Sometimes a Savage World: Letting Teens Go






Have I told my daughter enough? Even though we’ve had open conversations about sexuality – and about drug and alcohol abuse – since she was about seven, and even though she’s eighteen now, I sometimes wonder how prepared she is, really, to avoid rape, especially date rape. Even though she seems savvy and street smart, will her level of awareness and caution be enough to keep her safe on the large college campus where she’s now a freshman?

Yes, in addition to our conversations, she learned plenty in school programs as well as in a sexuality education program through our local Unitarian Church called Our Whole Lives or “Owl.”  And she formed what seems to be a healthy perspective in junior high and high school – while exposed to plenty of drug and alcohol abuse and stories of sexual abuse. But have I said enough about my concerns, as a parent? And if she has to deal with date rape, or assault by a stranger, or something worse, have I taught her enough about resilience — about “riding the river” of her life with strength and empowerment?

In late August, during the last four days before she took off, we had only quick snatches of time together, for the most part – in the kitchen, or upstairs while she was packing. I tried to think: Could I subtly weave a few more suggestions, some last bits of wisdom, into our conversations without it seeming like advice? And without it insulting her legal adulthood? What had I not thought of?

Then I finally started to get it that it’s impossible to be sure I’ve covered it all. Two days before she left, we had lunch out together and shopped for a couple things she needed for school. We talked and laughed, and once or twice I tried to slip something important into my words – but made a point to stop before I thought her eyes might glaze over.

I knew we’d be able to text each other, and sometimes talk on the phone, but for the most part I‘d have to stay backed off – let her become more empowered to make her own choices. This is one of the ways that I, myself, have to “ride the river.” The truth is, whether we’ve talked enough together or not, and whether she’s taking enough of it seriously now or not, in the end – the day we moved her into her dorm, gave her hugs and drove away – I really had to just let her go.

One thought on “Sometimes a Savage World: Letting Teens Go

  1. Katharine, this speaks to me as a parent at the moment of launching a child. It seems at least as difficult as running after a toddler… wondering if you prepared them well enough! It’s an anxiety that won’t be easily reasoned away because there’s so much ground to cover! Honestly, we all miss SOME piece of advice that they’ll have to make up for themselves!

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