Friday, March 27, 2009
A warning for parents
I would like to share two personal stories in support of Christy Barbee’s and Parkman Howe’s comments about teenage partying.
Last year, when my son was a senior at CCHS, I was looking forward to sending my third child off to college. With ten years between the oldest and youngest, I had been parenting for a long time. I knew things had changed concerning risky behavior in teens but always thought I was experienced enough to handle it. I was wrong.
The first incident occurred last New Year’s Eve. At the last minute, I decided to let my son attend a local sleepover rather than travel with the family for an overnight in Gloucester. I checked that there would be parents in attendance and we only left for Gloucester at 6 p.m. Because our hostess was not feeling well, we decided to return home. I jokingly said there was probably a party at my house. As we turned into our street, our house was lit up like Times Square – with almost the same size crowd. We parked our car at the entrance to the driveway to keep kids from leaving. When we entered the house we were greeted with warm welcomes as if they were generously inviting us to join them. I said no one would be allowed to leave until I called a parent or the police. After many tears and pleadings, I got the phone numbers. What I wasn’t prepared for was the reaction from parents which ranged from: “I’m sure he is okay to drive,” “what do you want me to do about it?”, “I’m at work. I can’t come.” After talking to their kids, some parents told me to let them leave. This was well before midnight, so I am sure they just went somewhere else to party. By 3 a.m., we had contacted all parents. Some were allowed to leave – and by my judging had not been drinking. My husband drove some home because parents could not come. We had one car that we kept overnight. One parent offered to let some of the kids come over. This is when it occurred to me how unprepared I was to deal with this new generation.
My follow up was to take my son to the Carlisle Police Department where Chief Sullivan did a wonderful job of explaining how dangerous it was and how much trouble I could have been in should something have happened. The first part didn’t impress him. These kids – as they think – are invulnerable. The second part, however, hit home. My son was very upset that I could have been held legally responsible. That he might have been hurt did not matter. That I might have been hurt upset him a lot. I also learned that parents are totally unprepared to deal with today’s technology and the skill of our kids to use it. I now see that cell phone as a threat, not a protection.
My family went to Florida for a long weekend in March. Again I assumed I was doing the right thing by notifying neighbors of our trip and that no one should be at the house. I have no idea other than a mother’s instinct why I even thought of this. When we returned, everything looked fine. Little by little we noticed things out of place. Obviously there had been a party at our house. Since my son was with us, we could only guess who might have been there. Here again I probably made the wrong choice. All I could think of was that they were probably CCHS seniors. It was March. They would graduate in June. They all had college plans. I probably knew the kids, knew the parents and I could not jeopardize their plans. There was also the possibility of retaliation and I was tired of taking responsibility for other parents’ kids. Again, looking back I realize how unprepared I was to deal with this problem. Instead of my neighbors, I should have asked the police to keep an eye on my house. I wish I had had a better road map.
As spring parties approach, it is the parents who need educating, not just the kids. The Carlisle Police do a wonderful job of community policing. Parents need to take advantage of this. Not only was I not up-to-date on the latest partying tactics, but I was utterly unprepared for how quickly these kids can pull a party together, convince trusting adults that they are safe, and be so immune to the dangers involved. On the bright side, everyone graduated and moved on to careers or college – but we were lucky. If you hear of a party or get a call, take it seriously. Do not apply outdated thinking to these modern day problems. We need to be a better community of parents. Please be on the alert as the party season approaches and do not make my mistakes. ∆
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito