September 30, 2011
Brianna texted me tonight to ask what I thought about her attending a frat party. The good news? She texted me to ask. She didn't have to; she's 18 and on her own at college. But still, she thought she'd run it by me. So here's what I thought:
First--"How fun! I'm sure she'll have a great time hanging out with her friends on a Friday night!"
And then--"Alcohol. She's not had a lot of 'up close and personal' experiences with alcohol, but undoubtedly it will be there. (I know a lot of you are thinking to yourselves, 'She's 18. You're delusional if you think she doesn't drink.' I know my kid, though. It's just not her.) I'm not even worried so much about peer pressure; she's pretty sure of herself and not embarrassed to tell someone she doesn't want a beer. But kids throwing up from drinking too much? Kids passed out? Boys suddenly finding their machismo in a bottle or girls suddenly becoming far too giggly and losing I.Q. points by the minute? She might have even seen these things before in isolation, but a frat party can be a recipe for all of these things in great concentration. It could be overwhelming."
Then I got to--"Oh my gosh! Girls get drugged at these things! A little something slipped into a drink, coaxing the helpless kid to somewhere dark and secluded, mom finding out the next day that she never made it back to the dorm room and nobody knows where she is....."
Far too quickly my thoughts turned from Animal House to a horror movie turned even more horrifying. I had to scale back, and quickly, or Irrational Mom might just jump into the van and drive the six hours to go pick her up RIGHT NOW.
Deep breath. Another deep breath. I raised a kid with a good head on her shoulders. She knows the dangers. She knows the risks. And I went to a few frat parties in college. I emerged unscathed. Mostly, they were somewhere between my Thought Number One and my Thought Number Two. Kids out from under watchful parent eyes enjoying more alcohol than was probably prudent, and kids who were just out having a good time dancing, flirting, socializing. Thought Number Three happens, of course, but I never saw it. And with luck, Brianna's only experience with that sort of thing will be something she watches on T.V.
So I told her to go and have fun, BUT--
1. Go with a friend. Someone with whom you can have a pact to make sure both of you make it back home safely at the end of the night. The Buddy System is always a good call.
2. Make sure you check in with that friend periodically throughout the night in case one of you needs to be 'saved' from an uncomfortable situation.
3. Take your own water bottle or drink. Unless they've got cans of soda or unopened bottles of water, you don't really know what might be in the free-flowing beverages, or how much.
4. Don't set your drink down and leave it unattended, even for a minute. (You can call me paranoid if you want. I don't know those kids in that frat house, and I don't know what the moral compass is of all those kids at the party.)
5. Listen to your instincts. Stay true to who you are and what you feel. If you feel uncomfortable, leave (with your friend).
Oh gosh, I've never felt like an over-protective parent before. I'm sure if she goes, everything will be great. She'll have fun, make new friends (as she always does), and stay up the rest of the night chatting about it with her roommate once they get back to the dorm. Just in case, though, at the risk of scaring her and myself, I felt I just had to throw out those 'rules' before she headed out the door. A little reminder. How do you remind a kid to always give everyone the benefit of the doubt and believe the best in everyone--except when you shouldn't? This must be what it feels like to really have to learn how to let go. It's a little like jumping out of the airplane and just having to trust that the parachute is going to work. All you can do is count to three, jump, and pull the rip cord at just the right time (and say a prayer on the free-fall).
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