Parental Supervision

At what age did your parents truly allow you to go on your own?

Not just out for an evening on a date or with friends. I'm talking about for a night or a weekend.

That was something on my mind as I thought about the ages of the Wilfair people. Truth be told, they were all a bit younger when I started writing, but that didn't last long. I kept coming back to age 20 for Fair, and that time when you turn 20 and you're kind of in a netheryear between the teenagedom and adulthood.

Plus as kooky as Mr. and Mrs. Finley might be, I don't think they would have left a 16yo Fair to watch The Wilfair. Nineteen and 51 weeks is pushing it, even in the loopy universe that Wilfair occupies, but more acceptable.

The Overbove guys have pretty much had a handle on the Motel Fairwil since they were in their early teens. A motel is simultaneously more demanding and less demanding than running a hotel. A hotel has more staff to spread the work, while motel people do a lot on their own (and they are always on-call to the dreaded night bell, which rings when guests check-in at 3 a.m.). But a hotel will have more big events, weddings, while a motel might simply be about rooms to sleep in and a quick bite.

Mrs. Overbove and Mrs. Overbove trusted Monty and Gomery early on to cover a lot of the motel tasks. Our two guys are good sons and very hard workers. Monty mouths off a bit more about all of his around-the-motel duties, but Gomery's not fully a saint here. I know he's a little fed-up on the inside, and certainly physically tired, as his under-eye circles attest.

Which all leads me back to ages and Fair going with the guys and Sutton to the mountains. She has to sell her parents a little on the idea, but they let her go. She's old enough. She also camps next to Monty in "Redwoodian," which her dad knows.

I wanted her to be just old enough where she can do that sort of stuff without her parents saying she can't. But I didn't want her to be too old, or the Overboves, either. I didn't want them to be in a place where they're no longer tied or beholden to their families, since that's an important part of the books. (I realize we're always tied and responsible to our families, our whole lives, but I mean in the very immediate sense here.)

Basically, our lead characters are at that brief and complicated moment in their lives where they're independent enough to do what they choose but not entirely free of ties or obligations. They're still concerned about what their parents need and their family businesses require.

Independent but not. Call it conflicting concepts occupying the same space.

Which leads me back to the initial question of when being (mostly) independent was okay for you. I suspect it varies according to society and community or individual family, but for me, in my mind, 19 or 20 seemed about right for a semi-protective set of parents and an old child like Fair.

12 comments:

Amanda W said...

My parents were pretty protective and think I was 16 when my parents let me take a weekend trip with a friend to her grandparents' lake house. Of course, her grandparents were there, so it was kind of a mini-independent thing. The 4 hour each way drive was just the two of us. True lack of parental supervision came when I was 18 and in college.

Wilfair Book said...

Interesting, Amanda. I took a weekend road trip after high school with four girlfriends. Which, I suppose, begs the follow-up question: What happens when both young men and women are in the mix? Or just guys? Does that up the age significantly or change parental permission?

You make a good point about going away to college, something Fair didn't do. She essentially went to college at the hotel, courtesy of tutors.

You must have been so thrilled to be on the road with your friend that weekend! I remember the first time I drove alone with my best friend, just in my hometown. I was THRILLED and full of excitement.

Caitlin said...

My parents let me go to Europe for 3 weeks with a school group when I was 17. Of course, there were chaperones but the supervision was fairly minimal. Other than that, I was kind of a homebody in high school and probably could have gotten away with a lot more than I did. I'm sure they would have drawn the line at anything overnight involving boys, though. When I went to college, they pretty much just told me, "we trust you to make good decisions" and let me have my freedom and privacy.

Wilfair Book said...

This is also my story, Caitlin, in pretty much all the ways.

I was a bit of a big square, too, as far as pushing boundaries in high school. Classic old child. I was 50 when I was 15.

Amanda W said...

It was a pretty fantastic trip. Partly because of the semi-freedom, and partly because we spent the whole weekend laying on the dock and listening to country music and the occasional speedboat while alternately napping and reading trashy romance novels. Or laying on the couch being fed by my friend's grandma while reading trashy romance novels. And a few antique store/flea market trips thrown in. In other words - best. weekend. ever.

bess said...

Amanda, that trip sounds amazing! It makes me want to hold up on the couch all weekend reading trashy novels. Will someone lend me a grandmother to feed me?

I don't think my parents ever went out of town at the same time while I was in high school. They gave me a good amount of leeway for the usual everyday - no curfew. And I only abused it once, when I went out with some college kids that I was in a play with. We played foosball and watched foreign movies until 3 AM, clearly I was quite the wild child.

I don't think I really felt independent until I spent my junior year of college in Italy. I wasn't only away from my family but pretty much everything that was familiar. It was a scary and wonderful experience. I think part of it was the feeling that I couldn't just run home or even get in contact with my parents easily.

Wilfair Book said...

Seriously, Amanda. Grandmas + docks + lounging + tunes + fun novels + antique stores is pretty much my perfect weekend. I want that this weekend.

bess, interesting. I actually didn't really have a technical curfew when I went out in high school, but I had to check in with my parents if it was pushing 11 (or midnight when I got a bit older) and tell them what was up. I ended up calling home like five times throughout the night, because, as you know, I talk, a lot, and this would drive my parents crazy. It's actually still kind of legend among my friends, how I'd call home all night just to say hi.

"Hi, Mom, watcha doin'?" Alysia's mom: "Please hang up now and go talk to a boy or something."

I still get a lot of ribbing about it, as you might imagine.

Wilfair Book said...

Also, regarding staying in and watching foreign films... one of my best friends, who is still one of my best friends, and I would start a foreign film at like 1 o'clock in the morning. We watched Ingmar Bergman's three-hour "Fanny and Alexander" from 2 to 5 a.m. one night for the heck of it. We still talk about this like it is one of our supreme feats in our lives.

(I liked the film, too, though I'd like to watch it again in daylight.)

Amanda W said...

Ha ha! I love the image of you calling your mom to chat and her just wanting her own no-kid time. :)

I too, was a low-key, teenager with no-curfew-just-check-in kind of policy. Boy were my parents thrown for a loop when my brother hit high school! He actually had a girlfriend so...changed the score a bit. (I didn't date until college).

Wilfair Book said...

Interesting! My brothers were older and were a bit more outwardly mobile than myself. So I think I was expected by their teachers and our high school faculty to be the same. I was not.

The check-in policy works, I think. Though I wonder nowadays if some parents ask for a phone call instead a text?

Chiara said...

I'm joining the club of high school homebodies around here. If I went out, it was mostly hanging out at friends' places. I never really had a curfew either, I guess my parents trusted me enough to be responsible. I only remember one time when I was 16 or 17 maybe and was out on my scooter visiting a friend and my mom got really worried for some reason because I was out later than expected. I think it was more the fact that I was away with the scooter for quite a long drive than me being late.

Once I turned 18 and got my license (cars from the age of 18 here) I basically came home whenever I wanted.

My first real big trip I took alone was at 21 when I decided to visit my friend in Sweden, booked a flight and went. Ironically, it was more of an issue with some of my friends than with my parents. I had met her online and decided to go and visit and back then my friends were a bit wary about that, I guess my parents just trusted my judgement. I guess that trip sort of marked my independence because up till I was 17 I was terribly homesick (even on vacation with my family), which was magically cured when we went to Rome on a school trip but it still took me a couple of years to really reach that point where I found my taste for traveling.

This was nice to reminiscent about!

Wilfair Book said...

Thanks for sharing, Chiara. I like hearing about people's backstories. You may have been a homebody (like me) but that trip to Sweden was certainly a very independent move. I think everyone should have their own "trip to Sweden," whatever that might mean to them, around that age.

 
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