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When Should Kids Take Control of Their Social Lives?

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: I love playdates! Having my kids grow socially with peers while I get some work done at my computer is a win-win for all. But it's a far cry from the luxuries of my own childhood, when we rushed home from school, grabbed a couple cookies and ran out the back door for a pickup game of kick-the-can. If no one was out on the street, we simply knocked on doors until we found a playdate. We controlled our own social lives -- none of this business of mothers being forced to manage some elaborate social calendar for multiple kids. I find that to be burdensome.

teenage girls
When my eldest hit middle school, I silently did the touchdown cheer, as she notched up her online social networking to include playdate scheduling. All I need to know is: Which kid, which day and who's driving? I leave the rest up to the tweens.

Except I'm in a gray area of life. While my nearly 13-year-old daughter is mature enough to manage a schedule, politely extend an invitation and iron out details like admission fees, many of her peers' parents are still hovering and micromanaging. My daughter took her friends' non-responses personally: "She doesn't like me," she said. "I keep inviting her, but she doesn't answer." I finally explained to my junior Emily Post that sometimes parents still need to talk.

Case in point: Recently, we visited Florida -- a place we'd lived two years before. My daughter and her Florida friends had kept in touch regularly on Facebook, but when my daughter asked them to get together during our trip, she was met with "Dunno" and "Um, probably busy." My daughter was very hurt. This was a cue to me to be proactive again. So I sent a private message to each girl on Facebook and asked for her mom's cell phone number. (If you allow your kids to be on Facebook, make sure you are "friended" so you can have instant access to peers.) A couple calls later and I had a tableful of giggling gals convene at a Florida restaurant. I told my daughter that she's a bit more mature and responsible than some other kids her age, and that some parents have trouble giving a little autonomy to adolescents.

The other problem with being in the gray area of parenting relates to supervision. I like to drop my daughter off at the ice-skating rink with friends and pick them up a couple hours later. Some parents are cool with this, and others act like I am selling the girls to the sex-slave industry. This is a mixed message, for sure. My daughter is old enough to legally babysit and keep other children safe, yet her friends are told they can't take care of themselves yet?!

Moms, what do you think?

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
???? December 8, 2010, 12:07 PM

Aren’t they a little old for play dates?

Matt December 8, 2010, 12:45 PM

You’re kidding, STOP inboxing your daughters facebook friends you creep. She is 13, old enough to know that friends drift apart and if you keep doing things like this it will hurt her later in life always thinking “oh mom will come to the rescue” you pride yourself on being a gr10 parents when really, you are just awful.

Jerri December 8, 2010, 1:14 PM

????…I was just thinking the same thing.

renee December 8, 2010, 5:52 PM

i am same way who when where otherwise she can make her own plans.

Cheryl December 13, 2010, 6:22 AM

Ok, so let me understand this. You called the other moms and forced the girls out with your daughter, and you think that you are allowing your daughter social autonomy? Maybe the girls weren’t really into seeing your kid, and you forced it on them by going to their parents. Kids that age are perfectly able to say “I have to ask my mom”. It sounds like you were the parent with the problem.

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