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When The Kids Turn Independent

"Once they're eight or nine, the ball is rolling down the hill. You'd better have taught them well by then," said colleague Chet in a conversation recently about teens and beach week. Chet is a father to four, including one son who decided not to go to beach week and another who can't wait till it's his turn to go.

For those of you unfamiliar to beach week, it's the annual rite of passage for high school graduates in the D.C. region and it's in full swing for many area former high schoolers. Best I can tell, beach week is a bit like spring break used to be in Florida (my home state): lots of kids partying, staying up all hours, taking full advantage of a week without parents.

Earlier this month, a blogging colleague, Tammi Marcoullier, wrote about battles over beach week in Loudoun County. At odds were two families: one who rented a house in the Outer Banks for teens and one who reported the situation to the rental company.

In the comments to that blog, some parents said that they simply don't trust their high school graduates enough to let them attend unsupervised trips such as beach week. So, does this mean these parents are saying they didn't do their job in raising their kids? Or are parents really saying that they fear what will happen to teens if Mom and Dad can't control the kids' environments at all times?

According to Tim Chesnutt of the Loudoun Youth Initiative: "A parent's job is to get their children ready to be independent so that they can go out into the world and function on their own, knowing how to make the right choices. The entire point, the 'job' of adolescence is for kids to develop competency, to spread their wings so they can become independent."

What do you think of beach week? And at what age do you see the waves pushing your kids toward independence and away from you?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 20, 2007; 6:45 AM ET  | Category:  Teens
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Posted by: momofthree | June 20, 2007 7:05 AM | Report abuse

I went to beach week many moons ago. 5 of us in a small OC condo. I was was everyone else so we could rent the place on our own. Did not matter what "adults" thought. By the time your kid graduates high school, you have to trust that you taught them right from wrong and that they listened! Every kids needs an opportunity to make mistakes and to make thr right decisions. Just hope that the good ones are better than the bad ones!

I think beach week is fun and is not a problem.

Posted by: HappyDad | June 20, 2007 7:44 AM | Report abuse

My initial reaction was "it depends on the kid" but that could be problematic if you've got one responsible child and one wild child, or something along those lines. Letting a child be independent can be terrifying, but it's a necessary part of growing up. If you haven't instilled good values in your kid(s) by age 18, you've missed the boat. My sisters and I were not allowed to go to Myrtle Beach for Spring Break senior year (as many did in our classes), but we survived. I really didn't care much at the time and still don't. My one sister, though, is still bitter about not being allowed to go. She was the only one among her friends who couldn't.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 20, 2007 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Of course parents must be able to trust their high school graduates at beach week! What on earth do they think will happen when the kid moves away to college?

Here is the nub of the issue: Assuming a standard emotional/social developmental trajectory, parents must start giving their kids control over their own personal movements and choices when they're young. That way power can be ceded slowly and appropriately. By the time the "kids" are 16, 17, 18 years old, they should make their own choices. Since they're probably still living at home, they must interact with the family in a respectful, appropriate way. But parents informing their high school graduates that they are not "allowed" to go to beach week only suggests that the parents are too controlling, nothing else. (Parents saying they're not willing to PAY for a trip to beach week is an entirely different issue, and a position that parents are perfectly welcome to take.)

Karen Rayne, Ph.D.

Posted by: Karen Rayne | June 20, 2007 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I didn't go to Beach Week when I graduated ten years ago but some of my younger siblings did. My parents would take each sibling and five of their friends. The friends could come on the condition that each signed a contract - no drugs, no drinking, no smoking inside the house, no members of the opposite sex spending the night, no staying out past curfew. If any of those conditions weren't met, the offender's parents were called and had to come get them. My parents have now done that for three of their kids and have had no problems from their children or the other houseguests.

Posted by: Colesville, Md. | June 20, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

My experience at beach week was pretty benign. We were 16 and 17, we paid some dudes to buy us beer, we went to the grocery store and learned to cook. It was like a campout. The lady we rented from thanked us for not trashing the place. one guy met a girl and you know what happened, but other than that none of us met women and we all just had fun. Other of our friends tried cocaine, marijuana, pills and got dead drunk. We watched MTV all night and still loved it. I don't know if we were especially good kids, but that was my beach week.

Posted by: DCer | June 20, 2007 7:58 AM | Report abuse

This is a tough question. On the one hand, I'm fully in favor of giving kids a lot of independence. On the other hand, the thought of sending a high schooler to the beach with hundreds of other kids who are doing god-knows-what gives me the heebie jeebies.

I think it's the context that bothers me -- if DD wanted to go to Disney World with a bunch of friends, I'd probably say ok. But we've all seen spring break footage on MTV, and I don't want my kid participating at a young age. She can wait a year or two.

Posted by: NewSAHM | June 20, 2007 8:08 AM | Report abuse

There wasn't a 'beach week' when I was in high school, but I and several of my friends drove down to Six Flags over Georgia for an unsupervised "Seniors Night". We drove down there with a carload of girls we knew from HS following us, and spent the entire 24 hours just walking, riding and hanging out.

Driving back, though, everyone stopped at a rest area and broke out the vodka and orange juice. Fortunately for all of us the two drivers didn't partake very much, but my dad knew and trusted me enough to let me do this, even though there was alcohol, pot and willing women all over the place that night.

Posted by: John L | June 20, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

My reaction to my daughter's request to go on beach week was simple. She's going off to college in 3 months where she will be 1000 miles from home and totally on her own. Denying beach week only delays any bad behavior by 3 months (as Dr. Rayne says). I also knew the friends involved and they are all responsible kids. They had a contract they all signed and the result was a good week. No one at their house got drunk, they left the place cleaner than when they got there and there was only 1 mild sunburn among them. I don't know what I would have done if these had been wild kids though.

Posted by: Proud Mom | June 20, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

First off, it would be illegal for these 18 yos to be "partying" with alcohol, which I'm sure they do.
Trust comes with time--how much have these kids actually earned the trust of their parents? Have they been away from adult supervision prior to this week? How did that go? Did the kids work for the money to pay for this beach house? Is the rental in the kids name, and are the kids solely responsible for any damage? Do the parents know the other kids who will be there? Are those kids worthy of trust? And is a 17 yo capable of handling any emergencies or ugly situations without an older person to fall back on? I believe in letting kids make mistakes, but the role of a parent is to guide them through those, and to ensure those mistakes aren't fatal or devastating. I wonder how many kids end up drunk and drown, or get raped, or otherwise are put into frightening positions.
I think a parent who knows their kid well enough to know that this level of freedom may not be healthy is a good parent, one who cares for and is looking after their child. Freedom is one thing, but if these kids are so ready to be acting as a full adult, then they need to get a job and move out and live the life of a full adult. Otherwise, since they live at home, expect the parents to help pay for college and probably want the parents to help fund this trip, they need to listen to their parents, and their parents need to make the best decisions for them that they can.
Parents who say "NO" to beach week are not saying that they haven't raised their child well--they are saying that they haven't finished raising their child, that raising a child doesn't just end at a child's 16th or 17th birthday.
Another thought: any kid who gives in to the peer pressure that says that beach week is a necessary rite-of-passage obviously isn't mature enough to make his or her own decisions--otherwise they wouldn't be giving in to peer pressure to begin with. There are probably a few kids who are actually thinking like an adult, and just want to plan a trip to spend some time with their friends, but I'm betting they are a minority.
Just my opinion.

Posted by: eve | June 20, 2007 8:19 AM | Report abuse

I woke up today and my son was a 16 y.o. rising junior in high school. Last night, I could have sworn he was my precious 7 y.o., who still liked to cuddle. I feel like I'm running out of time, to tell him and teach him what he needs to know. My mantra with him is choices--that you conciously make choices all the time and try to be aware the consequences. My prayer is that he will become an independent adult that will make his living honestly in this world and be able to give more than he has been given. Amen.

Posted by: dee dee walker | June 20, 2007 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Proud Mom is right about one thing, once they go to college, you have no control. Beach week is just an early touch of college life.

The problem, as I see it, is that children have their lives so scripted and controled up through high school, that given some freedom, they take it all. Not all kids, and its nice to see some tame beach week stories. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that most beach week stories are highly exagerated to "impress" friends. But, I have seen a great number of college freshman who, away from home with no rules for the first time, go wild. The first few weeks of fall semester, the freshman show up at parties, drink far more than they should, throw up, and are carried back to dorms by older folks. Some could say its a right of passage, that those who make it through freshman year sober enough to not fail out have learned something. But I don't think I agree. I just see these kids, away from home, away from their parents perfectly script, and they drink themselves to oblivion. Trust your kids all you want, but its going to happen to some of them. Kids from TJ and kids who bearly made it in to college, some of them will spend fall semester puking out behind the dorms. Do you want that to start now?

p.s. I'm not a researcher or anything, just spend 4 fall semesters watching the freshman show up at the frat house.

Posted by: RT | June 20, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Well, when I graduated from high school (which was in the Dark Ages) the legal age to drink was still 18. Which is the age I think it should be changed back to. If you're old enough to vote and fight for your country you're old enough to drink. Period.

That said now that my daughter is 11 I try to give her as much freedom as possible with her still knowing that I've got my eyes on her at all times too. Yes, kids do stupid things during Beach Week and maybe the collective crowd isn't good but still...

Posted by: librarianmom | June 20, 2007 8:46 AM | Report abuse

There's always a fine line between allowing and not allowing a child independence. When I was 16, I had the opportunity to live by myself at our beach house in Myrtle Beach (which is where I write to you today on a mini-vacation myself), for the entire summer. I got a job, made my own food, did laundry, cleaned the house, etc. I thought it was just as much for my benefit as it would be for my parents, who, a few years later, had to turn me over to the out-of-state university of my choice. I think that it's great if you have that chance, but it wasn't like I was partying all night; in fact, most of my friends I invited down couldn't come because their parents didn't want them to!

But I think that when I have kids I would want to give them more responsiblity earlier in their lives, and that would teach them more independence. So when they want to go to beach week, proper rules would be set up, guidelines met (such as academic or chipping in half the costs), so everything runs smoothly. That way, as a parent I would have enough trust in this child of mine.

My parents always responded when I couldn't do something, it's not that we don't trust you, it's that we dont trust everyone else - that's great, except that if you follow that idea all your life, you wont get to really experience life! I wish I got the chance to make some more mistakes, because you never know what's going to happen - you can't let fear run your life.

Posted by: college grad | June 20, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I think the Loudoun example provides a contrast of parenting styles. In the (entirely conjectural) worst circumstances, you have the permissive parent sending the kids off to the beach on one hand and the authoritarian parent calling the landlord on the other to stay in control. The issues here are obvious. The permissive parent trusts their child to do the right thing, though they may not have taught them what that right thing is. The authoritarian parent does not trust the child, so they cannot function independantly when the time comes.

Honestly, from what I've seen, the "waves" start with puberty. You still have a window of a few years before a child stops listening to you, but it's probably a good idea to start early.

Posted by: David S | June 20, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

"So, does this mean these parents are saying they didn't do their job in raising their kids? Or are parents really saying that they fear what will happen to teens if Mom and Dad can't control the kids' environments at all times?"

Or does it mean that a beach week unsupervised with no responsibilities is different from going to college. In college there is some structure--going to classes and such. There is some supervision--a resident advisor for those living in the dorms, professors and instructors who provide some accountability if students don't meet certain expectations.

There is more to this question than the black and white choices Stacey provides, and the dire consequences some posters posit (about students who aren't allowed to go to beach week) are not inevitable. I didn't go to beach week; when I went to college, I didn't go wild. In fact, my parents had instilled in me their values, which over time I made my own (with minor modifications). I'm not saying that going to beach week would have destroyed that. In fact, chances are, I would have handled it in much the same way DCer did, although at that age I didn't like beer or wine.

I never asked my parents about going/not going to beach week. I would guess they would have told me that while they trusted me, they weren't sure of the situation, and the other people. I'm not there yet with my own kids, but I'm not buying the idea that if you don't want to send your child to beach week it means you haven't raised them right or that you can't let go.

Posted by: single mother by choice | June 20, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Oldest DD graduated from high school this May and went to the beach with a group of 8 for a week. We had long talks with her about what *we* considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior; and what *she* considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior. They synched up very well. We told her that we were concerned about sex, drugs, and alcohol, and reminded her that some choices you make can impact the rest of your life. We pointed out that she's 18 and some of the other girls were 17, so if there was a problem, even though they're all under the legal drinking age we suspected that she might be shown less consideration than others.

And we let her go. The kids paid for everything themselves; we didn't let DD take our car. But we let her go. She's 18; she's off to college in August. It's time.

As far as we know, comparing stories with other parents, it went fairly well. There was no sex in the house as far as anybody knows. We suspect that there was some drinking, but nobody got drunk or drove under the influence. We're not aware of any narcotics.

(The house next door had four teenage boys from PA; Daddy paid for the whole week and apparently supplied enough liquor to float the Titanic. Two of the boys apparently got arrested for shooting fireworks on the beach. They all spent most of the week drunk and/or hungover. The girls couldn't stop laughing about the "idiots next door.")

Posted by: Army Brat | June 20, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I think that there is a LITTLE bit of a difference between Beach Week and college parties. At Beach Week kids are surrounded by their HS friends and might be less willing to do dangerous/stupid things for fear of embarrassing themselves in front of people they have known for so long.

I wasn't allowed to go because I was a girl and my brother was allowed. I have 2 preschool boys now. I wonder what my decision will be in 13 years.

Posted by: Burke Mom | June 20, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

When I was growing up, it seemed to me that friends whose parents were strict were the ones getting into the most trouble - shop lifting, ditching church on Sundays, engaging in promiscuous behaviors and drinking alcohol in middle school. They resorted to lying and sneaking behind their parent's backs. My mom had too many kids to keep close watch on us and we had to police ourselves (and did engage in typical teenager behaviors). My experience with my own children (18 and 12) is to give them freedom of choice while giving them plenty of advice and my opinions. As a result, I find that they use their own "comon sense" and are not particularly drawn to those activities that put them in physical danger. Maybe I'm just lucky but I'm not worried that my kids will make a bad decision and if they do, will learn pretty fast. I'm more worried about global warming, the senseless wars here and abroad and how the young people are going to cope.

Posted by: alli | June 20, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Beach week was a disaster for one of my kids...too much freedom, wrong choices. Suugested alternate weekends for my other two, which they both planned with friends and enjoyed. A trip to NYC and a week in a mountain cabin. OC Beach Week is brain-dead, mindless, a herd mentality. "Enjoy" if you think it's a positive experience for your kids.

Posted by: Severna Park | June 20, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I went to beach week 8 years ago with a pretty large group of kids, boys and girls (I think 10 or so). We were all responsible 17/18 year olds who didn't get in trouble at school, were in honors classes and were going to some of the top colleges in the nation in the fall. We partied like crazy. I had my first gin and tonic and my first tequila shot. Some kids (gasp!) smoked cigarettes. But because we were too young to go to bars, we stayed at our house and grilled and drank and just hung out. There was no driving and certainly no drugs. So while we all drank too much I'm sure, it was nothing worse than what we would be doing regularly on weekends in a few months. If you can't trust your kid to go to beach week, how can you send them to college? The kids I know who got in trouble at beach week were the ones who partied all the time right under their parent's noses the fact that they got evicted from their rental wasn't really a shocker to any of us.

The one rule my mother made was we couldn't go to Ocean City, Dewey or Rehoboth because she smartly sensed that's where a) a lot of the partiers at our high school were going and b) with them around we might have gotten in trouble. So we went down to Myrtle and met new people to party with...though no one was as fun as your best friends who you want to enjoy before you all go to college.

Posted by: beach week | June 20, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I graduated from a Fairfax County high school in the mid 90s. Beach week was very popular and considered a right of passage. I never went. I don't think my parents would have let me if I asked, but I didn't want to go. The only thing that took place at beach week was drinking and hooking up. I wasn't interested in that. I was one of those really good kids, involved in every activity (student govt, cheerleading, yearbook, etc.) A lot of my friends went to beach week and got drunk every night. These are the same kids whose parents let them throw parties at their homes with alcohol "as long as no one drives." Basically at these parties, (held in the basement) kids got drunk, hooked up, sometimes someone brought pot, and the parents were upstairs the whole time, either unaware or not caring. I was glad my parents weren't like that. My mom was still my best friend, but you don't need to let your kid drink and god knows what else for them to like you. I don't think I will let my kids go to beach week (one is 2 and the other is in utero...) We'll see if it's still around then. I'm sure it will be.

Posted by: Emmy | June 20, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I went to OC for beach week about 11 years ago.
It was fine. Sure, we drank and I even got a citation for an open container, but it wasn't a big deal. Those who were partiers during high school were the partiers- those who weren't, didn't. There isn't some switch in personality just because it's beach week.
The good kids stay that way, the "bad" stay that way as well.
If you trust your child enough to go to college (THAT'S where personality changes- not in a 1 week vacation), then who cares about the beach?

I personally didn't enjoy it- as I have never liked just sitting on a beach getting fried and being stupid drunk.

I would have much preferred a trip to Europe or something.

So that's what I plan on proposing to my daughter when the time comes.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

The whole purpose of beach week is to go wild.

This is not the optimum situation for a first experience with independence.

The first weeks of college are a far different situation from beach week. At college, there actually are some authority figures who can be called upon if a really disastrous situation develops (such as someone drinking to the point where that kid could die of alcohol poisoning). At beach week, kids are totally on their own.

Also, at college, if a bad situation is developing, it is possible to leave the situation as soon as you become uncomfortable (unless you have been so foolish as to allow the party to take place in your own dorm room, at great risk to your personal possessions). At beach week, it is not usually possible to leave. The party is in the house where you're staying. Where can you go?

Neither of my kids (21 and 17) went to beach week. The first one never mentioned the possibility. The second was invited to join a group but declined because of her own discomfort with the situation. #1 went to college and everything was fine. I have no doubt that when #2 goes off to college in a couple of months, it will go just as smoothly.

Posted by: Kathy | June 20, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

It never even crossed our minds to send our boys off to beach week when they graduated from high school in the 1990's. They never asked or mentioned it either.

I think it is just certain social sets of kids/parents who do the beach week thing. Many parents cannot afford it and many kids are still too immature to handle the pressures. (Also true for about half of college freshman, BTW! College is just too expensive to be treated like a non-stop party.)

Still, beach week can be fun and I probably would have loved it when I was 17. I would also have been a little afraid despite being a big city girl. I did have a fun, though chaperoned, senior trip where we were given free time(unchaperoned) in the evenings to explore and shop in a different city on our own. But then, for our safety, we had a bed-check at 11PM each night. All good.

How do past "kids" feel about the worth of beach week?

Posted by: boomerette | June 20, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I always thought that Natalee Holloway's trip to Aruba was a "beach week" of sorts. Those parents thought they were smart since 18 is the legal drinking age there. I wonder if they had it to do over again, would they let their kids go?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"So, does this mean these parents are saying they didn't do their job in raising their kids? Or are parents really saying that they fear what will happen to teens if Mom and Dad can't control the kids' environments at all times?"

I agree with single mother by choice - those definitely aren't the only two options at work. It could be that Mom and Dad don't need to control kids' environments at all times, and they reasonably trust their kids, but they still understand that groups of teenagers in unsupervised households - particularly in environments where it can reasonably be expected drinking and bad behavior may be happening all around - are not good things in high school. Your kid may be smart and reasonably sensible, but I still think responsible parents shouldn't send their kids out for weeklong parties in beach towns like this. College is different.

Posted by: KAL | June 20, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Boomerette: "How do past "kids" feel about the worth of beach week?"

I had no personal experience with it; I reported to work at a plumbing supply company the morning after high school graduation. (Since I was paying my own way through college, that summer was dedicated to earning as much money as possible.)

DW claims not to have gone, as well. Apparently none of her friends were interested at the time.

With respect to the comments above about the first weeks of college being different from "beach week", in some ways that's true. However, I recall that the first weeks of college were non-stop partying with minimal "orientation" sessions. (Both as an undergrad and a grad student I was asked to report to campus over a week before classes started for "orientation". In both cases these served largely as an excuse to get to know a new crowd of people who were mostly interested in binge drinking and "hooking up" as the kids call it these days.)

Re: the comment about drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning above: that happens on college campuses, particularly in cases of fraternities and sororities, far more than it is reported to happen on "beach weeks". Who knows; maybe it's just the way things are reported, but college crowds often have significant peer pressure to stay at the party, continue to drink and engage in other behaviors. Yes, even though the student usually can leave the party if he/she feels uncomfortable, many students don't because of the peer pressure.

(I was an undergrad in Louisiana when the drinking age was 18. It was considered a tradition and a rite of passage to get so drunk that your buddies would wheel you back to campus in a shopping cart "borrowed" from a grocery store. I was never in the cart, but I had to help push a number of them back.)

Posted by: Army Brat | June 20, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

They're 18, they're about to go to College (many of them at least). I don't see a problem with them going to the beach on their own. It seems like a good idea to give them the opportunity to be on their own, independent, with kids the same age. That way you might get some inkling of how they will conduct themselves when they get to college. Wouldn't you rather know now, when they still live at home, then when they are far away in college, and you are limited in your ability to watch over them?

In seems bizarre to me that we trust 18 year olds to wield an automatic rifle in Iraq, but we wouldn't trust them to go to the beach with their friends. These folks are considered adults in the eye of the law (except they can't drink, which I disagree with, but it is the law). And they ought to be treated as such. And yes, they will screw up occaisionally, but they will learn from their mistakes. You got to teach them to be responsible, and to understand that when they are 18, they have the capacity to ruin theirs and others lives (e.g, driving drunk, killing someone in a motor vehicle accident, drinking themselves to death). But you can't shield them from these risks forever. And the summer after they graduate seems like a good time to find out how well you've done as a parent.

Posted by: Cliff | June 20, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

The comparison of Beach Week to university is ridiculous. First, there are responsibilities in college that must be met (or at least they must be met in my house). There are no such responsibilities during Beach Week to temper the partying. Second, I balk at the idea that I should fund my kids partying for a week, in high school or in college. I do not "owe" my children unsupervised vacations after they graduate from high school, or during spring break in college. If my kids can pay their rental share, pay for their food, and pay for their transportation, maybe, just maybe, they are mature enough to handle beach week. But I am amazed that any parent would subsidize this activity. I am from Ohio, and went to school out here. I didn't notice that the East Coast Beach Week Alums handled university in a markedly more mature way than those of us from the Midwest whose minds boggled at the idea of our parents sanctioning a week long Bacchanal.

Posted by: Not Native East Coast | June 20, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Hmm. Seems like parents of boys and parents of girls are behaving quite differently here, no?

Why are boys sent off to beach week with trunkfull of liquor and a "wink wink nudge nudge", while girls are forbidden to attend?

Posted by: Bob | June 20, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

My daughter, who just graduated from high school, did not want to do Beach Week. Instead, she planned and saved money for over a year to take a trip to Europe with her best friend. They left this morning and will be back in a little over two weeks.

I'll miss my daughter a lot -- and yes, I'll also worry at least a little (probably more than a little). But I'm so proud that she has the confidence to literally forge her own path, not to mention work toward and achieve an important goal. Her dad and I think those qualities will serve her well in college and beyond.

Posted by: Traveler's Mom | June 20, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

From earlier post: "we stayed at our house and grilled and drank and just hung out. There was no driving and certainly no drugs."

Newsflash: Alcohol is a drug, the most frequently abused and hence most destructive in the U.S. This "we were just drinking" double standard only helps to encourage binge drinking among young people who see it as safe/no big deal whether it is in college or during Beach Week.

Posted by: gary | June 20, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Another thought: any kid who gives in to the peer pressure that says that beach week is a necessary rite-of-passage obviously isn't mature enough to make his or her own decisions--otherwise they wouldn't be giving in to peer pressure to begin with.

OH PLEASE! Since when is a fun vacation considered "peer pressure." Kids want fun vacations, that's not pressure, that's the definition of what fun is. Do you feel pressured to enjoy a vacation?

Posted by: DCer | June 20, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Wow...there are some naive folks out there (including Not Native EC). As a graduate of the University of Virginia (with honors), I certainly did my fair share of hard work (and my fair share to get in to "The University" in the first place). However, to think that college classes & "responsibilities" even mildly thwart serious, excessive, and at-times hospital bound partying among 17 to 22 year-olds borders on delusional. I was 17 when I went to college and 17 when my parents broke from their traditionally strict rules to allow, and fund, my beach week experience.

Would I have been eternally bitter had they not allowed me, naw. Disappointed? Most certainly. Would I have missed out on a memorable bonding experience with my dearest friends with whom I'd grown and learned and spread my wings? Absolutely. At beach week in the 1990s, my friends and I did what we continued to do throughout college -- everybody drank excessively, some people wished to hook up and didn't, some people wished to hook up and did, some people hooked up and wished they hadn't...this pattern seemed to follow many of my peers and me well into our mid-twenties (and now that we're in our early 30s some people are still stuck here)
despite varying degrees of responsibilities.

Take off your rose colored glasses folks. Teenagers experiment and whether you want to pretend it's happening or not, they will. Whether it's illegal or not, they will. Whether they could get hurt or not, they will. Teach your children well, let them go when it's time, pray, and thank God you made it through all the stupid, illegal, risky things you did (and if you didn't, well maybe it's high time you added a tiny dose of risk to your boring, rose-colored world.)

Posted by: Not Naive | June 20, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Newsflash: Alcohol is a drug
Newsflash: The English language and US culture calls it a drink and separates it from illegal drugs

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 10:57 AM | Report abuse

You're Not Naive, but you are (mis)using your "lack of naivete" to sanction the unsanctionable. There is a difference between realizing that people experiment and booking them the house, loaning them the car, handing them the drinking money, and sending them off the for *sole purpose* of partying. Sending your children off to college with the knowledge that there will be partying along the way sends a very different message than sending them off on vacation for a week for the sole purpose of partying.

Posted by: Not Native EC | June 20, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

For those who see Beach Week as a "rite of passage", a clarifying point. Historically rites of passage are community events celebrating a youth's move into adulthood. Typically adults are standing with the youth as the ceremony or challenge is faced. The youth is then embraced as part of the adult community.

Beach Week is a celebration. Clearly what we see here is that it is sometimes a celebration with clear planning and sometimes it is sheer indulgence. It doesn't include people who helped you get where you are. It doesn't include any recognition of what has passed. It's fun (for most) but it is not necessary to move forward, and certainly doesn't indicate that you are ready to be considered an adult (although adult-like activities -- cooking, cleaning, drinking -- may be included).

I've seen great experiences with Beach Weeks that were well planned with parents often guiding discussions and rule setting. Remember that even the safest and most responsible of kids, however, can't control the craziest, and least responsible. At Beach Week, the risk of the two encountering each other (including on the road or in a bedroom) are much higher.

Posted by: A parent and educator | June 20, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I went to beach week in 1987 and I was still a 17yo male. I didn't even have a place to stay. I bounced from hotel room to hotel room of friends. I had a blast and still have the 98 ROCK GETS THE SAND OUT OF YOUR A$$ tshirt.

Kids today are different and expect more that just a trip to the beach. I hope my daughters can go to their beach weeks but as a parent I have to trust them and believe I raised them right.

Posted by: Sterling Park | June 20, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Good lord there are a lot of uptight, over-protective people on this board. I don't doubt most of you didn't go to beach week, it sounds like you have always been sticks in the mud and it's doubtful you were invited to beach week. I went 12 years ago, had a great time and my parents paid for it all. I suppose I'm a wild, spoiled brat in most of your eyes. My parents also paid for college, a new car when I was in college, sorority dues and all expenses and somehow I managed to turn out great. I have a degree from a good school and a great job that pays well in my field. One week at the beach won't ruin your kids and if it does then you really haven't done as well as you thought in raising them. Lighten up!

Posted by: sthrngrl | June 20, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: WDC | June 20, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I graduated HS in 2001, Fairfax county, geek school, geeky kid, geeky friends. My parents were pretty laid-back about some things. I had green hair, wore odd clothes, and had friends over for large parties with dark music and rave dancing. (My parents stayed home for the parties, wandered through the whole house, made sure there was no booze and no drugs, fed us wonderfully and got to know lots of my friends. Our big secret was that we were mostly the "good kids" - you were more likely to find heavy drinkers on the varsity sports team....) I was also the oldest of 3 kids, and a girl.

I didn't do beach week. I don't think any of my close friends did either. A few acquaintances did, and a bunch of kids I didn't really know rented a house up in Maryland over Spring break. I thought it would be fun to do something like that with my friends, but I knew then that it would be absolutely verboten. Sure, I was 18. I was also still in high school, still living in my parents' house, and they still made the rules. They didn't think that sending a handful of 18-year-olds away for their first big "taste of freedom" to a week-long party with no parents around was a good idea, and frankly, I agree that it was a good call. For my group of friends it would've probably been fine, but in general - no. It's a situation just asking for out-of-control behavior.

Sure, I could have tried to push with the "I'm 18, I can do what I want" card. But when you're still in school and living (rent-free!) with your folks, they DO make the rules - and this was a reasonable rule. Even at the time I thought so. When I was a year older, had been living on my own for a year and came back for the summer, I did push harder - they sure didn't have to finance my fun, but as long as I was being respectful and safe I could do what I wanted. However, that year made a world of difference, both in what I could handle and what freedoms I reasonably expected from my folks.

I don't agree with all the rules my parents made while I was in high school. (Don't get me started on co-ed parties!) But this one - well, I'm not even a parent and the idea of sending a bunch of high-schoolers to the beach alone for a week makes me wince.

Posted by: Three of Five | June 20, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I went to beach week nearly 20 years ago. I had a blast. I paid for the whole thing with my own money that I saved. There was drinking and sex. I'm sure my mom knew that but she also felt the time had come to let me have a lot of freedom. I remember that the group of girls I was with (4 of us) made a deal that we would stick together. We went to parties together, we left together. One person stayed sober each night. No one stayed behind alone. I will talk to my kids about never leaving a friend behind in these kinds of situations. I remember that our plan kept at least one of us clear headed at all times.

I wish that I could make sure that my kids will be 100% safe for the rest of their lives. I can't so I make it my job to give them information and skills that will help them keep themselves as safe as possible as they grow older.

Posted by: Mom to 3 | June 20, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Still not sure what rock some people are living under. "Parent and educator" takes a turn on the anthropology wheel and misses. Rites of passage, particularly in a nation as young and diverse as this one, aren't quite the same as the lion-killing Maasai warriors with their elders all around. U.S. culture muddles through rites of passage and relgion, geographic location, etc play a role in defining what those rites are.

Not sure how kids today are "so different"...people have been saying this same sentence for eons and while technologies may be different -- kids and hormones and social circumstances worldwide still dictate societal norms as they have been for time and eternity.

By the way, Not Native, I wasn't "sanctioning" anything, just pointing out that your view of college responsibilities with respect to responsible behavior was a little silly.

Here's what I do sanction: talk openly with your kids about sex, drugs (not the they-fry-your-brain speech), respect, love, life...have little conversations as they grow, have big conversations at the right time (like before and after make mistakes) and be a good role model.

If you did drugs or drank too much; had sex too young or too old or with the wrong person or the right person; talk to your kids about it when they're old enough to hear it and learn from you. That's what I sanction.

Posted by: Not Naive | June 20, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

By the way, for the 2001 grad "Three of Five," you do realize that if all of your closest friends had done the beach week thing you would have a different tune, don't you?

Teens and dogs like packs...we saw that in the Breakfast Club and Napoleon Dynamite. Teens and dogs like to stick with their pack and if the pack is in the parents' basement eating Doritos or if the pack is boogie boarding in bikins, that's where teens feel happy. When parents, who aren't in the pack (and shouldn't be), do something that seperates the pack teens get sullen and sad and grumpy -- whether the pack happens to be cheerleaders or green-hairs is simply plummage.

Posted by: Not Naive | June 20, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

By the way, for the 2001 grad "Three of Five," you do realize that if all of your closest friends had done the beach week thing you would have a different tune, don't you?

Teens and dogs like packs...we saw that in the Breakfast Club and Napoleon Dynamite. Teens and dogs like to stick with their pack and if the pack is in the parents' basement eating Doritos or if the pack is boogie boarding in bikinis, that's where teens feel happy. When parents, who aren't in the pack (and shouldn't be), do something that seperates the pack, teens get sullen and sad and grumpy -- whether the pack happens to be cheerleaders or green-hairs is simply plummage.

Posted by: Not Naive | June 20, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

My initial thought was, "well, these kids will be in college in a few month -- so what's the difference?" But on reflection, I realized there IS a big difference. College is not a week-long party. There are parties, yes; kids can go overboard, yes; but freshmen also live in dorms with some older supervision, and have the daily responsibility of going to class, writing papers, managing their own schedule on their own, etc.

Beach week isn't a real taste of independence, because it comes with no responsibilities. It also comes, potentially, with hugely dangerous temptations. The gravest danger, of course, is drinking and driving. An entire week devoted to unsupervised partying, with the natural 18-year-old temptation to test limits, wouldn't be such a terrible thing -- if they couldn't potentially end up dead.

Obviously this can happen any time. And obviously parents know their own kids (or think we do), and will make a judgment based on the particular kids, their friends, etc. But the danger of what could really be a week-long drinking party, before the kid has even had a chance to "live their own life" at college (with all the responsibilities that entails) and really get an opportunity to learn to balance the almost inevitable drinking with other responsibilities, see the costs of out-of-control behavior in their own dorm, and so on, does seem like a game of Russian roulette.

Posted by: mom | June 20, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

From earlier post, "The English language and US culture calls alcohol a drink and separates it from illegal drugs"

This post made my point perfectly. I was pointing out that there is a mindset that sets alcohol apart from other "drugs".

However, if we look at the definition we see that a drug is a substance that "affects the central nervous system, causing changes in behavior." Sorry, but clearly alcohol is a drug, and for people under 21 in this country it is an "illegal drug." For good or bad, let's not be in denial.

Young people will have to determine for themselves which laws they will obey and which drugs they will use. We can't make these decisions for them.

Posted by: gary | June 20, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I was 17 when I went to college, so there would have been a whole other level of legal issues if I had gotten busted. Also, not that I personally was at risk, but I would fear for rape or drug usage MUCH more than alcohol.

My school scheduled our trip to Europe right after graduation, so there really was no time to have a "week" of anything unsupervised, and really, I think I'm glad of that. I don't think I would have done anything bad, but I could imagine bad things being done TO me by my classmates that was much less of an issue in my all-girl boarding house in college.

Posted by: Kat | June 20, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

If anyone could guarantee me that there would be no drugs, sex and alcohol involved, yes I would let my child go. But given the world that we are living now with almost everybody being overdrugged, oversexed and over everything else, I hope I raise a child who is wise enough and independent enough to refuse to go to such crap.

Posted by: Tanya | June 20, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"How do past "kids" feel about the worth of beach week?"

Past beach weeker, here. Summer of '85.
I agree with almost everything Not Naive and Mom to 3 has to say.

I went to beach week, paid my own way (never even thought to ask parents to pay), drove to OC (in the car I saved up to buy the year before)by way of DC so I could get beer (remember when you could get beer/wine at 18 in DC?), and partied by a$$ off all week.

I went with a group of friends, boys and girls, some my parents knew, other they did not.

Knowing what I know, would I let my kids go to beach week? My answer would be, sure. As long as the same conditions were met.

Is my kid responsible enough to hold down a job in HS and save enough $ to rent a house and pay for expenses?

Does my kid have transportation to get there?

Have I spoken to my to my kid about responsibility, consequences and expectations (a sense of 'my parents would kill me if this happened') for the past 17 years?

(I'm sure there are more, but this is what I can think of off the top of my head)

But, I won't kid myself into thinking that if I had them sign a contract that there won't be any drinking, sex or drugs.

If all the conditions are met, then
I will most likely sit home for 7 days, by the phone, praying that all the past teaching has done some good.

Posted by: prarie dog | June 20, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

One week of youthful indicretion can get you a criminal record for life. and if you are black, you life is over.

Posted by: Don | June 20, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

One week of youthful indiscretion can get you a criminal record for life. And if you are black, your life is over at 18 with a criminal record. Yes, my job as a parent is to protect my child.

Posted by: Don | June 20, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

According to Kat, "I would fear...drug usage MUCH more than alcohol"

See how people view alcohol as relatively harmless? Nevermind that "drug" could refer to any number of substances with a wide range of risks, alcohol is safe/okay/acceptable. This is the mindset that we carry around. Is it sensible to send your kids out into the world armed with this delusion?

Posted by: gary | June 20, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the point that partiers will be partiers and non-partiers will not suddenly go buck-wild. I was a pretty normal kid in HS in Northern VA. Didn't drink, smoke, do drugs, got good grades, etc. When my best friend rallied a bunch of us together to rent a beach shack (it's since been lost to hurricanes and erosion!) at $50 a person plus $50 for food, etc, it made sense and sounded like fun!

My parents let me go, and I don't remember there being a huge dilemma about it (although my senior year was filled with the drama of staying over late at your first serious boyfriend's house, hearing about friends getting into trouble, etc.). They trusted me. I knew it, valued their trust and appreciated it. So I went, tried a beer, tried pot once, mostly just went to the beach to swim and went to bumper boats with my friends at least 10 times in that one week. It was a wonderful weekend and I am so glad I had the chance to spend it with friends I inevitably grew apart from shortly afterwards...

Posted by: beachweekbum | June 20, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Quoting Not Naïve: "By the way, for the 2001 grad "Three of Five," you do realize that if all of your closest friends had done the beach week thing you would have a different tune, don't you? "

I probably would have been pretty bummed at the time, yeah. I hope you aren't suggesting my parents should have made a different decision just because I would have been grumpy - "will this make my child upset with me?" seems like a bad reason to change major parenting decisions. And I sure hope that in hindsight my opinion would be the same: that my parents made a reasonable decision, and one that I think was the right choice.

There are things I missed because of my parents' rules, and there are some of their decisions I disagree with. This isn't one of them.

And frankly, since I've lost just about all hope for sounding "cool" at this point - if I had saved up several hundred dollars more during HS, the expectation would have been that it go towards college. I know what I made from my summer jobs went into the college fund as it was. A few bucks here and there for music or movies - fine. Blowing a big chunk of it on a beach party when college was less than a year away - nope.

Posted by: Three of Five | June 20, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse


"One week of youthful indiscretion can get you a criminal record for life. and if you are black, your life is over."

And there are deadly STDs, unplanned pregnancies.

You can close a lot of doors in life forever by one foolish act.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

It's fairly obvious that some people posting have a clue and some people left their clue bag at home. Tanya thinks she'll raise a child independent enough to not experiment with sex and drinking or drugs in this country? Perhaps she should move to Afghanistan and get into the burka thing. That's not independence -- that's oppression. There's a big difference between raising kids armed with knowledge about life and sheilding kids from life.

In this country, it's only a privileged minority who is able to attend college. If a parent wants to keep their children home (who want to spend a week with their peers -- that they have culivated for years) a few months before being thrown into a world of thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of strangers, it just doesn't add up. Experience sudden independence with strangers or experience this sudden independence with friends...well, seems like something worth discussing.

As for "mom"...sorry, your just dead wrong about what happens in college dorms. There were plenty of "older" 21 year old supervisors at any school who take a fancy to soemone a few years their junior. As for screw-ups that change your life...take a look at the Duke lacrosse players...those innocent boys were being so responsible with their time and athletics and hiring strippers honorably, that they got slapped with some real serious stuff at a young age. At the UVA hospital on any given evening their are students who've had something pretty rotten happen to them sober, drunk, high, sleepy, in a car, on a roof, know what else, there are people of all ages in the same hospital -- there because of their own accidents, someone else's accident, their own intentional, someone else's intentional, and so forth. Raise 'em right, keep talking openly and love 'em. That's the best any parent can do.

Keep the kids from a week with friends a few months before they go away for years...that just don't make a dime of sense.

Posted by: Not Naive | June 20, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

See how people view alcohol as relatively harmless? ... Is it sensible to send your kids out into the world armed with this delusion?

how is this delusional? how is the world wrong and you right?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Gary that the toxicity of alcohol is often underestimated because it is legal (for adults). I recently read an interesting article that ranked a variety of recreational drugs on their toxicity level (and yes, they called alcohol a drug). The most toxic were those that could cause death at the lowest amount over a "normal" dose. For example, heroin was the most toxic, because it could cause death at only 5 times the normal dose. Alcohol ranked quite high at 10 times the normal dose. Interestingly, marijuana had no toxic level and has never caused any deaths (directly from taking the drug). Alcohol also ranked higher than LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.

Posted by: CJB | June 20, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

It depends, if by independent you mean they live in their own place, pay their own way, then they can go do whatever they please. But it cuts both ways, hand out for money, live at home, mom cooks and washs for you? Not independent, not going to get a green light.

Posted by: pATRICK | June 20, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

"how is this delusional? how is the world wrong and you right?"

Last time I checked, the "world" did not view alcohol as harmless. One glass of wine, one beer? Yes, probably harmless. But you cannot tell me that you honestly believe anything but binge drinking goes on at beach week. And although many people partake in binge drinking, I don't think anyone believes (if they are being completely honest) that binge drinking is harmless. Binge drinking has been shown in study after study not to be "harmless." And frankly, it's just common sense that binge drinking is harmful to your health. Duh.

Posted by: Emmy | June 20, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I didn't go to beach week. I do remember smoking pot and having lots of sex with my girlfriend when her parents went off to work. Didn't drink much alcohol, and if indeed it is a drug, it is much more dangerous than marijuana.

Posted by: Lil Husky | June 20, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Before I went to beach week nearly a decade ago, my parents drilled the idea of full independence into my head. It wasn't so much a crash course since they've been doing it for most of my life prior to beach week. They just wanted to emphasize that by granting me freedom for a week, I was accountable for everything that happened within that week, including expenses and consequences of my actions.

They didn't really focus on preaching about how bad drinking, drugs and sex are; they mostly talked about the products of those actions when abused. Suffice to say, I was too paranoid about undercover cops to drink and STDs & early pregnancy to have random sex, but kids do find other forms of diversion during beach week. With the exception of a little high school drama, I did end up having a good time without doing the stereotypical worst things parents assume their kids do during that week.

I think it was an effective method of communicating the situation and their expectations to me, given the type of kid that I was. But it also took a lot of preparation to get me to be the kid that I was at that point by my parents. Most parents who say no to beach week are typically parents who feel that their kids are ill-prepared to be in that situation, and at 16 to 19 years old, shouldn't their kids have been?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"I didn't go to beach week. I do remember smoking pot and having lots of sex with my girlfriend when her parents went off to work"

Come to think of it, I had sex with my high school boyfriend EVERY single chance we got. Without booze or drugs or a beach house.

Posted by: Lil Husky | June 20, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Awesome discussion.

Generally, yes, if you can't trust them a week alone at 18 to act fairly appropriately, then you didn't do your job as a parent.

But I'm thinking, what if we changed this to a group of 27 year olds. Would it really be much different? What about 27 or 47? I know PLENTY of people in that age group who would go buckwild and completely do stupid crap on a week free vacation- hangovers, one night stands, drugs.

It's not the age- it's the choices. I don't think any of us say that alcohol is evil, sex is evil, or even some drugs are evil. It's all about using APPROPRIATELY.

I know our society has elongated adolescence and I wouldn't call most 18 yo high school graduated a full independent adult- but being able to handle a week alone? They definitely should be able to do it.

Of course- I wonder how many Beach Week Goers would actually be able to go if it weren't funded by someone else????

And yeah, some mistakes are likely to be made, and yeah, more so likely at 18 than at 28. But they aren't doing anything that people decades older don't also do so it's not really an age issue.

Posted by: Liz D | June 20, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

There's a good point to be discerned in here somewhere that the things that happen during Beach Week, while they certainly happen to excess more frequently, happen during the span of the school year whenever possible. Sex? Please, teenagers will find a place and a way to do it. Places that would seem unbelievably uncomfortable and almost inconceivable to adults as somewhere you could have sex are A-OK with kids. The only requirement is a modicum of privacy (usually).

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"Not Naive," I'm not sure you really read my post. I did not say that nobody screws up or gets hurt in a college dorm -- just that there are more controls on the inevitable partying because of the realities of living in a dorm (including classes the next day), and that, therefore, college is a better place to push the limits and make the inevitable mistakes than a week of partying at the beach (with, presumably, the car keys handy).

I've been to college and thrown up from too much partying, I've been on spring breaks, I even had a friend who almost certainly died of AIDS because of what he did on the spring break we were all on. (He was gay, and chose to break away from the group to cruise the NYC bath houses in the early 80s. Bad timing.) So I'm not exactly clueless. Bad things can happen at college, or at an after-prom party in high school, or wherever. That's why all of us who are parents work to increase the level of responsibility we give our kids, so that they will get accustomed to making decisions and, hopefully, make good ones.

But the difference between college and Break Week is that college is not a vacation with a single purpose: partying. I think it's clear from a lot of the posts here that, for many kids, that is precisely what it is. Not all, but many.

In contrast, during Freshman Week at college -- which would otherwise be the kiddo's first week fully on their own -- a lot of kids will choose to drink too much, but they do not, then, generally have the keys to the car. And shortly afterwards, classes start ... so you learn to balance responsibility with other "interests." It's a long, slow process.

It's normal to test limits; in fact, the part of the brain involved with self-control isn't even fully mature until around 22, so testing limits is not something we could keep young people from doing even if we wanted to.

But as a parent, I wouldn't want my kid going off in a car for a multi-hour drive with a bunch of 17- and 18-year old drivers (the highest accident rate, particularly when they drive in groups), and then spending a week unsupervised at a beach (probably consuming beer, and possibly then going to the store with someone urging someone else to drive faster -- not being naive, I've been in those cars) BEFORE they've had a chance to do a bit more growing in a situation that is both independent and safer.

That's all.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Gary: I am talking about the legal implications here, as well as roofies, ecstacy, and other things that can be abused more easily because it doesn't fill up the stomach.

I know alcohol is bad. Trust me, with seven uncles in AA, I know, OK? BUT certain drugs will get a kid thrown in prison for a LOT longer than mere possession of alcohol. And while alcohol may be more toxic at extreme levels, Jewish kids are raised to know how alcohol affects them. Drugs are different and shiny, or slippable into drinks.

Posted by: Kat | June 20, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, didn't post my "name" to my comment up there.

Posted by: mom | June 20, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

After age 18, then they are no longer kids. They are adults. Then they can do what they want, and only then- without their parents supervision.

I grew up in the DC area, and the only reason for Beach Week is to party (get drunk and do drugs) and have sex. That is the only thing that kids want to "spread their wings" for. If your kids are telling you anything different, they are lying to you.

I cringe to see these people writing with such pride that they have raised their kids right, and they can be trusted unsupervised for a week out of town.

If there is a single teenager that is not partying at beach week, they will be deemed a loser or a nerd and you are crazy to think that any grand amount of parenting you do will keep your kid from doing things at beach week that are immoral and illegal.
The time for making those kinds of mistakes is after age 18.

Any parent who allows their teenager to go to beach week unsupervised in promoting underage drinking and premarital sex, and they are sending the message to these kids that this behavior is okay. period.

Posted by: Responsible Parents | June 20, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

On the college vs beach week thing-

Looking back, my first week at college was pretty much exactly a party week mixed with the hugest anxiety at trying to adapt I'd ever had.

Sure there are adults around- and while they care, they really won't care about your own life unless you mess up in front of them or get caught breaking the rules- which are very very lax for the most part.

I do find it troubling that so many seem to think that college is just a next step from high school with all the adult protections in place.

Posted by: Liz D | June 20, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Responsible Parents wrote:
Any parent who allows their teenager to go to beach week unsupervised in promoting underage drinking and premarital sex, and they are sending the message to these kids that this behavior is okay. period.
I'm ok with underage drinking as long as it's done appropriately and premarital sex as long as there is correct protection used.

Why wouldn't those things be ok?

Posted by: Liz D | June 20, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Since when are teens entitled to a week at the beach on their own, just because they graduated (or know someone who graduated) from high school, for goodness' sake? Life is going to be one rude shock after another when those entitled kids don't keep getting such "rewards" every time they pass a certain key point in life. Having a party, giving a nice gift, or providing some other expression of pride in the kid's having reached this milestone are certainly nice ways of marking this special occasion. An adult-free, booze-soaked, sex-saturated atmosphere for a weekend or a week does not seem to be necessary--at least to me, but maybe I'm just picky. Your mileage may vary (and obviously does for many on this chat).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 20, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"I'm ok with underage drinking as long as it's done appropriately and premarital sex as long as there is correct protection used."

The underage drinking will probably lead to unprotected premarital sex...

Good plan!

Posted by: Spike | June 20, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Spike said:
The underage drinking will probably lead to unprotected premarital sex...

Good plan!
No more or less than it does in any other adult- under or over age.

Posted by: Liz D | June 20, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"Mom" -- I did read your prior post and the subsequent explanatory one.

First week at UVA: girl on my hall gave guy downstairs herpes, everyone skipped 9am classes, 100s of kids landed in the UVA hospital with alcohol-related problems including my friend who fell in a bonfire and nearly burned off his arm while being burdened with the real-world responsibilities of classes and many older students around (equally drunk). These stories have been echoed by my peers who were at other schools ranging from Harvard to WVU to Christopher Newport to Glover City; college kids I taught; younger cousins; and

As far as driving goes...beach week=little driving. You get there you stay on the beach and in the house you rented because you're to young to get into bars. College, depends on the school; however, when the beer's out and the crowd's boring at John's house just hop in the car and drive on down to Joe's. You think there isn't drunk-driving in got another think coming.

I don't know what size school you went to or which schools you've visited since your own college years, but you certainly didn't visit the local hospital to see how many three-months-more mature college kids are in the ER vs their three-month younger compatriots.

Three months before college and three months into college (fall break) do not an adult make. Years of open communication should have fostered that.

As for "responsible parents"...they're so far out of touch it's hopeless. People who fear premarital sex and claim that they're the special ones who've interpreted a book (Bible, Koran, Torah, etc...take your pick) just right and think that book is telling them sex before throwing $80,000 (standard DC-area wedding) down a hole is BAD, seem to forget that the folks in those books were 12 and 13 and 14 "getting married" and dying at an old age of 33.

At my beach week, I didn't have sex or take any illegal drugs (other than illegal alcohol ...which, agreeably, is equally harmful to the body as some of your milder drugs and equally likely to get one's underage heiney in jail but not for as long as pot and definitely not for as long as anything bigger than pot). I spent most of the time swimming, boogie boarding and laughing hysterically with good friends all of whom my parents knew well...some of whom I've never seen since.

Posted by: Not Naive | June 20, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Not Naive, you persist in thinking that I somehow imagine college is some kind of paradise without drunk driving or other associated problems. I teach at a university. I think I have some kind of clue what it's like. My opinion stands.

Posted by: mom | June 20, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

You know, I didn't go to Beach Week myself--some girlfriends and I decided it wasn't our scene, so we headed to Western Maryland for a few days. But, if I had gone to OC with the same set of girls, my parents (who were pretty strict) would have allowed it if I paid for it myself. They knew me, they knew my friends and their parents. I'm sure we would have hung out with some kids who were partying a lot, but probably wouldn't have joined in much.

From what I always saw, seemed like the kids who had been drinking and having sex all through high school just did more of the same on Beach Week. The kids who weren't into that didn't suddenly change just because they were away from home. If you're already having trouble with your kid drinking, it's probably not a good idea to allow Beach Week. For other kids, it's likely to be no big deal.

And I agree with Liz D, it is really disturbing that parents out there think that colleges are supervising students. The first thing that every parent needs to know about college is that, usually, by the time the college gets involved in your individual kid's life and problems, your kid is already in big trouble, grades or otherwise.

Posted by: MECM | June 20, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Curmudgeon, for being a voice of sanity. Twenty years in the classroom of seeing the sense of entitlement "blossom" into an elephant was enough for me. Feeling entitled for graduating from high school is merely a stop along the way---the road where everyone gets a gold star for mediocrity passes through the high school graduation stuff and keeps on going to wanting a raise in the workplace because you showed up... most of the time.

Posted by: Ex-teacher | June 20, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"I did end up having a good time without doing the stereotypical worst things parents assume"

Well, you missed out on a lot of fun. There exists a few natural born goody 2 shoes, but most teenagers view partying as a good time. The real trick is to teach them to not to do anything stupid and get themselves hurt.

Posted by: Lil Husky | June 20, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

but most teenagers view partying as a good time.

To confirm your definition of the word "partying." I know some kids who use that to mean to "have a good time" and others who use it to mean "Take drugs." Most kids and most adults have not taken illegal drugs even once in their lives. Most kids love to go to a good party. They are different. Just wanted to confirm.

Posted by: DCer | June 20, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"But parents informing their high school graduates that they are not "allowed" to go to beach week only suggests that the parents are too controlling, nothing else."

Haven't read much, so this may have been addressed. My children have birthdays in the second half of the year and will graduate high school at 17. They will still be minor children and we, as parents, will still be responsible for them.

Teaching them values and independence is important. Just because you teach it doesn't mean they will follow your teachings. Even the good kids have brains that are still not fully developed int he area of decision-making.

More kids who go to beach week drink than don't drink. I'm not sure yet if my children will be allowed to go. At 17, they are still children. The 17 year-olds will have their parents called. The 18 year-olds can be thrown in jail.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Umm, Lil Husky:

"I didn't go to beach week. I do remember smoking pot and having lots of sex with my girlfriend when her parents went off to work. Didn't drink much alcohol, and if indeed it is a drug, it is much more dangerous than marijuana."

"Come to think of it, I had sex with my high school boyfriend EVERY single chance we got. Without booze or drugs or a beach house."

in theory, you posted BOTH of these. So you had sex with your high school girlfriend AND your high school boyfriend; using pot with your girlfriend but not with your boyfriend?

Or just making this stuff up?

Posted by: Army Brat | June 20, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"No one at their house got drunk, they left the place cleaner than when they got there and there was only 1 mild sunburn among them"

That's what my mother thought, too. OK- I'll admit that 2 out of 3 were true. Guess which two.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"Mom" who teaches at university...I have no way of persisting on any perspective other than based on some of the really naive things you are saying (e.g. "just that there are more controls on the inevitable partying because of the realities of living in a dorm (including classes the next day), and that, therefore, college is a better place to push the limits and make the inevitable mistakes...)

1) Not all colleges have dorms
2) Not all colleges have walkable campuses
3) In dorms across the country there is premarital sex, underage drinking and drug use
4) No parents (let alone authority figure) are telling college kids to get their work done everyday, go to class everyday, etc

...Exactlly what controls are you referring to?

I can imagine your perspective on controls in a university atmosphere is slightly askew from the teaching perspective b/c students in class are not drinking, doing drugs, having sex or otherwise acting out AND because you do have control over your classroom, grades, assisgnments...seems like these kids have more many frat parties have you been to with your students or ice luges have you done or bongs have you shared with 17-yr-old freshmnen?

As for crumudgeon, I certainly didn't view my own one week with close friends at the beach as super special entitlement. It was a cheap place, we brought our own sheets, most of our parents made us pay with our own money and most of the day was spent in the ocean. You've been watching too much Super Sweet 16...there are plenty of great kids down the corner at the American Red Cross, at homeless shelters, voluntering with kids...and for those who aren't ...well I blame the parents.

Parents who are open and good teachers and good role models should be open to discussion about beach week and other events, like prom and homecoming and dates and parties and driving, that cost money and test wings. Especially in those last precious months before college --- both for a teen who is saying goodbye to friends and family and for a parent who is letting go --- those last opportunties to sit down and let your kid know where you stand and find out where they stand should not be throw away with an unequivocable "no----end of discussion."

Posted by: Not Naive | June 20, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Who pays for beach week? Independence brings responsibilities--so if you are independent enough to go you should be independent enough to pay.

Posted by: Chris1458 | June 20, 2007 6:03 PM | Report abuse

not naive, of course colleges don't control students' behavior much. But they do provide resources that students can turn to when situations get ugly.

On a college campus, there are alternatives between "do nothing" and "call the police." For example, on many college campuses, a student can call for medical help for a student who has passed out from too much alcohol without fear that the caller will be busted for underage drinking. At beach week, there are no such in-between solutions to problems.

Posted by: Kathy | June 20, 2007 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Not beach week exactly but I have made it a point to take my son to Europe with me every chance I get since he was 12 (now 20). I do it because there will eventually come a time when he will STILL want to go to EUROPE, but would prefer to go backpacking with his posse, not with his mom.

Those jaunts also helped him become a savvy traveler by the time he was old enough to flit off to New York, Boston, the beach, etc for the weekend with friends. After a month winging it with mom in Italy, an evening drive to the Baltimore with his buds is nothing.

That said, I STILL get an utz in my stomach while he is gone, fuss and worry, provide list of cautions as he is going out the door, and dont really sleep much until he is back home again. Your kids are ALWAYS your kids no matter what age they are (my mom 65 also expects a call before we board the plane and after we return from our jaunts).

Some kids can handle it, some cant. The parents need to be able to assess whether or not their kid can handle it. You cant establish a blanket one-size-fits-all policy for all the kids in every situation. At some point they live their lives even when you arent right there at their side. If you feel your child has been listening and is responsible then let them go.

Posted by: tunatofu | June 20, 2007 6:42 PM | Report abuse

"If you feel your child has been listening and is responsible then let them go."

Strange as it may seem, there are some responsible kids who decide for themselves not to go to beach week on the grounds that it's too unsafe a situation. One of my kids made that decision.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I was one of those kids with parents who refused to trust me at all as a teenager. Guess what - both my brother and I 'cut loose'. The thinking was, if we were always going to get in trouble no matter what, we might as well make it worthwhile. So rather than our parents knowing what we were up to, everything we did was behind their back, often with adverse outcomes.

Now I am a parent myself, and I would hope that I am able to walk a more balanced line with my own son. Doesn't mean I will let him get away with everything, but after my own teenage experience, I know that being an overly-strict parent does not guarantee you are controlling what your child is up to; if anything it means the opposite.

Trust has to be proven. But how are kids going to prove they are trustworthy if you never give them the chance?

Posted by: Megami | June 20, 2007 6:59 PM | Report abuse

"I was one of those kids with parents who refused to trust me at all as a teenager."

And I was one of those kids with parents who did trust me. Guess what? I cut loose too. I lied about where I was going and who I was with and what I was doing because I knew that I was trusted and no one was checking up on me.

Some kids are just more adventurous and risk-taking than others in spite of (not becaue of) the parenting.

My beach week trip was in 1974. We were girls. there was consensual sex with guys we picked up, lots of drinking, some pot smoking, one alcohol-induced date rape (unreported), young men trying to forcefully invite themselves into our condo for a party. In spite of it all, we had a blast.

Years later, it was tough to decide whether my own child should go. We said yes with reservations considering our own teenage adventures. They were evicted before the week was over. They invited some friends over and a "friend of a friend" started trouble. Security showed up. The friends were gone, but the condo residents were evicted due to the presence of alcohol - they weren't actually drinking yet, but the alcohol was there. The friends who started the trouble were staying somewhere else and cleared out their stash, so they got the full week.

Quite a lesson learned by the kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2007 7:11 AM | Report abuse

My parents had zero trust in me. I wasn't allowed to do even the most basic things (date, go out on a weekend, have friends over), let alone spend a week at the beach, unsupervised. For me, just being at college without them was an amazing amount of freedom, and I didn't "cut loose" like so many others have mentioned. I did get drunk once, about three weeks into freshman year, and it was a bad enough experience that I didn't drink again for two years.

Where I went to school, it was the kids with permissive parents who were the biggest partiers. They seemed to think the whole point of college was partying, and that Mommy and Daddy would simply foot the bill for any damage they caused. There were kids I knew who spent thursday-monday all four years in a drunken stupor. I find it extrememly telling that these were the kids whose parents showed up for senior week/graduation with kegs and coolers of their own.

I hope that I will be a far more permissive parent than my own parents were. But the thought of sending my DD to beach week gives me pause. I think I'd happily send her somewhere like Disney World (where, I know from my own Spring Break experience, there's plenty to do but it's very hard to get served), but not to a venue where the whole point is to party and hook up.

Posted by: NewSAHM | June 21, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Army Brat, the 01:58 was not me.

Posted by: Lil Husky | June 21, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

LOts of churches are very good at offering alternatives to activities like New Year's Eve Parties, Beach Week, rock concerts and the like.

When we lived in DC, our church regularly held a roadtrip for graduating seniors. They rented an RV and caravanned to a new city where they did a service project, including usually a stint with Habitat for Humanity. There were also trips to the beach and picnics and barbeques and the like, with some adult supervision by the church youth counselors. With an option like that, I'm not sure why anyone would choose "beach week". The roadtrip/service project definitely seems like a better "ritual" -- since it actually stresses that becoming an adult means giving back to your community and taking on responsibilities. I'm not sure what renting a condo at the beach for your kids teaches them -- other than that you have a lot of money to waste.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

When I go on vacation--even with a bunch of friends, to the beach--I do not view it as a chance to get hammered and have sex with the guy in the house next door who is "kinda cute" (and even cuter after a few tequila shots). I do not go to "party" for a week because all my friends are going.

That any parents hopes their child has the wonderful experience of waking in the morning wondering just what they did the night before--and with who--makes me very sad. That should be something to be ashamed of, to be avoided: not something to be encouraged with a wink and a nod.

I got drunk at college. Alot. Flunked my first semester. Woke up in strange beds. Had the whole "fun college experience". I hope I can help my children not suffer through the same.

Yes, teenagers may experiment with sex and drugs and alcohol (which is a drug, BTW, just as caffeine is a drug). But just because they want to try it does not mean that parents have to give their approval. It does not mean that parents should encourage the behavior.

I want more for my children then to think that getting drunk is okay, and that having sex--even with a condom--is something to do with an available person who is suitably drunk. I don't think abusing alcohol is something to be proud of.

And as for the whole "They are old enough to be in the military, they should be able to drink" argument--why not instead argue that we shouldn't let 18 yos into the military!

And they don't just hand an 18 yo. a gun--they are put through a substantial training program, and they have a tremendous amount of supervision and authority in their lives--much more then if they go to college. And messing up brings weighty consequences.

When we send an 18 yo off to a beach house, they don't know what to expect, they haven't been to "party boot camp" where they have people leading them through exercises designed to train them to handle extreme situations. So how well have you trained your 18 yo. daughter to avoid the advances of a drunk guy twice her size? Is you 18 yo. son aware of what alcohol does to his system enough to not make those advances? Does he know how to put on a condom after 5 shots and a 6-pack? Can they dial 911 when they can't see the numbers on the phone?

Beach week is not being an adult, it's not the first steps toward independence. That is not what life is, otherwise we'd all be at the beach having this discussion, hoisting a cold one. An adult goes on vacation--often with their family--to get away and relax, or see new sights and experience new things. A kid goes to get hammered and hook up. Not the same thing at all.

Posted by: Eve | June 22, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

As a fairly recent grad of high school (2003) and someone who participated in beach week, I'd like to point out some very obvious differences between parents and kids. Beach week is a great opportunity to have one last hurrah with your friends. Sure some people drink and some people have sex, but guess what, it's nothing too out of the ordinary. These activities occur in your daily lives, you're probably just unaware or will happen in the 3 months whe they go off to school. At 18, there was nothing my mother could have said/done to change my views on what I was going to do. Your job as a parent is to encourage your child to make smart decisions and the last 3 months before college is far too late. My beach week was fairly tame. We had the occasional drink and flopped on a beach. We were smart enough to realize that any out of control behavior would be enough to ruin our lives. Newsflash, what you see on MTV is a glorified version of spring break. It doesn't always go that way.
I would also like to commend the poster who stated there's a difference between allowing your child to go and paying for it. Every single person in my house paid for everything that week, including the cars we took down. We were responsible enough to earn the money, earn our degrees, and earn our vacation. For those parents who believe beach week is the first step to ruining your life, I graduated college in 3 years with two degrees and currently have a very successful job. Take a deep breath and ship your kids off with a smile.

Posted by: 03 Grad | June 28, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

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