I just finished reading Night Road by Kristin Hannah. It was a really good book and, like all of the books I’ve read of hers so far, I highly recommend it. (I posted about it a few days ago with a quick description.) While I was reading this book, which is about a lot of things, including teenage drinking, partying in high school, and drunk driving, I was reminded of a promise that we have made with our girls that we call “Text The X.”
I’m not sure where it originated, but we heard about it a few years ago and immediately adopted it. You’ve probably heard about it too, but in case you haven’t, I wanted to share it with you. The idea is, if your kid is at, say, a party, and they want to leave for any reason… if they are uncomfortable, if there is alcohol, if they drank a little, if they drank a lot, if they are falling down drunk… like, for any reason, they text you an X. And you then text them back with some faux emergency…
Hey, there’s been an emergency and I have to come get you right away!
Something has happened and I need to come get you… I’ll explain when I pick you up.
These are terrible examples and you’ll probably be much more creative, but the idea is, if they feel weird about telling their friends they want to leave, if they want to go home but no one else does, if they’re scared or drunk or feel unsafe, they can get out of there without feeling embarrassed and also safely and they can totally blame it on us, their parents. My kids find the whole “emergency” portion of this plan unnecessary and feel as though they will be perfectly comfortable simply texting, “come get me.” It’s also because when I tell them how I’ll phrase our faux emergency they realize that no living teenager would buy it and so it’s totally beside the point. They’ve also never been in this position, so I find it important to tell them that whatever they text, is fine. And we have agreed that the same rules will apply.
So… here are the rules, or the catch:
The rules are you go pick them up from wherever they are and you ask no questions and you give no consequences. You simply thank God that your child texted you and is coming home safely. They can tell you as much or as little as they want, but there is no interrogation, no grounding, and no punishment of any kind. The idea here is simply about getting them out safely and giving them an exit plan when they feel trapped or when they feel as though they have no other safe alternative home.
I’ve imagined many times how I would feel if they Text The X (or whatever) in an effort to be pulled out without consequence. It would be a herculean effort not to ask questions, not to lecture, not to tell them that they’re grounded if they’ve been drinking. But after reading this book, there is also the realization that the alternative is completely unbearable and this feels so smart and easy in comparison.
I think it goes without saying that there are probably situations in which this policy could become out of hand and that there are certainly lines that could be crossed and if you find yourself the surprise designated driver for your drunk teenager every Saturday night, you will probably need some additional help. But in general, this gives me a much needed sense of control during a time that I am having less and less of it.