By Tracy Fitzpatrick
“I’ve been invited to Stagecoach,” a text chimes in from my daughter, a senior in high school. “Can I go?”
It’s Tuesday and I’m not prepared for this. I thought we had dodged that bullet of summer music festivals.
Preparing for College Life: Traveling On Her Own
Stagecoach is an annual weekend-long outdoor country music festival, located just outside of Palm Springs, CA. The latest of its kind, it draws a crowd of over 200,000—as well as alcohol, drugs, flannel shirts, Daisy Dukes, and cowboy boots. I will admit it’s known to be tamer than its sister show, Coachella. But my baby would be headed to the desert without me, in shorts fit for a two-year-old.
Our back-and-forth would reveal the details: she will leave in three days, no adults will be with her group (well, aside from six 18-year-olds—what could go wrong?), a mix of boys and girls, staying in a rented condo. She will spend her saved money. Her excitement is palpable.
And just like that, reality is sitting in my lap, its chubby arms around my neck, staring at me under thick, sun-bleached, blunt-cut bangs, just as she once had. Oh, man. We’re here.
Summer Music Festivals
She will be away at school in four months facing these same pressures, experiencing this same freedom. “If you say no out of fear, you’re prolonging the inevitable: she is leaving the nest,” I tell myself.“You have to trust the work you’ve done and be prepared not to like everything that happens along the way.”
To this point, we have mostly been focused on very important things about going to school. Things like nailing down the perfect wall tapestry, a functional laundry basket, and bathroom caddy. Our last visit to her college town included locating the nearest Emergency Room, Urgent Care, and drug store. “Check it out! If you run out of kitchen staples they have a whole aisle here,” I told her. “You can even get a little wreath for your front door.”
Only every now and then do I allow myself to go THERE. The other side of college life—the side I don’t like to imagine. But she will undoubtedly be exposed to it all. She’ll see people drink way too much and have to know how to respond. She, herself, may drink too much. She may be at the mercy of others and their judgment (please let them make good choices). She’ll need to be aware of people trying to drug her or her friends, she will need to protect herself against date rape, drinking and driving, and all sorts of drugs she has probably never seen. It makes my head spin. It makes me take inventory of the discussions, the lessons, and all the work to this point. Have we prepared her for this?
My kid leaving for college feels like going to bed at night and leaving my front door wide open. This is my first taste of that vulnerability and I don’t love it. But, I am choosing to trust. To trust my child and trust the world around her.
So, to all of the parents out there dealing with summer music festivals and freshman year of college, and the fears of sending your kid into the wild, I salute you. We can do this. We will do this, one Tuesday, one scary weekend, and one next-big-step at a time.
Tracy Fitzpatrick enjoys unraveling life’s juicy mysteries one story at a time from her home in Southern California, which she happily shares with her incredibly supportive hubby, 3 fiercely independent and witty teenage daughters, 2 dogs, 3 horses, 2 cats and a rabbit.