For as long as I can remember, I always look forward to summer. Summers were (and still are) filled with softball games, fireworks, grilling and going on adventures. Growing up in a world without social media and technology, my brother and I jam packed our days with outdoor activities. I remember the first summer my parents let me walk to the pool all by myself. At the grown-up age of eight, I knew I had made it. If I could walk to the pool, I could walk to the grocery store, mini-mart, I could even venture out further than the one block radius of our home.

A 16-Year-Old Driving Teenager

For the past few months, our family has been discussing our summer bucket list. We are planning on filling our summer with swimming, softball, 4-H, biking adventures, golfing and traveling. According to our nine-year-old son, “Summertime is going to be awesome.”

However, within 48 hours of summer vacation, I can tell you what I am NOT looking forward to: the freedom and independence of a 16-year-old driving teenager. From driving to go shopping with friends to going to her boyfriend’s baseball games, it is one road trip after another. I liked last summer when she was dependent upon us to get her places. Yet, I realize that she is becoming more independent and I am being prepared for two years from now when we send her off to college.

Setting Boundaries

Just like the boundaries my parents set for me, we will be setting some boundaries for our daughter. She still has to be accountable to her summer lifting program, daily chores, lifeguarding and supporting her siblings at their activities.

These boundaries are not to prevent her from having fun with her friends or to take away her sense of independence, but to encourage safety and responsibility. The boundaries being set:

  • Safety in Vehicle – As parents we still need to communicate that distracted driving and seat belts are non-negotiable. We need to encourage her to constantly be aware of her surroundings and to never get into vehicles where the driver may be inexperienced or impaired.
  • Setting a Curfew – By law she has to be home by midnight whenever she is operating a vehicle. However, she cannot be out and about every single night of the summer as it will take a toll on her health and sleeping habits. We will continue our blanket curfew for weekdays and weekends, yet also take into account what works best for the family. Along with this, she will still have to communicate her plans for the evening and who she is spending her evening with.
  • Checking in with Parents – She does a great job of letting us know immediately when she is home. She also will be encouraged to eat supper with the family and lastly, be required to keep her location services on her phone.
  • Completing Chores – Believe it or not, our summers are often busier than some months of the school year. However, there will be a daily chore list for all of our kids. Just like our other two children, our 16-year-old will also have to complete these chores before venturing out.
  • Paying for Gas – Since getting her school permit we have paid for one tank of gas per month. She has not had to pay for more than three tanks of gas in the past year. If she keeps up her road trips, she will soon realize how fast both a tank gas and her money can disappear.

As I think back to my first summer of being able to walk to the pool and ride bikes around, I was no different than my daughter is right now. Even though, I am not looking forward to this newfound independence I am going to trust our parenting to this point and allow our daughter to have more freedom within set boundaries.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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