Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Parenthood - It Ain't Easy

My daughter just went to the Freshman Semi-Formal Dance at her high school. I’m not sure who was more agitated by the whole experience - her, or us.

For those who haven’t had the “pleasure” of experiencing a high school dance from a parent’s perspective, there are a few new wrinkles that weren’t there, at least when I went to school.

The event can be broken down into four categories: the date; the dress; the contract; and finally, the dance itself.

First, there is THE DATE:

There is a tradition at our local high school that the freshmen ask the upperclassmen to their dance. I’m not sure who exactly started this tradition, but it certainly wasn’t the parents of a freshman girl.

When my son went through this, I was a wreck. He asked the sister of a girl in his Math class, whom I didn’t know. She was, of course, a senior who was driving the group (2 other freshman boys and their senior dates.)

I did what any overly -protective mother would do when her firstborn was going out – called the parents. To this mom’s credit, she was very nice and completely understood (she said. I’m sure she’s still talking about me). She told me her daughter was a very good driver and thanked me for calling.

The girl was very nice, and my son had a good time. At the end of the night, I blessed myself and thought, “Good, one child down, two to go.“

My husband was very calm about the whole night. When I reminded him that in a few years, his daughter would be going through this, his exact response was “over my dead body.”

Well, that day has come and he, predictably, was anything but calm. He tried talking her out of it (I believe there was the promise of a trip involved in the negotiating) to no avail.

She asked a (Senior) boy whose family we have known for years. In fact, when they were 4 and 8, his Mom and I joked, “wouldn’t it be funny if she took him to the Freshman Dance?” Who knew time would fly?

The morning of the big dance, my husband woke up with a headache, complaining that this was the day he had been dreading for 8 years. (Luckily the boy was a very good sport and put up with the ribbing he got from both my son and my husband.)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Now that we have the date, procured in November for a February dance, we had to concentrate on THE DRESS:

After searching the King of Prussia Mall (both floors and all 4 wings) and coming up empty handed, we moved on to the local strip malls. (I don’t know why the word “strip” makes me giggle at this point. Perhaps it’s because of the dresses I saw while shopping; you get the point.)

If you haven’t been shopping for a dress for a 14-year-old recently, let me tell you, it isn’t for the faint of heart – or a mother. Here are some of the conversations we had:

“Gee Sweetie, isn’t that a little short?” (said in a tone of voice I hoped didn't betray my shock!)

To which Sweetie replied: “Oh no, it’s almost down to my fingertips.” (This is the rule in the high school handbook: shorts and dresses must be “as long as where the fingertips rest when the arms are hanging at the student’s side.” In the teen fashion world, longer than that is unheard of).

I didn’t even bother to point out to her that she was dropping her shoulders to make her fingers come down further than they were. I simply suggested we “keep looking.”

Next shop: “How about this one?” Sweetie asks.

Now, I know my response wasn’t correct, but I simply couldn’t help it.

“Isn’t that a shirt?” I replied, perhaps a little loudly.

Sweetie didn’t even dignify that with a response – just a roll of the eyes and a toss of the head. Oh well, onward.

I tried texting my husband, hoping he could give me some encouragement. He simply told me to keep looking and not come home without one. (He didn’t want to deal with the tears, from either of us, if we came home sans dress.)

Finally, 2 dresses, 4 fights, 3 shopping trips and countless tears later, we found the dress. She loved it (black, sequined and short) and I loved it (two straps, covered everything it needed to cover, and was actually down to her fingertip nails!)

So, we have the date, we have the dress, we’re good to go, right?

Of course not! Last year, after much debate and countless threats, our school had enough of the dirty dancing that goes on at these dances and officially adopted THE DANCE CONTRACT:

Ahh, the contract… A simple piece of paper that had my husband break out into a sweat and made me blush.

Here are a few of the highlights:

-Every dancer must remain in the vertical position. Students are not permitted to bend over and hands may not rest on the knees or be placed on the floor. (Okay, that was the first rule listed, and it took me a good 5 minutes to comprehend and picture what she wasn’t allowed to do.)
-Any mimicking of sexual acts is not permitted. (Good to know.)
-Front-to-back touching or grinding of genital areas to buttocks is not permitted. (Okay, this one really had me turning red. I haven’t read that many suggestive words in one sentence since the last Harlequin romance book I read in college!)
-Students are not permitted to straddle legs or hips. (This isn’t your mother’s dance, that’s for sure.)
-Hands should be visible at all times and should remain on shoulders or waists only. (I don’t want to think where else they may be!)

My husband was so rattled by the whole thing, he signed it in the wrong place not once, but twice. At least they know we really read it.

So, we have a date, we found a dress, we signed the contract and the big day had arrived. I started to breathe a sigh of relief. That was my final mistake.

Driving to pick up the boutonniere hours before the dance, I got that question that every mom dreads.

Oh no, not that one, thank God! She wanted to know how to blow into a breathalyzer. Funny, but I didn’t know the answer to that one. They had been threatening to enforce the breathalyzers at the dances for years, and they had finally done it.

And I’m happy they did. Really. It’s just hard to comprehend that your 14-year-old daughter can now say she has been “breathalyzed”.

“You don’t really blow into it,” she answered, when I questioned the sanitation of it all the next day. “They ask you a question and you talk into it. It’s not hard!”

“It’s not hard.” Oh, but it is, I wanted to shout at her. It is hard. It’s hard to admit that your 14 year old is, in so many ways, much more grown up than you ever were at that age. And it’s hard to be okay with that. It’s hard to send her out into this crazy world and trust she will come back the same 14 year old you have tried to raise.

It’s hard to parent in today’s reality-obsessed world where anything goes. It’s hard to listen to what she says and see what she sees and not criticize and reprimand all the time. It’s hard to send her to a dance with an 18-year-old boy and not follow them.

It’s hard to listen to her tell you all about it, when you really just want to shout, “Yes! She’s home, safe and in one piece! She’s under my roof again.”

It’s just hard.

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