SARA VANDEN BERGE

At the risk of sounding older than I actually am, I’m about to embark on my first “When I was a Kid” spiel.

The following lecture was prompted by an unsuspecting poster on the Empire-Tribune’s message board lamenting the fact that teenagers in Stephenville have plenty to do and shouldn’t loiter in public places.

The poster was responding to someone who had previously stated that there was nothing for teenagers to do here and should be allowed to hang out in public parking lots and in front of area businesses.

The poster, known as Robin M, stated, “Nothing to do? Movies, video games, basketball/ultimate frisbee/tennis at the park, scouts, youth groups, skate park, skating, going out for ice cream, and good old-fashioned ‘hanging out’ at a friend’s house, to name a few local activities that don’t require that the petulant half-dressed ingrates roam the parking lots at night… and a thump upside the head to all the lazy parents who prefer that businesses babysit their children, for they’re the ones who have caused this whole problem. Fine them and I guarantee the chronic loitering will stop.”

Ahhh. Don’t you love the sound of common sense?

Indeed, in the vitriolic world of the Internet, most postings I stumble across are nothing short of silly or mean spirited rants that make little to zero sense. If they do, the majority tend to offer more criticism than solutions.

So when this little peach of a post appeared, I was delighted. It’s nice to know there are still people, and I assume Robin M is a mother, who don’t allow their kids to run the streets like hoodlums.

With a son who is about to turn 17 and another who will be driving next summer, I’m the mom who insists on an early curfew. I’m also the one who has been dubbed “corny” by my entire family for trying to promote the “good old-fashioned” fun my friend Robin M was talking about.

During the summer, my middle son (a freshman) had several swim parties. Before one of the bashes, I thought it would be fun to build a fire and roast marshmallows and make smores. My family made fun of the idea and called me names that seemed to indicate that I am out of sync with what teenagers consider fun.

Despite my whoa, whoa, whoa hurt feelings, I forged ahead.

When my son’s friends arrived, they were greeted by a stash of Hershey bars, marshmallows, graham crackers and a roaring fire in the back yard.

And guess what? They loved it. The girls were the first in line to grab a stick and start roasting. The boys took a little longer to relent. But before long, they were fighting over the remaining marshmallows and having a blast.

It seems that Robin M might be on to something.

There is no question that something needs to be done about the loitering problem that plague areas like the Bosque River shopping center, but the solution begins at home.

When I was a kid (here it comes) my summer nights were spent playing British Bulldog in the front yard and playing hide-n-go-seek. I rode my bike and skated up and down the street with my neighborhood friends.

What I do know is that teenagers don’t need fancy places to have fun - they just need a place to gather.

Parents can stop the problem of loitering by opening their homes to their children’s friends and giving them a safe and trouble-free place to hang out.

The police can only do so much. They can chase a group out of a parking lot, but logic states that the kids will congregate elsewhere.

As a kid, my house was always filled with friends. My parents never hovered and gave us plenty of space to have fun. More parents should do the same.

Making a no-loitering ordinance might help slightly, but solving the problem will require a back yard bonfire, marshmallows and some good old-fashioned fun.

SARA VANDEN BERGE is managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.