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Dealing with Teenagers and Dating: “Trust, But Verify”

Here’s the scoop on my 16-year-old daughter and her first 18-year-old boyfriend. Mary and Don had been seeing each other for five months. Don seemed nice enough, but he was not on a good path. He had failed 11th grade and his mother told my wife that he was out-of-control and she and her husband did not know what to do.

My wife and I told Mary that she could not spend time at Don’s house. If she wanted to see him they would have to come to our house when a parent was home or go to a public place.

Another strike against Don – he is a heavy smoker and has a smoker’s cough.

My Daughter’s Boyfriend was Out of Control

Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, my wife spoke with Don’s mother who shared that she and her husband were going camping to get a break from Don. She revealed that they feel powerless and frustrated with Don and need a break.

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that the mother was leaving her son home alone. If he were my son, he’d be right there with us as we pointed out the beautiful woodland sights. He’d be on a very short leash stuck to his parents like glue, not on his own in a big house on a holiday weekend!

Friday night arrived and Mary told us that she was going bowling with her girlfriends. I suggested to my wife that we should check out the party. My wife asks do, “What party?”

I explained, “The party at Don’s house!”

My wife asked, “You think that Don is having a party?”

I responded, “Of course he’s having a party. Do you know where he lives?”

We drove by Don’s house to see what was happening. At 5:00pm, in the daylight, we observed several boys hauling bags of “things” into Don’s house. You know, teen party prep items!

Catching My Daughter at a Party

My wife and I went out to eat. After several unsuccessful attempts to contact my daughter on her cell phone, we went home to pick up my night vision device (I am an army guy). We went back to Don’s house and parked down the street, and I went into stealth mode.

I walked up to the front of the house and saw several teenage boys drinking in the living room and then I went around the back where it was pitch black (for everyone but me!). I moved very slowly and watched my daughter, Don, and some other kids drinking beer and smoking. Finally, I went back to the car and removed the night vision device.

Then I walked into the house and confronted my daughter, “Mary, you are not allowed to be here. Get your stuff. You’re coming with me.”

She got up and Don said, “I’m sorry.”

I replied, “Yes, you will be, Don!”

A Difficult Time for My Daughter and Me

The real battle came when my daughter got home and we started discussing this event. Mary kept saying that she loved Don. I told her that she and Don knew the ground rules. I told her that Don must not respect her because she and everyone else at the party could have been arrested for under age drinking. An arrest could have placed her college career in jeopardy. Then I lost it and told her that Don was a loser and that I would not let her hang around with losers!

This was a very difficult period for my daughter and me. I told her that she could not see Don anymore and she hated me for about six months. I accepted the anger as the price of being a parent who loves his daughter and tries to steer her toward better decisions.

My military experiences allowed me to be stealthy and follow a principle of “Trust but verify”.

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