Skittish dad's curfew becomes tug-of-war

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: December 12, 2010 - 3:29 PM

Dear Carolyn: I am a single dad who raised my (only) daughter alone since she was a baby. She began college this fall and is returning home for holiday break. She just turned 18, and feels she should no longer have a curfew. She had a (slightly flexible) 1 a.m. curfew in high school. She was a good student -- summa cum laude and International Baccalaureate graduate -- and does not use alcohol or drugs.

I know in college she can be out till 6 a.m. without consequences. She feels her history of good decisionmaking should allow her "college rules" when she returns home.

I am not so sure. I don't think much happens between, say, 2 and 6 a.m. that couldn't be missed or experienced earlier in the day. I also can't control my parental wiring, which will have me waiting up at 2 a.m. wishing she were home so I could fall asleep.

I favor a 2 a.m. curfew as a reasonable boundary. In med school they used to say 10 percent of drivers are drunk after midnight. Who wants a loved one dodging this at 3 a.m.?

Carolyn says: If that's true, then she'll be dodging this at your compromise 2 a.m., or even at a dad-friendly 12:15 a.m.

Meanwhile, your opinion of what happens after 2 a.m. is just that -- your opinion. She's free to have a different one.

Certainly you're in a position to declare that it's your house, so you make the rules. However, she's in a position to counter that she's legally an adult -- and then you'd both be discarding nuance and sensitivity for the purpose of getting your way.

Do you see what these three (bad) arguments have in common? They're all attempts to make the curfew case with logic, when the issue is really emotional, for both of you -- and the best solution is one that satisfies each of your emotional needs:

You don't want to lie awake worrying about your baby.

She doesn't want to feel like a baby.

So, agree with her that her age, history and experience with managing her own schedule mean that, yes, she's due a release from her curfew. Then, say that your roles as father and keeper of the home mean that you're due some respect for your needs, too.

A responsible adult daughter can certainly consider her father's feelings and not stay out all night knowing Daddy's lying awake at home.

It sounds as if you both work hard to do the right thing. Trusting that quality in each other can be your lingua franca, now that she's an adult.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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