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A parental anxiety post

AAH has gone off on a trip with the local community centre. They went here. [Lucky girl]. She went armed with a large bag of candy, designed to provide enough of a sugar high to keep her and her girlfriends up all night. At least that was the plan. Because they’d heard through the grapevine that the boys were planning to invade their sleeping quarters and pour syrup into their hair in the middle of the night. And as everyone knows, being 14 and having a head full of syrup is the worst thing imaginable.

I’m consistently impressed with this whole community centre involvement here in Iceland. When I was growing up [in Canada] the mere mention of the term ‘community centre’ conjured up images of a lifeless and stale building with less-than-adequate heating and totally boring activities like old ladies wearing polyester and playing checkers. Places where, for some reason, everything seemed forced.

Certainly the community centres I knew then didn’t serve the same function as they do here, which is largely to provide a venue for adolescents to meet after school and in the evenings. Kids can go there and play pool or air hockey or just hang out and listen to music. And every evening there is a different activity planned: dances, ‘wool-sock football matches’, ‘cafe evening’, ‘cosy evening’, rap evenings, or getting together to watch something on TV, like the finals in the Icelandic IDOL competiton or similar.

What’s particularly excellent about this from my perspective as a parent is that these places really help keep the kids off the streets. They tirelessly promote a healthy lifestyle and are really strict about the rule that smoking or drinking or drug use is not permitted anywhere near the premises, and nobody under the influence is admitted. Obviously they don’t manage to keep every kid on the straight and narrow, but they definitely exert some influence, particularly because they’re not seen as being profoundly uncool [as would have been the case when I was growing up] but rather as fun meeting places with cool people working in them.

Granted, the lustre has somewhat worn off with AAH this year, as opposed to last year when the whole thing was new [because she went into junior high school and they work in tandem with these places.] But still. By the time I was fourteen I was smoking and even drinking regularly, and experimenting with pot. AAH has done none of those things [she says, and I believe her] and in fact is militant in her opposition to smoking. Drinking is somewhat more intriguing it would seem [most of her friends have tried it] but she told me the other day that she’s made a pact with herself that she’s not going to drink until after she finishes her standardized nationwide test [similar to O-levels in the UK] when she’s 16. I can only hope she manages to resist the peer pressure and hold out that long.

Sigh. These difficult formative years. When everything is so new and exciting to them. As a parent I really enjoy being an observer and taking a peripheral part in it, but obviously being rich in experience I’m also very much aware of the dangers. I know it’s just a matter of time before she starts experimenting with those things that can so easily lead to disaster, and that nothing can adequately prepare me for how to respond when that happens. I guess I can only be grateful for the fact that, today, candy is still her preferred poison.

AND THE WEATHER?
Overcast, drizzly, with strong wind gusts. Mild, though, 8°C right now and I’m about to head out to the library to borrow some CDs. [Thanks Rozanne!] Meanwhile, the sun came up at 10.09 and will set at 16.16.

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