Question: What person in their right mind would turn down an all-expenses-paid trip to Barcelona including soccer tickets and spending money?
Answer: A 16-year-old, if it’s a family vacation. It’s not that they don’t want to go to Barcelona—who wouldn’t? It’s that they don’t want to go with you dear uncool parents and annoying siblings.
Don’t take it personally; it’s understandable. Our egoistical, stressed-out and hormoned-up teens want to sleep in during a vacation, hang out with friends and generally set their own agenda. However much we might try to tailor a vacation to suit their needs, an intense dose of family time in a faraway place is not their idea of fun.
So there are four choices: Lay down the law and drag a grumpy and reluctant teenager along, hoping they’ll drop the “suffering face” once there. Cancel the vacation plans, robbing everyone of a good time and causing resentment all around. Have them stay with friends—doable, but not ideal and necessitates buying one hell of a present for the host victim’s parents. Or you could let the adolescent rebel have what they really want—to stay home alone.
No matter how responsible or trustworthy the teenager, when we go away and leave them in charge, increasingly hysterical thoughts run through our heads as we wonder if they really can be relied upon.
Will they resist the temptation to have a wild party, raid the drinks cupboard or live for a week on pizza? Will you arrive home to find your house devastated, your valuables stolen and your neighbors in uproar over the late-night raves?
What really bothers us parents though, is that we might have to face the evidence of who our child really is when we are not around. A parent-free staycation is not only a test-run of how well your teen can navigate life unchartered, it’s akin to getting our parenting report card. Have you:
Successfully raised an independent human? Pass/Fail
Taught your offspring basic domestic skills? Pass/Fail
Instilled them with enough strength of character to withstand temptation? Pass/Fail
Equipped your child with respect for others and their property? Pass/Fail
It takes one hell of a giant leap of faith to loosen the strings and let our teenagers face life on their own for a week or two. It can cloud our vacation, as we worry our way through the Picasso Museum and Las Ramblas, telling everyone who cares to listen that we’re actually a family of five and that we’re sure it’s a healthy sign of normal development that our teen prefers to stay home.
Maybe some good will come out of the whole escapade. Perhaps by being forced to cook for themselves, they will newly appreciate your culinary efforts? Perhaps they will discover that the white thing in the basement washes clothes when you load it up, put in soap and press the buttons? Perhaps they will realize that the refrigerator does not automatically restock itself every week? Most of all, perhaps some time fending alone will actually, gulp, make them value us … just a little.