I'm posting before I drive Katie and her friend to the nearest mall (45 minutes away). I'll drop them off, with strict instructions to stay together and in the building--they'll have a cell phone, I'll have a cell phone--I'll go to Borders and sit and read while they window shop.
It's sad, because my friends and I would go to the mall on weekends when I was in 7th grade, just to wander around and talk and window shop--we always shared a plate of crispy French fries at the drugstore restaurant/counter--and no one worried about us. Some of my fondest memories are hanging out with my friend Sue, trying on the same gorgeous pair of shoes every week until I finally had enough money saved up to get them (or not). Even so, I feel a tad guilty doing this. Maybe some of you are horrified that we would do this--and I don't know what to say except that we know Katie and her friend will follow our rules, call me to check in every hour, and have a great time.
This is one of those situations where being a parent is hard. You wonder 'what's the right thing to do? how do I answer these questions? how do I balance their desire for independence and fun with my safety concerns?' And the truth is, it's always a juggling act. Knowing that there are no right or wrong answers doesn't make it easier--in fact, it just may make it harder.
And now, off to spend 45 minutes in the car with two teenage girls (who probably won't pay a bit of attention to me ;)