The Prom Experience

Prom season has arrived! High School seniors across Long Island are planning for the elegant event of their high school career. Many high schools celebrate the senior prom with specific customs and traditions that have ...

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Prom season has arrived! High School seniors across Long Island are planning for the elegant event of their high school career. Many high schools celebrate the senior prom with specific customs and traditions that have been handed down for generations.

For many North Shore high school seniors, the "prom" has become the event of not only their senior year, but also their entire high school career.

This one night out on the town has become bigger and more expensive than some people's weddings.

Let's take a closer look at the "prom event." It is no longer just a special dinner dance at the end of senior year. It has become so much more. It is the social event of the year.

Shortly after Christmas, many seniors start planning. They start saving for the prom bid, which is not cheap. For many seniors, it will be a hundred dollars a ticket. After the prom bid is bought, the senior has to worry about his tuxedo or her prom dress. It cannot be something simple or plain, but rather must be formal and the best of the best.

Once the prom bids are covered, and the dresses and tuxedos are purchased, made or rented, one now has to get down to the real business of the evening. Who's having the pre-prom cocktail party and the post prom party? What about the rest of the weekend? Do we go into New York City to a comedy club, stay overnight and the next day leave for Great Adventure? Or, do we rent a block of rooms in the Hamptons or out at Montauk for the weekend?

The latest variation to the prom weekend is renting RV's for the weekend and staying out East. With each added on activity, the expense for this one night to remember is escalating.

We have still not talked about flowers, pictures, limos and possibly a videographer. Before the extravaganza has begun, our senior has spent thousands for a night that might ultimately turn out to be a blur in their memory bank.

If you were to talk to a senior about his or her prom, they would make mention of all of these activities as matter of fact events and/or needs. They view them as automatic parts of the real prom experience. They would say it would not be a "real" prom without them.

What amazes me is the thinking on the part of many prom goers and their parents. Many see nothing wrong with this somewhat distorted picture of what is supposed to be a night to remember. Many seniors believe that the senior prom is an entitlement that they deserve with all of its' attachments, even if Mom has to go into hock to pay for it.

The average senior prom goer believes the prom is a free-for-all weekend, where they have the right to do what they want, where they want and how they want until they return home on Sunday evening.

In English that means no parental supervision. If they want to sleepover with friends out East that should be fine. If they want to sleep on the beach that should be fine too. They also expect that other social rules should be suspended on prom weekend. Drinking and smoking pot should be tolerated because everybody does it. In short, most prom goers believe that they deserve this "lost weekend." They believe it is part of the American High School Experience.

Most of us want our seniors to remember their senior year fondly. The "prom" is one of those memorable experiences. However, it doesn't have to become a reckless human adventure with no parameters or boundaries.

As parents we should do everything humanly possible to insure that our seniors have a safe and fun senior experience.

It is not a weekend free-for-all where we, as parents, suspend our obligation to parent. Unfortunately, I think on this occasion we end up working overtime.

Seniors should look great, enjoy their meal and have safe transportation to and from the prom. However, the prom goer should pay for most of it. The prom is not an entitlement. It is a wonderful social opportunity that needs to be earned and not handed to one on a silver platter.

There should be clear boundaries for this evening. Yes, they can be stretched and amended to afford the senior additional freedom and opportunity, but they should not be totally suspended.

The average senior thinks he or she is a full-fledged adult. Many act as though they are, and make positive social choices. However, the reality of life is that our children are not totally independent in the eyes of the state until they are twenty-one. This means that if on prom night your son acts recklessly and breaks the law, you, as his parent, are going to be held accountable for his behavior. Therefore, it is reasonable to set some boundaries and limits.

It is not unreasonable to expect that pre-prom and post prom parties will be supervised and that illegal behaviors will not be tolerated. It is dangerous and unconscionable for us, as parents, to aid and abet parties that are not supervised and do not demand age appropriate behaviors.

All parents want their senior to remember prom night with fondness. No one wants this night to be remembered as an evening that ended in tragedy or disaster.

As parents, we need to be clear as to what is acceptable behavior and call our seniors to that standard. Don't wait until the last minute. Ask your son or daughter now for his or her plans, so that everyone is not in an uproar at the last minute. We need to support each other and work with our respective high schools to insure that all prom goers have an outstanding night to remember.