The designated hour

A police officer controlling traffic during curfew hours. Picture: SUPPLIED/FIJI POLICE FORCE

My curfew really drives me crazy,” says Natasha, 17.

“One time my parents knew that I was watching a movie with some friends a few houses away. Still, when I was just two minutes late, they phoned to ask why I hadn’t come home yet!”

The two paragraphs above on the topic of curfews, laced with a feeling of disappointment on the part of the teenager, appeared in the October 2008 issue of the Christian publication, Awake.

It shows the emotional feelings curfews can bring to an adolescent.

Let’s face it.

It is true – a curfew can be a source of personal frustration, especially when it crowds out your social life.

But everyone, both young and old, understands it all too well.

If you don’t then it’s time to refresh those cobwebbed memories.

Curfews have been driving us crazy since childhood.

I remember my mother giving specific instructions about my return home during each church social night, which happened on Saturday evenings.

“I want you home by 10pm on the dot. Remember on the dot,” she would say.

A few minutes after 10 and I would get interrogated like an offender on trial, by half an hour then I’d receive the spanking of my life.

Yes, those were the good old days of corporal punishment.

“This should teach you never to be late,” she would say while wielding a belt.

As a child growing up to explore the world around me, having home curfews seemed like plain oppression.

I used to think mum was paranoid, and utterly obsessed about my safety and security.

Church social nights were squeaky clean type of fun, that’s how I genuinely thought.

There were no strangers with sweets standing in dark corners and no ill-behaved children reeking with the scent of tobacco.

The way I saw it was, we were a bunch of innocent youngsters — the type who could recite Psalms 23 from verse one to six and sing “Amazing Grace” with great conviction.

But not according to Salanieta Vakamino — a curfew was a curfew, no excuses. Period!

“As long as you are under my roof, it’s my way or the highway.”

She belched those words and made sure they sounded like insults.

I was young and naïve and I never realised until I was much older that what seemed like incidences of arbitrary impositions were really for my own good, to keep me safe and sound and well protected.

Curfews were part of that protective shield mum put around me.

My dad’s job kept him away from home for weeks so the curfews were her way of keeping a leash on me.

Parents like to place curfews on their children to get a peace of mind, knowing that being out and about for too long might unnecessarily expose them to risky and harmful situations and encounters.

They also do this knowing that children need adult supervision as much as possible in order to keep them away from trouble, something our streets and neighbourhoods are never free from.

In today’s perilous world, where every few seconds someone gets sexually assaulted, the night is an unsafe period to go through.

In the US every 3.8 seconds, someone becomes the victim of a property crime — and every 26.3 seconds, someone suffers a violent attack.

Every 36.9 minutes someone gets murdered and every 4.5 minutes there is a rape.

It is because of this type of moral backdrop that parents decide to place curfews on their children.

Curfews keep children away from the temptation of drugs, sex and alcohol.

It keeps them away from crime and criminal acts.

They allow children to be within their parents reach and enable adults to set boundaries in a young person’s life.

Thanks to COVID-19, recollections of my childhood horrors with curfews are coming back.

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