Memoir Parenting

Teens Leavin' On a Jet Plane

photo from Rob! @

In 1985, when I was a senior in high school, my parents allowed me to go on Spring Break to Ft. Lauderdale with my four closest friends. We flew on (the now defunct) People’s Express for $39 each way. (I know this because I still have the ticket stubs in my old scrapbook.) We stayed in an almost completely unfurnished condo, some of us sleeping two to a bed; we shopped and prepared an amazing spaghetti dinner which we cooked for ourselves (careful to put placemats on the floor so as not to get sauce on the new carpet). Now, we were “good girls,” so we didn’t get into too much trouble — but we did do some things that I am kinda sure our parents would have deemed questionable. (I will not post the evidence here.) I will simply ask:

If your 18-year old child asked if he/she could go and spend a week somewhere with friends — without any adult supervision, what would your answer be?

26 thoughts on “Teens Leavin' On a Jet Plane

  1. I want to say yes. Mostly because I believe I am raising a daughter who is confident, smart, and has good values. However, I’m afraid of all the “what ifs”. And afraid of all the people out to prey on innocent young girls. I went away with my friends all the time starting as a senior in high school. We were seasoned travelers by the time we left college. We knew how to handle ourselves and didn’t indulge in risky behaviors but still had a blast! Sure something could of happened to any one of us, but it also can happen at home, on a college campus, or at a high school event.

    1. Of course we are afraid of the “what ifs.” What parent isn’t. But we did all kinds of crazy stuff. (I don’t want to bust on my friends), but – as you said, we looked out for each other and I always felt proud that our parents trusted us to go so far away without any adults. As you say, if you don’t give kids a little practice, how will they manage when they go away to college?

      I wonder if this is why we seem to have the “Girls Gone Wild” experience now. So many teens have never been allowed to do anything independent of their parents (even if it is a little naughty), so when given the chance, they “bust out” and go nuts.

      I am routing for you and your daughter. Get back to me when she is a Senior in high school. 😉

    1. I hate when people say “Times are different” and then don’t qualify what they mean. Violent crime is the lowest it has ever been. The only crime that is up right now is theft – and that is because of people leaving iPods (etc) all over the place. So what isn’t safe? Why don’t you think you could trust your daughter and her friends?

  2. Living in Miami last 56 of my 61 years I would say definitely “NO” to high school students in Ft. Lauderdale. Drunken topless girls, young men throwing up out side bars, and dangerous driving. Dope too, but cops are out and arrest rate high. I always worked during Spring Break in college because parents could send me only $10 a week and city would put me on sanitation or parks and so making $65 was a godsend. Hope college young people make better choice too. How about week long volunteer internship at law firm or hospital or Red Cross or library? Builds resume and gets away from books 5 hours is a vacation in itself. Can still party more safely in evening in one’s hometown. Since young people tend to go to college away, how about some quality family time = best time of all!

    1. There were drunken, topless girls and wet t-shirt contests and all that other stuff when we were down there. We had a blast. We stuck together like a pack. We didn’t stay on The Strip; we had a condo which was like a safe haven from all that craziness.

      I understand your point about kids doing something more productive with their time, but now kids usually have to build in community service time to their high school years, too. So for many of them, that is just another chore or obligation that they HAVE to do.

      We all had tons of family time. We loved our families, but we knew were going off to college and would likely never be together again in the same way. (I don’t think that we were all together again except for one of our weddings.)

      I’m talking about kicking back and hanging out with your friends. You say “no”? Really?

  3. Great question! I am at a spot now where I am struggling where to let go a little. My oldest is 15 and I am trying to give him some space without being an irresponsible parent. If he were 18, he would be an adult and I would have no say but would be confident that I did my job as a parent to raise him in the right way. At 17, I wouldn’t allow him to go just yet. To be completely hypocritical, and admit so, I would protest my daughter’s trip to the bitter end – even at the age of 18. She is only 12 now and I can’t imagine her being mature enough to make the proper decisions. I can only hope that I do my job as her mom and she matures and becomes more responsible by that age.

    1. Interesting that you are admitting to having a little double standard. I wonder if I have it, since I only have a son. He is only 11-years old, but I trust him and the friends he has in his inner sanctum. He sees my husband going on annual golf trips with his buddies. I go on trips with friends (when we can organize things). It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we land there. I like to think I would trust him and his critical-thinking skills. I’ll get back to you in 2017.

  4. It would very much depend on *which* friends he/she wanted to go with!

    With some friends, the answer would be a flat-out “no.” With others, it would be a conditional “yes.”

    I didn’t make trips like that, though my husband went to Jamaica for spring break one year, “with friends.”

  5. There is no way I’d let my teenage kid go alone with friends. Even though I’m a college student right now, I don’t think it’d be a good idea to let kids go beyond a parent’s reach with each other. Sure they’ll learn some valuable life lessons, but at perhaps a very high expense. If you’re a parent you should be able to rescue your kid and I think your example shows how an experience can go right, but couldn’t you also have had a similar burst of independence by driving a couple hours?

    1. Hi Alexander! What an interesting answer. I think your answer speaks to this big ole fear that is happening in America today which wasn‘t happening in 1985. My parents were not worried. None of our parents were. We had a place to go to get out of the winter chill, tickets were cheap, flying was easy. Terrorism? That had never happened on U.S. soil. We didn’t have cell phones or texting, but our parents trusted us, so they let us go. Can you imagine it? They knew we were going to college in two months. So what is the difference?

      At what age were you allowed to go “beyond a parent’s reach” with others? Obviously, you are in college. Your parents let you go away to college, right? (Unless, you live at home and are commuting…)

      I’m wondering why your mind went immediately to “rescue.” Seriously, I’m curious.

  6. Condition-filled: Yes.

    I love the idea of a girl’s week/weekend for bonding. Fort Lauderdale? Not so much. I was there for Spring Break when I was 15. (When it was super cool!) And also, when I was 17, 18, & 20.

    If your child is truly going for a bonding event with pals they don’t need to be in the hippest, wildest, drunken locale. So, I will not be funding any trips, at any age, for any child, in Mexico, Florida, California, etc.

    And, I too have a double-standard. Generally, women are taken advantage of more than men; they do not have the same tolerance for alcohol, and they are not as physically strong as men. Those are just the facts.

    Yes, you can get drugs, get drunk and do stupid things on campus too. But, the whole idea of Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale (& nowadays in Mexico) is to participate in all those activities. Good girls may not have done (or do) them, but I am sure the temptation, the ease of access, and the encouragement is far greater when in those environments.

    Simply put, the atmosphere elevates the risk.

  7. Uh, NO! When I was 18, two friends and I went Euro-railing for 6 weeks. We basically hopped trains all around Europe with no itinerary in mind and very little money. It was awesome but I don’t think I’d ever let me kids do the same thing! Memories that I thought were adventorous now look horrifying when viewed through my mom filter. Sad to say, I think things are different today. My kids will have the pleasure of traveling with me. (Poor things!) 🙂

    Thanks for the post,

    1. Listen to you! You had these awesome adventures! Crazy times! (Me too! 😉 ) They are stories that made me who I am today. When do our kids get to have those moments? On family vacations?

      Why weren’t our parents afraid? And why is this generation of parents so terrified? We have phones to connect us. Texting. Skype. A million different ways to be in touch. So can you articulate what exactly is different? I am genuinely interested.

      1. I don’t know! Maybe the phones and constant connection IS the problem in some strange way. We have expectations of being constantly in touch so it’s more difficult, as parents, to let go.

        I also think that it’s not so much that the world is different today but the kids are — I don’t like that answer and I hope I’m wrong! When my friends and I were 18 we could handle most anything together, even drunken Australians.

        I don’t know if the same can be said with some of the teens I work with today. So am I saying we’re over-parenting our kids? Hmmm … maybe … more thought is required. 🙂

  8. Going away to Myrtle Beach Senior year with my friends (driving no less) was so much fun and we made so many great memories! Yep, I had sex there too! LOL! Not gonna lie! I drank and smoked pot! But it was all part of the experience. But now that I’m a mom…it’s a really hard decision??? Probably, because I know what “I” was doing: D

    For me I’ve found that it really depends on the child. My two oldest are boys and I wouldn’t have a problem (sexiest I know, which is funny coming from a lesbian, LOL!) but the 3 younger ones are girls and although we’ve raised them to be strong and independent, I would really have to weigh heavily on how each one handles certain situations. My oldest girl, yes, my second no way, because she doesn’t always make sound, well thought out decisions, and if something happens she’s a hundred miles away. My youngest…the jury is still out.

    Also, I think being a mother of girls you’re afraid that people will take advantage of them more easily and they can be overpowered more easily and you aren’t right there to assist (for example; they can’t just call you up and say, “mom come get me!”). I recommend starting out with small trips…my 17 yr old daughter recently went to A-Bay with her boyfriend and some friends for the weekend and it all went well. Baby steps. Build the trust and confidence.

  9. After reading through all these, I can now say I will send my daughter on trips. That is if she wants to go-who wouldn’t?! I want her to be self reliant and confident and unafraid. I also want her to be street smart as well as book smart. Parents today are smothering thier children. The world is not scarier just more connected. We communicate more openly so we hear about things that were “hushed” in the past. I would be doing her no favors by sheltering her or trying to protect her from every what if and crazy fear. I trust in my parenting skills that as she grows she earns more trust and deserves more freedom. Like I said, it will also depend on what type of person she is as to what age is appropriate for what activity/freedom….but as I see it now, I’m raising a daughter who is a lot like me only smarter!

  10. Professor Jacobson, I am faced with this right now. My best friend lives in Oceanside, California and has asked me to stay with him in his condo on a marine base for a few weeks over winter break. My dad knows him and has worked with him on both a personal and professional level, and says he is okay with me going to the other side of the country to say with my friend, use his car to get to San Fransisco and L.A., likely party in both places, and go out by myself often. It is sort of surprising to me, I guess, because of the fact that the girl that went missing in her junior year of high school, Brittanee Drexel went to my school and was in my grade. I don’t know why this matters, but you would think he would be a little more protective because of this hitting so close to home. I probably should feel grateful about him not worrying, but it makes me think “what did i do to deserve my dad trusting me to go 2000 miles away alone?”

  11. Depends on the kiddo. I don’t think you can unequivocally say “YES” or “NO” — I would allow my high school senior (a boy) to go 100% … but the answer would depend on 1. who he was going with & 2. what their plans were. Meaning — if my kid asked to go with friends I didn’t know, the answer would be an immediate NO. If they had no plans and were just going to “wing it” I would say no. If he had plans and was going with friends that I trusted … then it would be a yes. BUT I also find that I differ in my opinions with friends who have kids who have NOT lived abroad. Weirdly, we are the CONSERVATIVE parents in the circles we run in …

    1. Omigosh Naomi! I have been playing around making corrections all day! Have I been sending out new emails with each change?! Ack! OMG! I will stop right now!

      That said, I LOVE your answer.

      My parents let me go.

      And yet.

      I don’t think that I would be able to let my son go. Mostly because of all the delays with flights. I am sooooo sorry if I have been bombarding you with changes all afternoon!

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