My 16 year old daughter is preparing for her Junior Prom. Almost daily she mentions something related to prom. She talks about looking for a dress. She talks about shoes and asks me what she might so with her hair. It is exciting stuff and frankly besides the ridiculous price of all the items that she intends to purchase for one night, I can’t help but think about the fact that she will almost undoubtedly be exposed to a few things like, alcohol, drugs and sex.
I admit it, I probably would not be as vigilant to these concerns if not for the well-publicized Steubenville rape case but I think it was a true to life example of how high school students party in small town USA. I also have to admit that it is not too terribly different from how small town USA partied when I was a teen except now kids have the Jersey Shore folks and The Kardashians as role models.
As a parent I can convince myself that my kid is going to make the right choices. I carried them in my body. They are the same little people whose soft skin brushed against my cheek and whose sweet breath I inhaled euphorically. The reality is that my teen is an individual who desperately wants to experience the world independently. If she weren’t, I’d be worried. As she prepares to enter into the world I can only provide her with candid information, failing to do so would be a disservice to her. I cannot control the decisions that my daughter will make but I can talk to my daughter early and often.
These are the things I will discuss with her:
1.) Your father and I will be willing to pay for a portion of a limousine service on the night of the prom. This is not so that you and your friends can pretend that you are the Kardashians but because we want to know that the person that is driving for the evening will be safe and sober. The limo service will not allow minors to consume alcohol while you are passengers. We can opt for a package that offers sparkling cider and unlimited soda if you like.
2.) I will assume that alcohol and drugs will be offered to you at some point in the evening. If you consume alcohol or drugs you are surrendering your control. You will be compromising your decision making process. I promise you that no matter how much you trust your friends, if they drink they too make the decision to drink they will not be available to “look after you”. They might even make drunken decisions that could harm you.
3.) Teenage boys want to have sex and they are usually not very good at it. They also are not very selective. When boys have casual sex some people view it as normal. Unfortunately, when a young woman has casual sex she is viewed as cheap. It’s ridiculous but it’s true. I would prefer that you abstain from having sex at this time but I would rather you were safe than sorry. If you make the decision to have sex at least use a condom. I also want to remind you that, “NO” means “NO”. You have the right to say, “No” in any circumstance. It doesn’t matter how much you have had to drink, if you have consumed drugs, what you are wearing or if you are completely naked. NO means NO!
4.) If you see someone who seems like they are too drunk or out of it, ask for help. Do not leave them, unless it places you in danger. Unfortunately there are people who will take advantage of a person in that position. Find an adult that you trust or call the police. If you are unsure, call me.
5.) I am more concerned about your safety and well-being than any trouble that you might get in. If you make the decision to drink or take drugs I will not approve but it will not change my love for you. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, out of control or afraid, call me. I’m there.
These are the things that I hope you will discuss with your son:
1.) Drinking and driving is unacceptable. Drunk drivers can kill people. If you drink and drive you are risking all of the lives in your car and those on the road. If you ride with someone who has been drinking you are placing yourself in extreme danger. Please call us (your parents) if you find yourself in a situation in which you cannot drive because you have been drinking or if you are a passenger in a car in which the driver has been drinking. I can deal with the knowledge that you drank illegally, I cannot deal with losing you to a senseless act.
2.) You will almost certainly be offered drugs or alcohol. I hope that you will have the sense to abstain. If you choose to drink or take drugs I want you to understand that decisions made under the influence are skewed. Sometimes people do things they might not normally do and those things can change your life forever. Please think about what I am saying to you and please remember that more than anything we love you and want you and your friends to be safe. If you need me, please call me.
3.) Having the desire to have sex is the most natural thing in the world but it really is something that should be respectful and should happen between two consenting, mature people. Expecting to have sex with someone that you barely know isn’t respectful of you or the other person. Having sex with someone who is drunk, under the influence of drugs or who is unconscious is rape. Furthermore if a person says, “NO”, they mean, “NO”. Having sex doesn’t make you a man. The decision to have sex should be discussed, well thought out, safe and most importantly consensual. If you make the decision to have sex, please use a condom. Remember, NO means NO.
4.) If you see someone who is drunk or out of control find an adult you trust to help them. Do not leave them alone. If you see someone being sexually inappropriate with someone who is under the influence or who is rejecting the advances, intervene if it is safe to do so or get help. Do not walk away and pretend you didn’t see it. Do not take pictures. Do not take video and post it on the internet. It is against the law to do so.
5.) Your life is just beginning and there is so much in store for you. You truly have a lifetime to experience all of the things that seem so important right now. Many of the temptations that you are facing are really much more enjoyable as you experience them with more maturity. But please know that I love you and nothing will change that. If you make the wrong decision and find yourself in a situation that is dangerous, please call me.
If your child is old enough to go to prom they are just short years away from entering into a world full of obstacles. If you aren’t having honest forthright conversations right now, your kid is starting their journey without any sort of map. Please, don’t assume that they know their way.
Undoubtedly playing at your nearest prom: