It was the summer of my senior year in high school, about 100 years ago, or as my daughter puts it: Back when you were in the Olden Days, Mommy (kills me). I had a party. A Toga party. No joke. Everyone showed up in togas. Let me go back to that. EVERYONE showed up.
There must have been over 100 kids Animal House-style in my basement, in my backyard. My parents were upstairs. First, “the fight” broke out, followed by those kids who appeared with hidden bottles of alcohol, and then of course, the noise factor turned the neighborhood against me. It was The impetus for one particular neighbor to come out in her nightgown and shout: “Turn it down! Or I’m going to call the police!” She waited .02 seconds and of course dialed 911. The party was “busted.” I was grounded, and so were a slew of my friends.
Would I do it again?
Let’s rephrase that. How would I feel now if the toga hostess was my daughter?
That’s where I’m at, that’s where you’re at, and that was where my good friend Jen (not her real name) was at a few weekends ago. She was off celebrating her friend’s 40th birthday, an overnighter at a downtown hotel, and her high school senior, a great student, very involved, an awesome kid who works and pays for all of her own extras (a rarity in this town), who (and yes, I’m biased because I adore this girl), had a party. Mouse was away, kitty wanted to play.
I’ve been there, so have you.
Life is great when you can get away with things, but the real lessons come in when you’re caught.
The party was loud, there was alcohol, minors, the whole shebang. The police arrived. Kids received drinking tickets, and my friend’s daughter was beside herself. Jen received the dreaded police call, and had to deal with the “situation” plus talk-of-the-town embarrassment (what kind of mother are you?), and a good dose of community relief (so glad it was your kid NOT MINE).
Jen and I discussed the consequences of the party at Starbucks. She was surprisingly composed. “My daughter is a great girl, who works hard. I want to help her get through the long-term ramifcations of this — license suspension, car insurance hikes, and of course, this ‘ticket’ that could follow her on her college record. BUT …” she leaned forward, “I want her to learn a lesson here. Community service, etc. I am ALL for it.”
Jen proceeded to tell me a story about when her younger child stole beads from a store years ago, after she had been told: “We are not buying those, put them back.” The beads spilled (of course) out of her daughter’s guilty pocket, and were discovered. Jen could easily have brought her child back to the store to ‘fess up. She did better. She went to a local security guard in the mall and said, “This is what my kid did. Read her the Riot Act. Scare the shit out of her.”
Jen said, “If I had screamed my head off that day, it would have been in one ear and out the other. This way, the message: Never steal, or else, stuck.”
And she was right. The security guard’s image is now forever embedded in her daughter’s head.
A life lesson learned, and earned.
Last week was Senior Prank Day in a local high school, my district, that went awry. And let me preface this story with, I was the girl who ALWAYS chose Dare in “Truth or Dare.” I would have been right in there on this annual prank. Big time. Every year the seniors do something funny (forbidden) at the school as their Last Hurrah. This year was flour and fans. As in, bringing in bags of flour and letting the shit hit the fan — and it did — everywhere. One student who already had an injury apparently slipped on the flour-covered floor, fell, and hurt herself. The school had sent out a pre-warning to students about not joining the Senior Prank, and then a follow-up threat: You play, you pay.
The consequence: No Senior Boat trip with the rest of your class. Long story short, nearly two dozen students were cut from the boat trip.
Was it worth it? It will be once you hear what happens next.
Two fathers of the pranksters decided to “one-up” the school, and chartered a separate boat – a yacht – for their kids, and all others who wanted to join in on the same day/time boat outing as the school-sponsored trip. The twenty plus pranksters immediately signed up, and so did many of their friends (nearly 80 in total, according to one Mom), who nixed the school Boat Trip for (what I call) the We’ll Show Them Boat Excursion.
“The school really made a mistake in my opinion,” said another Mom, whose son was one of the pranksters. “The boat trip and graduation ceremony are the very last times the entire class will be together, and now many of the kids who signed up for the School Trip, which is heavily supervised, opped out for the other trip. If I were the school, I would have chosen a different punishment — one that matched the crime — a huge clean-up, community service, or something to that extent.”
Back then, I probably would have chosen the We’ll Show Them cruise. Perhaps you would too.
But that’s being a teenager. As a parent, it’s a different, perhaps, harder call. We all understand High School Seniors… next step, Real Life. We all want our kids’ “send-off” to be filled with unforgettable memories. We may even think the school had no sense of humor. But the message of the parents orchestrating the Prankster Party Boat is this: Screw authority, you’re entitled, hop on.
Sadly, I can guarantee that’s the message these kids will take with them long after the boat anchors and graduation caps are thrown in the air. But is that what we really want to leave them with?
The reality is, we have done our job for 18 years, and now it is up to our kids to gather the syllabus of our advice, school lessons, life lessons, and take it on the road, and decide what kind of adults they want to be:
A cheater or someone with integrity? Ambitious, or relying on Daddy & Mommy to pick up the pieces when things don’t work out? Reaching for the stars, or shlepping along because there has always been cushion? Money-savvy, or financially-inept like I was in my ’20s (eating cereal for dinner so I could pay for my exclusive way-more-than-I-could afford membership to ritzy East Bank Club).
Truth & Consequences is really all we’ve got as parents to pass onward. The experts say that kids who have their parents “voice” in their heads (don’t do this, don’t do that … or else) may smoke, but smoke less; may drink, but will drink less. I know several friends of mine growing up whose parents never gave them a curfew, their deepest feeling was, my parent don’t really care … so why should I?
In many cases, as parents, it is don’t do what I did … do as I say … I’ve been there, done that (and I miraculously came out alive). However, life consequences are bigger than we are.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Dads who hired out the boat are not great guys/fathers/friends/mentors. But the example-setting here, in my most eloquent terms, kinda sucks. Be your kid’s advocate, but don’t applaud bad girl/bad boy behavior, even if you would have done it yourself. BEING THERE for your kids is not about them having fun no matter what, but really about showing them a fork in the road, and giving them the tools to make good choices — perhaps better choices than you might have made at that age.
Remember: Their choices in life are modeled after yours. But at the end of the day, when you send them off into the world, it’s themselves they have to look at in the mirror. You are merely the reflection.
Feel free to share a Truth & Consequences moment with GIRLilla Warfare. We welcome your stories.