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Ask The Good Enough Guy: My Son Stayed Out All Night!

Dear Will:
I can’t believe I’m writing this to a guy I don’t even know but I like your no nonsense approach and think you might be able to help me. My son, Carter, didn’t come home last night. He’s 14. I know, I know.

The thing is Carter’s been having a difficult time adjusting to a lot of things in his life recently. His father and I split up and we’ve moved to a new town, which means a new school for him. I love my son and so desperately want him to fit in so I’m a bit hesitant to crack down on him for this one infraction.
Am I being too easy on him? What would you do, if you were me Will?

Confused mama

Hey Confused,
Been there and done that. I got moved to a new town when I was thirteen. Be careful. The easiest group for Carter to fall in with is the one he shouldn’t be with. A big part of what saved me was having parents at home that didn’t take any crap. That’s you now, so I hope you’re up for it.

But first things first: The big question right now is where he was all night?  If you don’t know that answer, then you have TWO big problems. Here’s what I think you should do:

FIND OUT WHERE CARTER WAS ALL NIGHT: Maybe Carter slept over at new friend’s house and just didn’t call you. Maybe Carter slept at a girlfriend’s house. Maybe Carter was out drinking and smoking cigars at a strip club. Maybe he and his new friends robbed a bank. Unless you know, you just don’t know. As a mom, it’s your job to be nosey, and now that you have to be Carter’s mom and his dad, you’ll have to be twice as nosey. If he has new friends, you need to know their parents. If he has a girlfriend, you DEFINITELY need to know her parents. And don’t just make phone calls; go meet them. If his friends see your face, and see it often, they’ll know you’re watching and they’ll be less likely to include him in any “activities” that they don’t want their parents to know about. The real troublemakers won’t want him around at all. Win-win.

LAY DOWN THE “NEW” LAW”: Carter’s parents just got a divorce. That sucks. Carter has to start over and make all new friends, in a new school, in a new town. Yeah, that sucks too. So let’s take a moment or two to feel sorry for him………. OK, times up. Carter is testing his new boundaries, and if you let this slide, he’ll mark it down in his “win” category and move on to the next new thing he can get away with. I know you love your son and you want him to fit in, but this is no time to let him play the pity card or for you to try to play cool mom. Remember, you’re filling the role of his father now too. It’s time to put your big girl pants on. You need to lay down your ground rules and, in no uncertain terms, fully explain what punishment will come with any and all infractions. Then stick to your guns like Crazy Glue.

FIND THE NEW NORMAL: Carter has to make new friends, but you can’t be one of them. Your job is being a parent. You wouldn’t have hesitated to crack down on him for this nonsense before, so don’t accept it now. Discipline isn’t the opposite of love; it’s proof of it. Carter’s is testing you to see where his new limits are, so the faster you show them to him, the faster he can get used to them. Being wishy-washy will just confuse him and make things more difficult later. Show him how much you love him by setting rules that keep him happy, healthy, and safe.

Starting over is hard on kids and grown-ups. You’ll both make some mistakes, but you’ll find your way. And if you need anything, I’m always here. Feel free to write back later on when Carter meets the new love of his life or when you do! Good luck to you both.

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.

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