If you are getting a queasy feeling in your gut about it, it's always smart to listen. I wouldn't let your imagination go too wild though. Stick to what you actually know. If you are worried she's meeting up with him, why not hang around. If she's meeting friends at the mall, take her early for some window shopping and walk her over to see her friends for a quick godd-bye when the time comes. Tell her you want to take a picture of her and her friends before an ice skating trip. You'll get some memories and sort of keep an eye on whose involved without invading her space or depriving her of private time with buddies. I don't think forbidding a friendship is beneficial but perhaps turning him into family is. If she's attracted to his being older and sort of a secret, then your getting to know him and his family will be a HUGE turn-off lol.
We have a lot of mixed age interaction in our family, too. I totally agree your best bet is to get to know the kid and the friends.
While it is possible this is an older teen preying on younger, vulnerable girl, and the 'friendship' needs instant, immediate intervention, it's also equally possible this is an immature 17 year old making friends with someone who is only 4 years younger and actually more on par with his "relationship maturity” then girls his age. But the only way to make such a judgment is to get more involved with the kids and get to know them. I have a teen-aged DSD so I am around boys this age and I am still often surprised at how immature 17 year old boys can be - especially if they have had no previous "romantic" relationships. Truly, there is such a wide swath of maturity for teens.
In the spirit of full disclosure , I too was a young teen dating an older - immature - guy (14-19). My mother hated him and did her best to disrupt the relationship - including all the standards, losing her temper, threatening to call the police, grounding, and forbidding me to see him. The only thing it accomplished was to teach me how to be sneaky, make the relationship last longer than it would have normally (3 years), and to never – TO THIS DAY – confide in my mother about my relationships (which I know, sadly, hurts her). I am quite certain if she had only listened to me and gotten to know him, she would have realized I had it more together than anyone gave me credit for and he was in no way taking advantage of me. I still talk to him fairly regularly and am very proud of the choices I made at 14 - picking a guy who still respects me 20 years later – despite my mother’s absolute convection this guy was nothing but a predator and that our relationship was inappropriate.
To sum up, my advice would be to tread lightly, respect your daughter's feelings, and make an informed decision on their 'friendship' because you could be saving her, or you could not be. Either way, with this subject you are laying the groundwork for the rest of your adult relationship with her.
Edited by Jessnet - 12/27/10 at 1:27am