Going to the Prom and Other Parent Experiences

Senior prom.  My host son modelled his brown pinstriped tuxedo, promised to take lots of photos, and left to pick up his date.  His date, also a boarding student, is a girl he’s been dating for a while, and they seem quite comfortable with each other.  He discussed after-prom plans with me.  He is not the one who is likely to push the envelope and wind up arrested or dead, but still a prayer is in order.


Senior prom is supposed to be one of those events that you remember all your life, but I honestly can’t recall the details of my own.  Some things I’m sure about only because they could have happened only one way.  I had one steady boyfriend in high school, and he was a freshman at a local university during my senior year, so I know that I attended prom with him.  I also know that there were no after-prom parties or restaurant visits.  My parents were on their second set of offspring, and their rules hadn’t changed in 30 years of parenting.  My mother knew the number of minutes it took to go from any possible date destination to our house, and I didn’t dare deviate from the expected “come straight home” instructions.  Not one of the bookish, law-abiding teens in my school crowd was above suspicion, so I was rarely allowed to socialize outisde school.  I was allowed one date per week with my long-standing, dependable, ardent Christian boyfriend, on the principle that if we had seen each other once, that was enough.   


It is enough to say that discipline in that household was swift, undisputed, and harsh.  I spent my high school time longing for the day when I would leave for college.  The senior prom was a landmark on the path out that door.  Because the things I was disciplined for were trivial, mostly consisting of thinking and believing differently from my parents, my childhood was especially rough.  I was a law-abiding straight-A student  who never did anything to embarrass the family or to make it difficult to stay on the path to my profession, but it never seemed to be enough.  Now, in these late years, my parents say “We are proud of you.  You have done well.”  Some late revelations, but not too late. 


The movie Juno   will be on sale soon.  I have to buy it and watch it again.  I am fascinated by portrayals of the kind of childhood where there is no abuse.  I am in awe of children who have honest conversations with their parents, express differences of opinion, are allowed to be involved in decisions affecting their lives.  I have tried to build that kind of household myself.  There is increasing evidence of the harm we do our children when we rely on physical discipline (read “abuse”).  I am frightened by the number of people that I know personally who brag on the abuse they took as children and the need to perpetuate that with their own children–the “I turned out okay” line of thinking.  I want to blurt out “You really think you’re so okay?” but I don’t.  I remain calm and point to the evidence to the contrary:  a quick search for “consequences of spanking children” on Google brings up reams of documents on the controversial topic.  


Choosing the kind of parent that you want to be is one of the great decisions of adulthood.  Practicing that style of parenting day after day, from one event to the next, in good times and difficult times, is a discipline.  Blessed as I am with easy children, it still isn’t a given that my parenting will go smoothly.  With two 20 year-olds full-time and a handful of part-timers, days like this when a formal dance is the biggest issue are beautiful experiences. 




2 Responses

  1. Poor Essie! You were missed at knitting; we debated about whether to call you. L (16 years old) and I LOVED Juno; we saw it the first day it screened here. I didn’t know anything about it, but the teenage buzz was huge, apparently. We are getting a copy too. You might like Rushmore, another thinking teenager’s movie.

  2. Juno is definately one for a permanent dvd collection. As for spanking, my parents used to put me in the oven on low for time outs, and I don’t think it harmed me at all. 🙂

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