one more layer 

It was probably two years ago now, maybe three. We were out to dinner with friends and they’d mentioned that their son, a couple of years older than Katie, had told them that there was alcohol at a party he’d recently attended. He was in high school, which I remember at the time felt like a world (and a whole lot of time) away from where we were.

(It wasn’t.)

My friend went on to say that they’d spoken a lot about it. That she felt pretty confident that he’d make good decisions. And that they had a safety net in place for him just in case.

A friend of theirs had offered herself up as an emergency contact. He knew he could call her any time of night and she would come get him, no questions asked. She would then, if necessary, help him talk to his parents about what had happened.

If he ever felt unsafe or overwhelmed for any reason, he had someone to call who wasn’t his mom or dad. It was just one more layer of support, one more point of contact, one more port in a storm, even if the storm were one of his own making.

“And if you and she are both comfortable with it,” she’d said, “when the time comes, I’d be happy to be that person for Katie.”

(I may have cried. It’s what I do.)

A couple of months ago, I gave Katie our friend’s number. I told her that I hoped that she’d always feel comfortable calling me or Luau if she were in trouble, but that I also know that it’s easy to panic when you’re scared. That bad decisions have a tendency to compound one another, especially as a teenager, and that I remember what it feels like when the avalanche begins to rumble and all you can think to do is run. 

I told her that I remember being terrified to go home. That I remember doing things in those moments from which I was incredibly lucky to have walked away alive. I told her that she ALWAYS has a far better option.

And then I patted myself on the back, thinking that I was so far ahead of the game.

(I wasn’t.)

There was alcohol at a party that Katie recently attended.

We’ve spoken a lot about it. I feel pretty confident that she’ll make good decisions. And now we have a safety net in place for her, one more layer of support, one more point of contact, one more port in a storm  … just in case. 

9 thoughts on “one more layer 

  1. Good job, Mama! I remember those years well and if you remember I said you could a,ways call me because it was safety first (not that you always did but you knew you could).

    Love you,

  2. I agree with a lot of your parenting but IMHO I think you’ve missed the mark in this one. Why are parents scared to forbid their children from going to these kind of parties? What happened to calling the parents to find out if there will be supervision? How is it ok that your child is even hanging around others who are drinking who may be putting your child in danger? I disagree with the kids will be kids mantra. Fact is underage drinking is illegal and we as parents should put our feet down and insist that our children are supervised.

    • Firstly, I’m not remotely ‘scared’ to prohibit my child from doing anything that I don’t think is appropriate. That said, this party was completely supervised and certainly not the place one would ever expect to have found alcohol. I’d prefer not to reveal the details of what happened at the party because it’s not my story to tell and I don’t want to embarrass my kid for doing the right thing and talking to me about it. That said, the end result was that the alcohol was dumped down the sink by the hostess as soon as she discovered that it had been brought into her house.

      I think we have to be realistic. Frankly, I think it’s absurd to pretend that we can protect our kids from everything.

      As I said, this party was supervised. The parents were home and visible. Does that mean that one kid won’t sneak booze in? Nope. Does it mean that kids can’t sneak into the bathroom or hide outside? Nope. How about at football games when kids head off under the guise of ‘a quick trip to the concession stand’ or at sleepovers — are parents sleeping IN the room with these kids? Nope.

      As our kids get older it is inevitable that, no matter how hard we try to shelter them (and I am all for keeping them home when warranted), they will find themselves in situations where they are forced to make some pretty serious decisions. I’d much prefer to be honest about the things they will face and to therefore have a kid who comes to me to talk about it, thereby giving me the opportunity to help guide her. These are amazing learning opportunities that help create a foundation for how she can handle tough situations throughout her life.

      Again, this party was no kegger. It was as innocent as it could have possibly been. Clearly, when the issue came up they handled it perfectly (down the drain).

      So … if I were to try to keep her home from every place where there might possibly be illegal activity, sexual experimentation and the temptation to make a whole host of bad decisions, I couldn’t be able to let her leave the house without me no less go to school. That, to my mind, would be doing her a grave disservice.

      • The spirit and tone of your original post was vastly different that what you’re describing in your reply to me.

      • the spirit and tone of the post was that, for me, it was a huge wake up call that she is now at an age and in a place where kids are bringing alcohol to parties and that given that, i thought that it was vital to have a safety net in place for her.

      • Jess,
        You definitely bring up valid points. Obviously Katie has friends with sensible, responsible parents. Contrary to my initial impression, it seems that we are on the same page. Thanks for sharing. As an aside, I’ve learned a lot from your blog about acceptance and just being in the present with my sweet hilariously different boy.

  3. Kudos to you, Jess, for giving your children the support they need to handle the difficult situations. As teenagers/young adults navigate the world, they will eventually find themselves in a difficult situation. Letting them know they have the support they need is priceless.

    The other tool I offer my children: If you are invited to a party, friend’s house, outing, etc. and you don’t feel comfortable about it (for whatever reason), feel free to use me as an excuse. “My mother won’t let me,” or “My mom says we have to do [insert activity here] that day” is often much easier for a teenager than simply saying no.

  4. My kids (one with ASD) are both in high school and getting invited to parties. Most of these parties initially seem fine and I have no issue with them. But what happens in many instances…more kids come based on knowing kids who were invited. So the party that seemed fine and had 20-30 kids coming, now has 50 or 60. At the last party my daughter heard about where alcohol and drugs were present, one of her friends danced with a guy who had been drinking and he was touching her. Before she could escape the situation, pictures and videos had been taken. I used it as a lesson for my kids about how things can spiral out of control, even if you are not the ones doing anything wrong.

    Each situation has come with it’s own teachable moments. I, like you, have felt like we were doing enough. Some conversations with my kids in the past 2 weeks have led me to believe the more support and safety nets we provide, the more likely they will be to pull the rip cord and use one of them. Thanks for sharing this as another safety net idea.

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