Ever since the dark ages when Mary T was in 8th grade, the class trip to Washington DC has been a long awaited rite of passage – for teens and their parents. For some teens, such as the Princess, “The DC Trip” , as it has been referenced in our house for 3 years — is just another in a long series of sleep away programs and camps that lets her live 7×24 with her best friends. For others, such as several of her friends, it is the first time they have EVER been away from home without parents in tow. Some kids, like the Princess, are going with the roommates they hand picked in 6th grade while others (like #1 Son several years ago) are going to be part of mis-matched rooming groups assigned by desperate chaperones at the 11th hour when the kids couldn’t get it together to create an agreed set of 4 roommates.
All of the kids have been lectured for weeks about appropriate behavior, staying with the group and not leaving the hotel. Security patrols will be posted on each floor to make sure they don’t sneak out overnight. After all what could go wrong — 300 kids, 25 chaperones and NO parents (you read that right – the school actually prohibits parents from going along, preferring to call upon teachers and administrators to keep order)?
In the pre-dawn darkness this morning while the 300 teens loaded up 6 buses for the 9 hour drive south, several first time parents joked (sort of) about bribing the bus driver to let them on board. For all moms everywhere who are suffering through that special separation anxiety that only arrives when your kid leaves town on a bus with the minimum number of chaperones and way too much teen excitement on board, we have five tips for not only surviving, but thriving, during the time your teen is away:
- Catch up on paying bills and doing errands – maybe even take time during the week for yourself and your significant other for a change. Enjoy all the time that is freed up by not having to drive (and drive) to soccer, hockey, ballet, scouts, swim meets, tutors, play practice and the million other things our teens do each week.
- Spend time with the other siblings. This is turning out to be a good week to focus on #1 Son’s college list and begin planning our own cross country adventure to visit as many as possible in the coming months.
- DO NOT spend the whole week texting, facebooking, tweeting, skyping or calling your kid. Limit yourself to checking in once a day with a short text. Our school packs the itinerary from dawn to 10 pm. Its not fair (or safe) to distract your teen from the group during the day and he or she needs to attempt to get some sleep in the evening.
- Avoid spending hours drinking coffee with other moms where the main topic centers on how stressed out you are worrying about your kid - you can be sure the teens are barely thinking about you!
- Celebrate the fact that your teen is taking one step closer to independence. In four short years you will be getting ready for high school graduation and moving on to college or jobs.
Finally, when they get home, focus on applauding their successful time away from home. Somehow they managed to keep track of their stuff, get on and off the bus on time, stay with the group and most of all have fun! Whatever you do, don’t spend their first moments home unloading about how worried and lonely you were while they were gone. The last thing you want to do is to make them feel gulity for having fun on their own. This is the first of many steps they will take towards becoming independent adults – would you really want it any other way?