I had the divine pleasure of being home when John Kornfeld, dear friend, parent of three once-teenagers, called from somewhere near Sonoma State Wednesday afternoon.  As I was talking with him, I realized something very important to me about this year with the girls in school with us—every bad decision made by a teenager is right under Sarah’s nose. Consequences and happenings weren’t just some random kid’s fate—Sarah knows and is connected to every single 9th-12th grader at LCS.

One of the 9th graders is not going to prom. Silly me, “oh why not?”  Thinking she just broke up with a boy or something like that. “I got in trouble. I’m grounded.” She told me. To all of my rather benign queries, she replied, “no, worse.” Crap. What is worse than partying (she is one of the set of 8th (!) and 9th graders allowed to go to a club that serves alcohol to minors and hosts prostitutes) or telling your mom that you are spending the night at one friend’s house, and really being at another’s? I dropped the subject. Later I asked Sarah if she knew why this girl was grounded. Of course she did. There are only 35-40 ninth graders and this is one she has hung out with in the early days.

Tina, I will call her, had a few friends over when her mom was out of town (step-dad works in the mines, out of town). Having a few friends over turned into a party that led to going out. Dunno how mom found out. I support mom as I think the consequence is fair and logical. Where was the housekeeper? Ghanaians sleep very soundly. We have a thin corrugated steel door that makes a lot of noise when you pound on it and more often than I really desire, it takes a reddening of the fist before it is opened by one of our sleeping guards. Sneaking out without being noticed is easy.

This is the kind of girl Sarah probably wouldn’t really know about at Analy. She isn’t slutty and doesn’t make a big deal about herself. She likes to party and drink kool-aid alcohol drinks and dance dirty. Taxis and drivers abound here, so at least there is no drinking and driving by teens.

Sarah also wouldn’t really be friends with the girl who snuck out of her room and “did it” with her boyfriend on an overnight HFH trip.

Sarah was really mad at us when we didn’t let her go to a birthday party of an 18 year old boy that she knew from school but not well, that was being held at a club. “But this 9th grade girl is going and that one is going (including Tina). It will be a good experience for me.” As John put it, “It is never about our kid being safe or not, it is about your kid getting in a situation where they don’t have the option to be safe.” Once Sarah saw that kids in her more inner circle that aren’t as “popular” as she is (she was so flattered to be invited to an 11th grader’s party) weren’t even interested in going, she kind of got her head screwed on straight.  (Too much money, parents not very engaged in our style of parenting, and alcohol aren’t a safe enough combo for us to let Sarah get her “experience.”)

She is good friends with the straight A 9th grader that “made-out” with a 19 year boyvisiting for an MUN conference during the closing dance party. She sees that girl everyday and has seen her Facebook page with slutty dresses, poses with alcohol and suggestions of same-sex tongue kissing. (Any suggestions of tongue kissing would gross me out.)

She is a teammate to the 11th grade girl who made out with a-just-turned-14 year old boy (at the 18 year old boy’s birthday party) on the rebound from her break-up after at least a year of going steady with a boy in her own grade.

Sarah is learning a whole, whole lot and she isn’t getting terribly wounded in the process. I am (we are) grateful.  I asked John how he dealt with knowing your beautiful nurtured kid is doing potentially dangerous stuff. He said, after they are about 20 years old, you just have to hope the foundation you laid is enough.  I am ever so hopeful.