Friday, August 24, 2012

The Last First Day

Yesterday was the first day of school and for my son it was the "Last first day" as he is now a Senior.  Yes, I can get all sentimental and wonder where the years have gone, but I am also incredibly excited for him.
I remember my Sr. year with great fondness.  All those special get-togethers, lock-ins, parties and other things that set that last year apart.  I want that for my son.
The first great Sr. moment for him was getting his Sr. jacket.  Last year the class together designed both a formal jacket and informal sweatshirt to go with their uniforms.  They don't have to wear the same stuffy (although I think they are classy) jackets that the rest of the underclassmen wear.  They are now set apart as distinct and special.  The jacket is awesome.  Think classy varsity jacket with a sporty twist.  It's something he'll take on to college with him.  The sweatshirt is just as cool.  Every class members name is printed on the inside of the hood - in a cool trendy sort of way.
When he got home he announced that there was a "Last First Day Party" that had been scheduled for that night.  I'm sure one of the girls did that, there are a couple in the class who have a complete handle on social planning.  Then he threw in that it was going to be on a Chiva bus.
Chiva busses are a traditional bus from rural Colombia.  Painted bright colors - often in red, yellow and blue of the flag, with local art decorating the outside they have a flair of culture about them.  Modern busses have replaced many of the local busses so they have been brought to the city and been repurposed into "party busses".
Typically seen overstuffed with people, glowing with wild lights, music blaring from the widows, bouncing and swaying down the street as passengers dance into the night because all chairs have been removed.  Basically it's a disco hall and bar on wheels.
I am not naive as to what goes on during the parties on these busses or anywhere else in this city for that matter.  Colombian kids drink and do drugs.  Some of the kids in Damon's class really know how to put down the alcohol.  More scary yet is that they have know idea what the limits are and the fire they are playing with.  So how do you handle that as a parent in this world, this culture, today?
Well, we decided to let him go.  We have talked with him several times about these situations.  How to handle them, how to not succumb to peer pressure, how to say no and when to get out of there and run as fast as you can.  It's tough letting your kid walk into the lion's den.  We worry as all parents do.  But I think about situations I ran into with parties and alcohol in high school.  I never had a drink, never took a smoke but I watched my friends puke on other friends front lawns.  I saw kids get wasted and knew I wanted no part of that sort of life.  Yet when they were sober we had a great time together at work and they respected me for my choice.  Those parties in high school when I lived in the safety of home where I could simply go at any time prepared me for the reality of living in a dorm at a major university without my parents there to protect me.  It kept me away from parties I should not be at and gave me insight into dorm neighbors who came back too drunk to find their own beds.  It built in me a compassion that helped me pull all-nighters with dorm friends making sure they made it through the night because their stupid behavior could kill them.
But I'm off trail here.  We said yes he could go to the party with strict instructions to get off the bus and give us a call if any drugs began.  The party ended at a very reasonable hour (it was a school night after all) and he found himself with his group of friends at McDonalds finishing the night off with a packet of fries.  Exactly the way all my Sr. year hang-out nights ended.  He had a great time and everyone in the class was there.
I'm glad his Sr. year is off to a great start.

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