Sunday morning, May 29th. The kids are just starting to wake up after cat-napping on and off all night. I hear giggling from a few of the girls who have decided an early morning swim would help them start the day at 5:00 a.m. A few voices are heard upstairs, a little more subdued than the night before but still the familiar tunes of Mario being played on an X-Box filters down to me. Four boys are outside throwing a football. The sun has barely come up, but there they are passing the ball around oblivious to the fact that it’s only 4 degrees celsius. I glance into the family room and see a few more young people sprawled on the floor and draped over couches. I am amazed they were able to sleep at all considering the noise and laughing all around them throughout the night. Suddenly two girls are sitting by my piano and their voices blend together in harmony, singing praise and worship songs. It is Sunday after all. One of the girls still has her hair neatly coiffed from yesterday, and I remember the beautiful gowns and tailored suits of the boys as they escorted their dates up the aisle celebrating their grade twelve graduation.
Graduation. It is a time of celebrating, but these particular graduates have opted to celebrate differently than other grads.
I don’t know when the world started to turn upside down around Graduation, but it is like all rules, laws and morality flies out the window at After-Grad parties. Named “SafeGrad” as if it legitimizes it in some way, suddenly it’s okay to serve liquor to minors. Suddenly it’s okay for parents to allow their children to stay out all night, knowing that they will be drinking. Suddenly police, parents, schools and others seem to turn a blind eye to SafeGrad parties and say it’s okay for one night for teenagers to get drunk as long as they do it “safely”. What??? I am perplexed that well-meaning parents, even Christian parents, allow their children to participate in this form of celebration at Grad when it would definitely not be tolerated at any other time of the year.
My daughter graduated from a public high school in 2002. When we, as parents, met as a planning committee to discuss “SafeGrad”, (Note: SafeGrad is a long-standing high school tradition where new graduates — both minors and those of legal drinking age — are bused to a secret location to drink alcohol and party under the watchful eye of parents and volunteers after graduation ceremonies. The event is highly organized with strict rules, which include that no outside alcohol is allowed and minors can only be served alcoholic drinks by their parents. The supervised and controlled drinking environment with a guaranteed safe ride home prevents drinking and driving and keeps the graduates away from unsupervised bush parties.) I was the lone dissenter. I asked if we could offer a “Dry Grad” to those students who did not want to drink alcohol, but still wanted to go to a party. I was laughed at. One mother actually said, “No one will come to that kind of party. They want to get drunk, and we should let them.” I suppose it got me a bit riled up (I’m not one for backing down easily), so I quit the “SafeGrad” committee and instead sent word out to the graduating class and their parents, through my daughter that we would host a Dry Grad in our home for those who did not want to attend SafeGrad. Fifteen graduates attended. They swam in our indoor pool, soaked in a rented hot tub, and played board games and watched movies. My husband and I stayed up all night as the chaperones and in the morning my husband cooked up a batch of pancakes for the teens. It was a wonderful, fun-filled evening and the grads had a blast!
It was a no-brainer when our son graduated for us to offer to host a Dry after-grad party. This time fifty teens attended! They brought a huge sound system and blared music throughout the house all night long. They swam, they sat by the campfire, they even set off fireworks at 1:30 a.m. (good thing I had warned my neighbours in advance…hahaha). We had set up video games in two rooms, and then at around 4:00 a.m. when the grads were starting to power down a bit, we put in a movie and although some snoozed, others continued to play Dutch Blitz, or video games or swim all night long. There was laughter and fun and there was absolutely no alcohol. It proved to me that not all kids want to get drunk on their grad night. These graduates partied, but they partied safely and there were no regrets the next morning. I overheard one young man say to his friend as they were leaving, “I know a bunch of guys that are waking up this morning with hang-overs and are puking sick. I am tired but I feel great and I had fun last night. Wonder if those guys can say the same thing this morning?”
Congratulations BCS 2011 graduates! It was an honour and a privilege hosting your after-grad party!