Who’s Gonna Drive you Home, Part I: Prom


teen-prom-stats

As I write this, my oldest child, an adult in the legal sense now at 18, is safely away at her summer job as a counselor at an overnight camp.

She will not be behind the wheel of a car, or maybe will hardly even be in a car, for the next 8 weeks. And the weeks of the summer, according to the American Automobile Association, are the deadliest for teenagers.

This is the tale of me, a mom, who went against the grain and put her foot down because she did not want her daughter or her friends to become another summer statistic.

Late to the game in the car-crazed culture of the Metro Detroit Area, my daughter got her license nearly a good two years after most teens get theirs.

I was completely fine with that. Even though sometimes I could feel my very bottom turning to mush at the amount of time I spent behind the wheel picking up and driving her to and from sports and band rehearsals.

So, come prom time, my daugher assured me that when it came to transportation to and from the prom, she and her friends – all sweet, all good and smart, and all drivers – “had this” in terms of the driving.

“Had this?” What did “Had this” mean? Was there a known limo vendor the school works with to get kids to the prom destination – which was a Downtown Detroit nightclub?  Had the school chartered some luxury busses to whisk them to and from the night of their lives? Was it included in the price of the ticket?

No. Turns out, they planned to drive themselves to prom.

Now, maybe it was the fact that I grew up in New York City, where everything is different, but no one drove themselves to prom. There was just too much risk of someone getting into an alcohol-related accident.

Plus, who among us in working-class Staten Island had their license, plus their own car, by Senior Year, let alone sophomore year? I didn’t.

It was just too easy to take the bus or the train or bum a ride from the one or two friends who had a car. (Thanks for the many rides, old friends, and you know who you are!)

And when it came to prom, it was a sure thing you were going in a limo.

Because the prom wasn’t really about being at the prom, it was about that limo. Should it be black? White? Stretch? And how many couples can we squeeze in to make it as cheap as possible?

Because the prom part of prom was not the main event. It was leaving the cheesy banquet hall of the Sheraton in Jersey, piling into the limo, which you had saved up for for about a year with your after school job or selling candy bars, and heading into New York City. To the nightclubs. And the carriage ride in Central Park.

Pity to the teens who do not grow up in the Metro area who don’t get a NYC prom.

But back to the present, in Metro Detroit.

Like many of you who have been following my blog know, I am a transplant to Metro Detroit by only two years. So, in the social circles of the high school parents, I am a complete outsider. Nope, I didn’t grow up here or go to high school here, and I didn’t move here when my kids were babies. So contact with parents for me has been all but minimal.

So  when my daughter, working so hard to fit in and not make waves and play it cool, told me that she could not ask her loosely formed group of about 22 kids all planning to leave for prom from the same house to spend ANOTHER PENNY on prom, I didn’t push it. After all, I was not familiar with many of these kids’ parents, and didn’t want to impose my views of getting a limo.

I tried to play it cool. These were good kids. Smart kids. Kids who were going to attend some of the country’s best colleges in the fall.

I was actually starting to come around to this plan when I asked the son of a friend of mine, who had already gone to his prom, how his big night was.

“Oh, it was interesting.”

Interesting? How so?

“A friend of the family offered to do us a favor and drove us to prom,” he calmly told me. “He seemed a bit out of it when he picked us up, but no one said anything. He was on his cell phone the whole drive. We got in an accident on the way to prom. We made it there alright, but we had an adult drive us and HE got in an accident.”

No Shit?!

So there you go. Is that ironic or what? So they had an adult drive them and even then they got in an accident. So who’s to say they wouldn’t be safer driving themselves.

Then again….

It would be dark when they were coming home.

And they’d be wired and tired from a night of dancing.

And excited and way distracted.

And they’d  be driving at night on unfamiliar streets and highways.

And not to mention those statistics.

So, I put my foot down. From my trusty high school directory, I looked up phone numbers and emails and expressed my plea to keep our kids safe and fork out the cash to find a driver. It didn’t have to be a fancy limo. It could be car service or an airport towncar.

I got mixed surprised responses. Each parent said they would be okay with the kids driving themselves, yet no parent said they wanted their kid to be responsible for driving.

Some parents balked at the extra expense.

Some parents got eye rolls from their children at the thought of hiring a driver.

Let ’em roll, I say. Roll the eyes at me all you want. I’ve been eyerolled. I can take it.

Another parent said they were greatly relieved that another parent had the guts to take the initiative to find a professional driver.

Prom night:

All 22 people in the prom party and their parents, were invited to a pre-prom party at the home of one of the kids. Luxury cars parked in the driveway. Original art hung on the walls. I did so appreciate the catered hors D’oeuvres and wheatgrass apple ginger shots and mini smoothies served with wedges of lime. But I could not see how these same families could not spend “another penny” on hiring drivers for peace of mind, according to my daughter.

As the pre-party went on, the parents who were in on our car, settled up.

Then another parent approached me. Her son was not a senior but an underclassman from another school, the guest of a senior. She only found out that there indeed WERE no limos, and her son would be driven to prom by a kid unknown to her. She was a wreck.

“There’s room in my daughter’s car for one more couple…” I just put it out there. She said she would gladly pay – as well as the date of the other girl’s mom. They nearly kissed my hand in gratitude.

In the end, all the kids, driven or not driven by a professional driver, all got to and from prom safe and sound.  They all looked fabulous and had a wonderful time. There was no drinking going on at the actual prom. Yet still, there was plenty of texting and chatting as the night wore on of how much drinking was going on at all the “after prom” parties. It’s a good thing most of these parties were sleepovers.

So, in the end, and keep this in mind for next year if you’ve got a rising senior – when your independence-seeking have-it-all-together-teen says “they are handling” transportation for prom, don’t let them handle it.

Step up. Be an intrusive parent. Butt in. Make calls. Hire a driver. And savor that peace of mind.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a public relations professional and reporter -- and always thought I would live in the New York Metro area - before my husband took a job in Rochester, New York. Most in Metro New York can't find Rochester on a map,and neither could I before we moved. I am now a columnist and a freelance writer for Rochester's only daily newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle. I also am passionate about gardening, fitness and most of all, Jewish education and Israel Advocacy. Here's my perspective on Western New York living - the good, the bad, and the snowy.

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