Like Christmas and the Lentil Festival, High School Prom only comes once a year. But since one spring in the 1980's, I have not given one rat's patootie about any Prom. This weekend, however, I cared about Prom for the first time in 30 years because my own elder son attended one. He is a senior in high school (a valedictorian, I hasten to add) and therefore it rose to the surface.
A couple of weeks ago I saw an article saying that the average expense for a prom is now over $1,100. Aside from picking my jaw up from the ground, I continued to read that at least this is both sides of the couple's expenses, but includes the female's price of a new dress, new shoes, and accessories, along with the male's rental of a tuxedo, flowers, and then the cost of dinner, transportation and pictures. It is shocking, but at least it included less Southern California excess than I first thought. No, still ridiculous, but it doesn't include things like helicopter and elephant rentals which I first suspected.
A couple of things struck me about prom overall though. First, when I went, we got dressed up fancy, had a fancy meal and had some "fun" that night. The statute of limitations has run, but let's not get into the messy details. We had some input from parents on outfits and I'm sure I was handed some cash to pay for dinner, but then the parents were not involved. At all. I drove away to pick up my date, her parents took a picture of us and we were off. I went to a couple of proms and that was the plan each time.
From my perspective as a kid, other than my parents wondering where I was until I came back, that was it. And the parent-worrying part wasn't so much on my radar screen.
This weekend, however, as prom traditions have evolved (or devolved, but let's not go too far down that road), it included at least one new duty for many parents and for some, more. First, picture taking is not something done solo at the male's house and then as a couple at the female's house (presumably shared later if anyone cared, but I don't think they did). Also, the prom dance itself had a photographer and many a cheesy photo was taken, to be shared with all of those with an abiding interest. Now, however, it is common for group photos to be taken in pre-arranged spots. My son picked up his date and then met 3 more couples at a semi-public place so that parents could also drive there and take pictures of the eight of them, and, of course, also all males together, then all females together, then various combinations of males and females, then kids and parents, then serious, then silly faces, then jumping in the air, then base jumping, then hot air ballooning, then fire breathing, then etc., etc., etc. I think the whole process took about nine days, although I admit I blacked out from irreconcilable thoughts in my head.
After returning home from this process, I was then treated to an extraordinary number of facebook posts and twitter pictures of this same process being replicated all over Spokane and nationwide. Some groups were smaller and several were much larger, including one that I saw that involved 13 couples.
In addition to this new picture process, I also saw numerous pictures of parents making dinner for groups of kids. This resulted in not just a dozen kids being in one place, but the parents all hovering around enjoying the camaraderie of it.
Now here is where I would like to launch into a major rant about both of these things. But I find that I just can't muster the anger. I do think that kids have too little freedom these days. They have too few chances to make mistakes and learn life lessons on their own. On the other hand, the consequences of these mistakes and life lessons seem to have increased so much that it is very hard to let them happen. It's also hard to rail against parents wanting to be involved in their kids' lives, particularly, as is the case with most seniors, when they are actively making plans and preparations to leave home for college and the rest of their lives.
I do think that kids need more independence and that parents today hover too much, interfere to much and try to molly-coddle kids too much, but that said, I don't do that to my own kid. At least, not too much.