A few years ago, my two daughters and I left Orange County, California, where I lived for 23 years, and moved up to a quiet, small town in Northern California. I wrestled with my conscience countless nights, wondering if I was doing the right thing, whether it was fair to my daughters to uproot them from a place that they called home all their lives, a place where they both had a gaggle of good friends.
It was a pivotal moment in the life of this single mother. If I made the wrong decision, no one would be accountable for it but me.
I was especially concerned about moving my teenager, who was on the brink of turning 16 and would be a junior in high school. Would she be able to adapt and make new friends?
Looking back, I realize that I did the right thing by moving up here with my children. Not only are we surrounded by my extended family, but my teenager told me something the other day that gave me a renewed appreciation for our new home.
She told me that a number of the kids who she hung out with in Orange County—girls who she had known since middle school—are now into drinking and drugs, and a few of them are sleeping around with boys. This was my daughter's pack! Her she-wolves. The girls she spent the night with, met at the mall and sunbathed next to on the beach. Girls who had a tremendous influence on her in her adolescent years.
I have to wonder: Had we stayed down in Southern California, would my teenager be involved in the same "extracurricular" activities? Hard to say. I'd like to think that I infused some morals and ethics into her, that given the choice between doing drugs and not doing them, that she would choose to say, "No, thanks." But peer groups can have a powerful impact on teenagers. I'm really not sure what the outcome would have been.
Yes, teens are pretty much the same everywhere. Drugs, drinking, sex and rude behavior are part of the teen culture no matter where you live. But trust me, the kids up here are A LOT nicer, a little more naiive and way more wholesome.
And that's just fine with me.
There are plenty of years ahead for her to be tempted by these vices. No need to rush into it. She's only 16, and there's nothing wrong with her holding onto her innocence a little bit longer.
As far as I'm concerned, it wasn't a move we made a few years back. It was a rescue.
Freelance writer Lynn Armitage is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She also writes the “Spirit of Enterprise” column for ICTMN.