Being that I’m not a terribly mature person, I tend to have friends who are a year or two younger than I am. I relate well to them because of my talent for acting childish and I never really considered myself to be any more grown up than they… Until now.
A few weekends ago, one of my sophomore friends and I went to a friend’s twenty-first birthday party (ironically, we also associate with a much older crowd). The party was at a house with which we were familiar, neither of us is inclined to drink, and we knew the majority of the invited, so it seemed like a safe environment.
However, when we were presented with the option of spending the night there, I thought twice. What about the friends of our friends, the people we didn’t know? What would happen when our older friends got drunk? What about legal issues that could arise if the cops showed up, and we were two mere children in comparison with all the legally aged people there? As much as I trusted our friends, I didn’t trust the situation. So I decided to go home and sleep in my own bed that night.
The problem I had, then, was not with my decision, but with that of my barely-16-year-old friend, who opted to spend the night there. If I didn’t think this was safe for me, how could I subject her to such an environment? Suddenly I felt more like a mother than a friend to her, as I alternately begged, ordered and pleaded with her to come home with me, and later cried when I realized I didn’t have a mother’s power, and had to leave without her.
Granted, when I called the house the next morning, she was alive, awake, alert, and “watching Monty Python.” But I still couldn’t ignore the what-ifs dancing through my head, nor could I ignore the fact that I had somehow proven I was more than just “one of the kids.” I’d been forced to make a decision, and I don’t regret having made a responsible one. The fact that I had been protective of my friend told me something about my own upbringing. My parents, despite all mistakes, raised me, not only to distinguish between what’s right, what’s safe, what’s healthy and what’s not, but to listen to those instincts.