Last week, my 18-year-old daughter headed down South to Tennessee in a three-car caravan to attend the Bonnaroo music festival. It would be three days of music all day and throughout the night (she talked of one concert that began at 3 a.m.!), sleeping in a tent, eating mostly granola bars and apples because they were free, and lots and lots of partying. In other words, a quasi-modern day Woodstock.
I went to Bonnaroo myself a few years ago with one of my girlfriends and had a total blast. But when it comes to envisioning my offspring in that environment, I have too many concrete visions in my head of the scene down there. You know -- the kids wearing next to nothing, some dancing in a way that you knew there were some serious drugs involved, etc. So when I hugged my little girl goodbye, thoughts came rushing into my head: What if she drinks too much? What if she does drugs? What if a guy grabs her when she's walking to her tent?
As the mother of a college-age daughter, the problem is that I know too much. When I was 18, my parents had no clue what my friends and I were doing. Despite the fact that my folks loved to "live it up" (as they used to say back then), I still don't think they would have approved of my drinking beers late at night with friends in the middle of a golf course.
My parents were of a generation that had never really experimented the way the following generations did in their full-on glory. By the time the real Woodstock rolled into town, my parents were caught up in the responsibility of raising two young kids and running a business.
My husband and I also love to "live it up," but knowing what we did in our youth, we are careful to set the right example for our kids. The difference is that when we were 18, the law allowed us to consume alcohol. Kids today don't drink any less than we did. They just do so outside of the law.
I texted my daughter once a day after she ventured South. I joked to friends that it was my chance to make sure she was alive. I asked about the weather, if she'd run into friends from home or simply wrote, "Hi pussycat, how's the music today?" Every time my phone dinged with a reply, my heart skipped a beat, bathed in relief. She sometimes gave me a quick "I'm dirty and tired but having fun," or a more elaborate text covering the highlights of the day's line up (Phish and the Shins). If she was safe, I was happy.
I suppose the one thing I share with my parents is that I trust my kid. I'm not sure how it happens, and I'd like to think it's the role models we are (hmmmm, not so sure), but I believe our daughter errs on the side of making good choices. I know I did, even if I did deviate from time to time.
I'd like to be at Bonnaroo myself right now, sipping a cold beer and listening to Ben Folds make some magic on the piano. But it's her turn now. So I'll just sit back, and try as hard as I can not to worry.