Neverland…. Raising a teen in The Netherlands
I’ve always thought of myself as a fun mom. I’m strict in some areas and ready to laugh and have fun in others. My children as they grew older have always had a certain curfew that gradually got later as they got older and were ready for the responsibility of being out safely at night. They were not allowed to date until 16 but group activities were ok. In America there are so many activities that involve the whole family, it just kind of worked.
My kids all swam competitively from early childhood and into high school. Many nights and days were spent at swim meets watching and cheering on my girls as they swam for their teams.
And when my daughter cheered for her school we always went to every game to cheer on the different sports. I cannot tell you how thrilling it is to be a part of a community that is very successful in different sports and being there from the beginning to see how a season turns out.
Moving to The Netherlands we knew we were giving up that kind of intense bond with a community. But ready for an adventure we came with an open mind. Ok, well not open but slightly ajar. Who are we kidding? That lid was clamped down and tight! We brought with us our beautiful 15 year old daughter. There was no way I was letting her out of my sight!
Letting your teenager go to the movie with friends or to the football game on Friday night or even an evening of bowling is difficult enough when your child first comes of age to be a little independent. But we were bringing our child to a country where pot is legal (I think.. I’m still not clear on the rules), prostitution is around the corner and sometimes just smack dab out in the windows and the drinking age is 16. There is this whole “Free to let it be” attitude.
We were very lucky because we had brought my daughter over when we looked for a house and we took her to her new school for a day so she could see what it was like. She met many new friends. So, when the first day of school came she was already included into the group. I was so very thankful but wait… not so fast! Some of those kids were going out on Friday nights to the clubs. Some of them were riding the city bus all over town. And some were biking all over at all hours of the night. Not my little girl, not going to happen! Nope! No Way!!
Well, we’ve eased our way into the Dutch culture. We’ve discussed the situation with many, many people from The Netherlands and The United States. I’ve become friends with a few people who have kids my daughter’s age. We are all just carefully testing the water. They go out in groups and always stick together. They’ve all turned 16 now so I’m sure some drinking is going on. I just know my daughter has to get into the car with us at the end of the night (they can’t drive till 18) and would no way want to be drunk around us. My friends and I all wait for our teens at their curfew time together at our favorite pick up local, the police station! Yes, there’s a curfew! Yes, there are strict rules! Are you kidding me? They’re kids and need guidance and protection.
Moving to another country has been exciting and fun! But this area of our lives is very foreign to us. I do know that at home in the US, kids would go to parties and sneak around to drink. Here it’s just out in the open and no one is driving home. But I do feel their brains are still developing and when you drink you make stupid choices or others around you make stupid choices. The whole process is definitely a learning experience. I guess I’m happy to be able to walk through this whole thing together with her and know what’s going on. But still…. Very different!
Peter Pan never grew up but the rest of us do. So, this mom will be attending a presentation on how to keep a teen safe in our area. We’ll be learning the ins and outs of the area where our teens are hanging out, Stratumseind. Where is Stratumseind? I think… second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.