Apr 20, 2011

Rave New World

Dear AAP=
This is a question I thought I would know the answer to since I've been thinking about it for so long. I'm a mother of a 14 year old girl who is at the point of wanting to go out and "explore" the same sort of things I wanted to at her age. I spent those years exploring punk rock clubs - starting with all-ages shows and wearing the uniform and making all the usual iffy choices about booze, some drugs and unreliable boys. I had always planned on being honest about these things with her, assuming that I would spend years 1 through 12 building up a level of openness and trust that I never had with my mom. I have done a pretty good job of that by most standards but now that it is show time, I find I'm second guessing myself. She has seen the pictures from those days and know that I wasn't always a "mom," and she's pretty smart and together for a 14 year old, but I know KNOW that part of being that age IS making the wrong choices, on purpose, just to see what might happen, and that worries me. While me and my friends would sneak out of the house to go to some all-ages show at a local gym or a punk house party for a few hours, my daughter is talking about going to weekend-long raves in big stadiums and 'camping out' in cars with her friends and that sort of thing. It seems far more extreme and dangerous. I feel bad enough that I can't understand the appeal of the passion-less and mindless computer-generated music... and I know that really the popular drugs at these things are the only way to make the music tolerable, I don't want her doing them. I regret the underage drinking and drug-taking I did, but I know I don't want to be a total hypocrite about it. What are other ex-punk parents doing about this? - ex-Exene wannabe.

Dear EEW-

It is obvious that an intervention is needed... to get your daughter off of that dreadful music. OK, I'm (almost) kidding, but still, I can understand your pain. I'll take a second to remind everyone that I don't have kids and, yes, I'm well-aware that "everything is different when it is your kid." and all of that, but still, I think a person in my position can have some valid opinions. Here goes...

First of all, congrats on having a good & open relationship with your daughter. I hope you enjoyed it. Even "good" and "well-adjusted" kids hit a kind of wall at that age where, as you pointed out, sometimes the novelty and allure of making the occasional 'bad choice' far out-weighs the predictability of making the (usual) right choice. Kids that age crave the possibility of seeing and experiencing new things.. and they know that those new things are most likely to come when they step out of their parentally proscribed Zone of Safety. If you have (or had) a healthy relationship with your child then a lot of the 'acting out' that happens in this phase isn't calculated to "get back" at you... but is more likely just a way to start measuring where they are on that sliding scale between dependent child and independent (and cool) grown-up... and keep in mind that she'll want to slide back and forth on that scale for a while.

Kids have to separate from their parents. That is so obvious that I feel idiotic even typing it, but it is the truth... and they can only figure out what they ARE by figuring out what they no longer are (ie: little kids who do everything mommy tells them to do.) I read somewhere that parents start out as CEOs to their kids: Dictating rules and commanding actions, but as the kids hit your daughter's age, parents take on the role of a consultant... The kid is going to make their own decisions, and you can only hope that they come to you for some input - which may, or may not change their minds about whatever dumbass thing they're thinking of doing.

The big question is: Do you trust her friends? ...Those friends are going to have more influence over her than you are for a while... Is your daughter hanging out with a faster crowd? Is she trying to fit in with a group of kids? -- if so she's likely to act out even more in an effort to win their approval -- OR does she surround herself with basically stable kids who are more-or-less at her level (socially and life-experience wise) who probably also share her interest in skull-numbing techno music? A good circle of friends is more likely to keep her from taking that free hit of Ecstasy from the creepy guy wearing the upside-down visor or getting in the van with the DJ's roadie... one can hope.

The bottom line is - I think letting a 13 year old go, unsupervised, to a weekend-long rave might qualify as child endangerment... so you're probably well within your rights to say a big 'no' to that particular plan, but you might want to consider attending a less-ambitious show WITH her. I know she'll probably hate that... but not as much as you will.

Good luck.

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