We Said "No Gracias" to the Senior Trip and Didn't Ruin My Daughter's Life
Could someone explain to me when the spring break party slid from college down to high school seniors? All we had was a four-day weekend when I was in school. Was there an announcement I missed or some sort of group email? If it was on a Snapchat story, then I definitely missed it. How long has this been a thing? Do all high school seniors do this or just the ones where we live in Kansas?
I was shocked when I found out high school, NOT college, seniors went on a week long bender accompanied by either their parent or someone else's. I was barely ready (totally not ready) to go on spring break as a sophomore in college, let alone a senior in high school. I had to beg my dad to let me go to Padre Island for more than one reason: I wasn't legal and and it was a large expense for my parents I only went once and once was enough...for many reasons.
When Avarie started high school and I heard about the senior trip tradition, I was all HELL NO! We had vacationed over spring break with another family or two, usually a ski vacation, and our girls were the same age. I always assumed we'd be doing something special for their senior year. We’ve never been the type of parents who preach about underage drinking even though that should be an understood deterrent. A rap sDid it stop me as a teen? Not at all. While that's still a very important law to follow, what was more important to us to imprint on our kids was what alcohol did to you mentally.
I had personal experience to know how that turns out. Many of my own dreams blew away in the wind when I started drinking as a teen. I settled for just getting by and I had no idea how to dream big. My potential slipped away but I was too buzzed to notice.
But those mistakes became the best lessons when it was time for those conversations with our older kids. We talk about how hard they’ve worked to be where they are in school and in their sports. All that would be gone if they chose to drink alcohol or use drugs. She's watched classmates get M.I.P’s, multiple actually, public intoxication charges, quit sports they once loved, and transform into people she barely recognizes. It’s sad to watch yet it’s given our kids concrete examples of what we’d been talking with them about. Not that my daughter is an angel but in the grand scheme of things, Avarie values different things/experiences more than what goes on in kids' basements. I can only hope her brothers see the same lessons and learn from others’ mistakes.
As this final year approached and the senior trip planning began, we held fast to the idea that we weren’t going. Like I said earlier, we just expected that we'd be doing a small group trip with some of our favorite family friends. When that didn't happen, I can only blame myself for what we did next. It was the perfect storm moment of panic and guilt crashing together. So as senior trip meetings started up and the chatter about who was going began, Avarie asked to be included. Frack. We had done so well and then the guilt creeped in of being those parents who ruined their daughter’s senior year. My gut screamed at me not to conform but I chose to shush her for a bit.
I asked the mom in charge of making the arrangements (who was also a travel agent) to send us the details. Kipp and I talked at length and we felt like we came a compromise. Rather than have just one of us go, we’d ALL go and make it a family trip. During the day, we’d do family things then she could hang with her friends and her boyfriend who was staying at the neighboring hotel at night. We had reserved two rooms at the designated hotel and waited for airline tickets to be released. Let me tell you that during this whole decision to do the trip, I felt sick to my stomach. That decision felt like a rock in my stomach and it felt totally off. Airline tickets were released at the end of July and we found a great deal from American Airlines but still, with the whole family going, booking two rooms, and staying at an all-inclusive hotel for five days was going to rival what we paid for a vacation to Hawaii back in 2010. Then that rock turned into a boulder.
This is when the universe showed up and tapped me on the shoulder. The boyfriend became an ex-boyfriend and some of her classmates (ones that would be on that senior trip) were completely out of control. I asked her, “Is this what you really want to be around during spring break? If this is what they’re like at home, what will it be like in a place where it was socially acceptable to go off the rails?” The boyfriend was no longer going to be the escape and the constant over the top partying was grating her nerves. And I admit, I took advantage of her weak moment. We have a time share in Cabo and I called to see if there was availability. It was and we could even upgrade to a much larger room. We looked into flights and while we would lose half of what we paid by rebooking to another location, it was going to be worth it. The other tipping point was that the all-inclusive option was 50% off and I knew this was what we needed to do. Avarie agreed to making the change and if I could have done a back flip without paralyzing myself, I would have.
So here we are, on a plane, all five of us headed for our last family vacation while she is still under our roof. I know she still wishes could have it both ways: to be with friends AND have a great vacation. But again, another lesson rose to the occasion. What everyone else is doing isn’t always the right thing to do for us to do. If it isn’t in alignment with our belief system, then we shouldn’t do it. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is alive and well in the teenage world but it takes a strong kid to walk away from what doesn’t feel right. And I'm really proud of her for that.
I think the hardest thing about being a parent is being a parent. It sucks to say no. It sucks to disappoint your kids. It sucks to be the voice of reason when it would be much easier to just go with the flow. And please, if you are reading this and you have a kiddo going off on a senior trip, this is not a knock to you. This post is meant to be encouragement to any parent out there who has felt like we have. I’m here to say it will be okay, your child will not die from missing out, no matter what they say.
Stand strong to what you know is right for your child and your family. And if that means going on that senior trip, then stand behind that decision 100%. Our intuition is always right and mine was screaming at the top of her lungs, "Abort! Abort! Abort!" I'm so glad I finally listened.