Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Talk, Spring Break, Freaking Out and the Dangers of Post Googling

My children are 21 and 16. So, generally speaking, we've had many versions of The Talk. The Talk about sex. The Talk about drinking. The Talk about Personal Safety. And I started writing this entry thinking I would be talking about yet another funny parenting moment. But I've managed to rile myself up enough, upon reflection, to think that I ended up writing about yet another bad parenting moment.

Bad Mom: apparently, I missed giving my daughter The Talk about Traveling in Dangerous Foreign Countries last week before she left for a cruise to Mexico with her high school band and orchestra. Here are some items and some situations that a Good Mom would've covered:

Mexico's drinking age is 18. But it's not enforced with any great regularity in the resort towns. Who knew? She was offered alcohol wherever she went. And the cruise ship was none too stringent in the dispensing department, either. She had the first sip of a number of beverages before realizing that they were not alcohol-free.

Had I known (investigated, been told, checked into the topic, not been an idiot), I would have had The Talk about drinking in foreign countries around young handsome strangers who might attempt to insinuate themselves into her good graces (at the very least) while alcohol held her helpless and witless. Apparently none did so, nor is she terribly interested in drinking right now.

So I got a pass on my bad parenting because I have a good kid who is also lucky. She wasn't so lucky about another item I should have covered. Knowing Annie was headed to Mexico we, of course, talked about not drinking the water. Only drink bottled stuff. (That might have been a logical time to insert something about alcohol, mightn't it? Oh well.) But further health issues did not occur to me. She's smart. She has common sense.

What was I thinking? She's a teenager. And, when the opportunity presented itself for her to get henna tattoos, she jumped. Hey, she's gotten them at birthday parties in Oak Park.

In the US. Where little girls buy kits and decorate each other at birthday parties. And the "tattoos" are temporary and usually produced with chemicals approved by the FDA.

When Annie showed off the one she acquired in Mexico, it was immediately clear to me that this particular henna tattoo was neither temporary nor produced with chemicals approved by the FDA. It bore a striking resemblance to the more industrial strength tattoo a sailor might display on a Popeye bicep.

It turns out that one of my Talks should have been about the dangers of getting body art in foreign countries. In Mexico, for instance, tourists are often offered "black henna" tattoos. But there is no such thing as black henna. Instead, this is a multisyllabic artificial substance added to henna that the FDA specifically bans from direct application to the skin. Nice.

Not only is it permanent but the substance (
p-Phenylenediamine) is known to cause allergic reactions including lifelong sensitivity issues. And were I the type of mother who easily freaks out which, clearly, I am not, this page might cause me to lose several nights of sleep.

Instead, I am looking at the tattoo about 20 times a day, making sure that her hip hasn't turned red with hives or infection or other possible issues. This is probably a plus, as I didn't already have enough to worry about with her other medical issues. Oh, did I mention exposure to this crap can worsen asthma? Can you tell I'm starting to freak a bit?

Wait, there's more. More I should have talked about. I didn't know I needed to tell her that street vendors would literally place joints in her hand: "Would you like a joint? $3 please." Or that crack cocaine was offered to her regularly as a side purchase with any beverage.

I could go on. But aren't I starting to sound like Bill O'Reilly and Fox News, neither of which can stop talking about how dangerous Mexico is? I thought so, too. So in the middle of writing all this, I started googling around, reading stuff about Mexico and travel and drugs and stuff.

You might think that I should have done this before my daughter went to Mexico. Good parents probably did, particularly with Mexico in the news of late. Well, I did read some articles in the Trib. And they assuaged my general fears. Drug lord and pirates were not visiting Annie's ports of call. So I figured she was peachy keen and did not follow through with protective googling.

If I had, I would have discovered all sorts of interesting stuff published by our government. It is no longer run by people who watch Fox News, which makes me feel as though I might be able to rely on the information presented. And said information did not make me feel one bit better about having allowed my daughter to visit Mexico without numerous The Talks.

Here's a reassuring squib, sure to make you want to send your teen down for a charming spring break trip: "Kidnapping, including the kidnapping of non-Mexicans, continues at alarming rates. So-called express kidnappings, an attempt to get quick cash in exchange for the release of an individual, have occurred in almost all the large cities in Mexico and appear to target not only the wealthy, but also the middle class.

Or how about this paragraph, clearly designed to enhance Mexico as a spring break destination? "Crime in Cancun, Acapulco, and Other Resort Areas: There have been a significant number of rapes reported in Cancun and other resort areas. Many of these have occurred at night or in the early morning. Attacks have also occurred on deserted beaches and in hotel rooms."

Perhaps The Talk wouldn't have been enough.
Probably we needed The Seminar. In addition, I'm now thinking that a personal bodyguard with experience in nursing who just might have been carrying a handgun (currently outlawed in Oak Park, sort of) was called for.

But no. Instead, I gave her a smaller case talk: be safe, stay in groups and please have fun. And she followed my instructions to a T. She not only survived the trip, but she thrived. So, as usual, Annie has made it through yet another Bad Mom moment with nary a scratch.

Well, except for the toxic tattoo. I wonder if it's also radioactive . . . . Off to google more.



Blogger Suna said...

AAAAAAAAAAA. At her age I would have probably fallen for "black henna" and been MORTIFIED to find out it was permanent.

My kids get offered a lot of drugs here (at outdoor concerts mostly), but not THAT much.

I will simply not be sending kids to Mexico. I have a friend who lives there who spends all her time sending out alarming articles to her Facebook account. Scary. And I LIKE Mexico.

Anyway, you have every right to freak. I would, too.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Susan C said...

On those scary pages, did you see anything about traveling in Italy?

5:16 PM  
Blogger Gwen said...

So this was a high school-sponsored trip. Don't teachers and the tour company they hired have some responsibility here?

5:35 PM  
Blogger Liz T-G said...

Yes, Suna, it's never fun to have the wool pulled over one's eyes, is it?

Susan, you'll be pleased to know that you can go to to find out if the US has issued any advisories against traveling in Italy. :-)

And Gwen, well, yeah. But I'm still working on getting the school to cover Annie's medical expenses from her electrocution earlier this year. Can only fight so many battles, as you well know.

2:37 PM  

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