I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while, trying to get some objective distance on it. But no matter how long I wait I’ll never have all the answers, and it’s something every parent is going to have to face at some time or another: The Overnight Trip.
Unless your child attends a single-gender school they will, at some point, go on a co-ed overnight trip. It may be the entire class or one of the many extra-curricular activities that are so important during the teen years. There will be chaperons, there will be bed checks, but there will always, always, be issues.
But the issues seem to be getting more serious and more complex. Back when I was in high school and dinosaurs roamed the earth usually it was “mean girl” bullying, or perhaps a few brave souls who snuck out after bed check to roam around for a little while – just long enough to prove they were “cool”, but not enough to get caught.
These days the issues are more sexual in origin. We’ve all heard the horror stories: middle-schoolers having oral sex on the school bus, kids being taunted and bullied because of their still-confused sexual preferences in person and online. Suicides. School shootings.
But when two teens at a local high school were suspended for sexual activity on an overnight school-sponsored trip it was like a stake through my heart. Because my son knew both kids. He was on that trip. While I had my mom-breakdown he assured me he would never do anything like that, and I trust him. But I’m sure those parents trusted their kids, too. And I know the chaperons were plentiful and vigilant.
Over the next few days, and John and I talked more about it (honestly, I could only handle it in small doses) and he revealed another disturbing aspect of the trip. It was four kids to a room and they got to choose their own roommates, but there were a significant numbers of gay and lesbian teens in the group. One of the boys John was supposed to room with (four boys, two beds) was gay. John was uncomfortable sharing a bed with anyone, gay or straight, so he slept in a chair one night and a bathtub the other. Were other students put in equally uncomfortable situations?
I asked my older son about his overnight trips in high school – if there were sexual shenanigans that hadn’t been found out, if there were teens rooming with teens of the same gender but different sexual orientation. He said even the most complex bed-check arrangement could be gotten around by those who wanted to, and that “everybody was cool with” the sexual orientation issue.
I tried to put myself in the kids’ place. As an adult, I wouldn’t think twice about sharing a bed with a lesbian I barely knew at a blogging or writing conference, but if my roommate brought someone (male or female) back to our room for sex I would be appalled and furious. If I were a teen I can’t imagine that I would be able to deal with either of the above scenarios. I guess I would have been sleeping in the tub, too.
We all try to raise our children to be trustworthy and responsible. To make good decisions. But they are not always going to be in ideal situations, or with others who are using good judgement. My goal right now is just to keep the lines of communication wide open. And pray every single day for God to guide my children’s decisions.