You are doing the same thing here. If you think of adolescence like you thought of life with a new baby, you are right on target. No rest for the weary, but anxiously awaiting to see who this person will be become.

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