Oh the stress with the pre-teen years! It all started last week when I picked the kiddos up from school. As my DS was walking over to me, 2 girls took his backpack and it became a chasing game for about 10 minutes, until I decided it was time to go home. They gave him back his backpack, and we went our way. A couple of days later, I noticed one of the 2 girls wearing eye shadow which really stood out to me because I feel makeup shouldn’t even be allowed to be worn at school in grade 4, but I guess it is left up to the parent’s discretion.
The girl with the eye shadow, whom I will refer to as Cynthia (not her real name) asked my DS to call her on the phone after school last week. Since he doesn’t normally talk to friends on the phone, I went over some simple rules with him: Wait at least 10 minutes before a second attempt if nobody answers, and you can only call someone’s house a maximum of 2 times in a day, regardless of whether anyone answers or not. DS is an athletic kid and involved in lots of sports, so there isn’t a lot of time for the phone. And then Saturday happened. Cynthia called Saturday morning. DS talked for a bit, and when he had to get off the phone to eat brunch, she told him she would call him back in 3 minutes?!? After getting back from an afternoon out with the family, coming home and going back out to pick up dinner, I went through the phone log and saw that Cynthia had called our house a total of 10 times that day. I think 3 of the calls occurred within 3 minutes. That just doesn’t work for me, as a parent. DH & I decided a phone limit should be in place as well, and we came up with a maximum of 15 minutes per friend, per day. We felt that is fair. So I told DS that he would need to tell Cynthia in a nice way, that she cannot call our house that many times. He was quite surprised she had called a total of 10 times that day. He asked how many times she is allowed to call her friends, and I told him it is up to her parents how many times they feel she can call her friends houses, but that she cannot call our house 10 times. I overheard him tell her when she called Sunday morning, and since then she has kept her phone calls to our phone at one per day. During the week DS is so busy with extra curriculars in addition to homework that he really doesn’t have time for the phone, and he will see her at school the next day, anyways.
Then yesterday afternoon I got a call from the principal, that I’m sure put my hair follicles into grey production mode. DS, along with 2 other girls (as I silently suspected, one of whom is Cynthia) were caught trying to sneak off school property at lunch time. Apparently they had succeeded before. Only twice before for DS, but 4 times before for Cynthia, 3 times for another girl, 2 times for yet another girl, and 1 time for yet another girl who my son doesn’t know very well. Now I’m not saying DS is innocent, as he did go along, but he clearly wasn’t the instigator in something that has been going on without his entire involvement. And, he felt betrayed because the girls told school officials he was taking them to his house since he had a key and his mom wasn’t home. But, I am at home every day (he knows that) and he also does not have a key to the house (since I am home), so even I found it hard to believe he was lying when he said he never told the girls anything about going to his house. DS told me Cynthia never told him where they were going, she just said to follow her and the other girl. Now that being said, DS is not an angel – he is a boy! He left school property, likely has lied about some of the facts about their whereabouts on the occasions they did leave school property, and ultimately this raised a huge concern for me. So, I will be requesting a meeting with school officials to try to figure out a way we can ensure this doesn’t happen again. I think after explaining all the dangers of leaving school property, as well as about making good decisions vs bad decisions, my son won’t do it again, but I can’t say that for the other girls involved, or any other students who come up with such an idea. I also assume I’m not alone in thinking that most parents wouldn’t think that giving their child a key to their house would mean opening up the doors to kids at lunch hour when no parents are home. Apparently the plans for their leaving school property was to go to one of their houses whose parents aren’t home, since one or more of them have a key to their house. That scares the crap out of me. When I send my kids to school, I trust that the school is taking care of them. I also trust that my children are abiding by school rules. So what are fair consequences when that doesn’t occur and that trust is broken? I have revoked the phone privilege, as well as his very recently earned privilege to walk home from school with his friends instead of mom, a couple days a week. I have also revoked television use and the use of electronic devices unless required for homework or studies. I do not believe in telling my children who they can and can’t be friends with. I do believe in reinforcing the importance of making good decisions and considering friends to be those who make good decisions too. How would you handle such a situation? What do you feel is fair punishment? What issues have you encountered with your pre-teen children, and how did you deal with them?
I’m pretty sure in the next 2 weeks a new patch of grey hair will pop up, and unfortunately, I will know exactly why they made their appearance. And, I know there is more stress to come with the pre-teen years, followed by the teens.