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Teen calls 911 to report parents for 'forcing' her to go on vacation

For one Canadian teenager, a vacation is an emergency worth reporting. Is this "a teenager being a teenager?"
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

The CBC's story of an unidentified Mississauga, Ontario 15-year-old who called 911 last week to report her parents for "forcing her" to go on vacation to a rental cottage east of Toronto is going viral, with the Ontario Provincial police officers who investigated the report calling it "a case of a teenager being a teenager."

"Although she perceived this as a real issue, it was not an appropriate use of 911," an officer told CBC News after the police visited the family's cabin to make sure it was not an actual emergency and that the teenager was, in fact, safe.

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It's not unusual for teenagers to balk at family vacations. Anne Bruntrager, a mother of four boys in Boston, said that her own 15-year-old son, Jack, had protested so much about vacations in the past that this summer, she and her husband left him at home with grandparents when they took a trip to Scotland.

"Jack was so miserable when we took him to Europe last summer," she told TODAY Parents. "He spent the whole trip dragging his feet, complaining, expressing how much happier he would have been if he had stayed home. We vowed never to take him on an expensive vacation again."

After Ted and Anne Bruntrager's oldest son, Jack, spent their European vacation last summer dragging his feet and complaining that he would rather be at home, they vowed never to take him on an expensive family vacation again. Courtesy of Anne Bruntrager

Bruntrager said she feels disappointed by her son's protests against family vacations. "We're finally to the point with our four kids where we can travel without diapers, strollers, or Pack 'n Plays, and everyone can pull their own weight," she said, "But now, the older kids have less and less interest in being with us."

TODAY Tastemaker and child development expert Deborah Gilboa told TODAY Parents that the real crime in the Canadian teenager's 911 call to report her parents last week "seems to be that we have robbed teenagers of any sense of true difficulty or emergency."

What stands out to Gilboa is not only that the Canadian teenager apparently believed her situation to be an unusual and remarkable experience, but also that she thought it was appropriate to report her parents to the police for it. "She wanted embarrassment at the least, and criminal consequences at most, for her family simply for insisting they spend time together," Gilboa said.

Gilboa also lamented that the teenager in last week's incident only received a warning for her misuse of emergency resources. "While it's easy to feel that the police were compassionate with this girl due to her age, our unwillingness as a society to show teens the real consequences of their serious action is making problems worse, not better," she said.

Perhaps the Canadian teenager's actions added up to more than just "a case of a teenager being a teenager," but Bruntrager admitted that teenagers' lack of interest in family vacations is not a modern problem; she did it to her own parents when she was younger. "During college, when I was 19, they booked our family on a special Caribbean cruise," she said. "I did my best job to make them miserable, because I was miserable to be there with them.

"I just wanted to see my friends, relax at home, and feel better after what had been a very stressful and emotionally draining summer. So, I do feel like I can understand his point of view, and this year we tried to take that into consideration and planned an adult-only vacation instead of a family one."