|HIS IS THE time of year when students head off to school. From kindergarten through college, anxious parents wave goodbye to their children as they relinquish the ever-watchful parent control and trust the fate of their children to outside forces.|
The newspaper reporter called me. She was writing a story to help parents of college students ... to give them help and reassurance. How could parents guide young men and women in dealing with the sexual pressures of the college campus?
We spoke about the precautions, the sex talks, the fears, and the boundaries. We considered the coed dorms, the student health centers, the drinking, the parties. And we strategized. Parents had tools to open dialogue with their students, even if these college freshmen were breaking loose from the day-to-day oversight that had guided their first 18 years of life.
Hopes were balanced with fears. Precautions were checked with risks. Good and bad possibilities were in a battle for influence over their students. The obvious question had to be asked.
"Yes, parents can do a lot," the reporter said. "But what happens, in the worst-case scenario?"
The worst-case scenario. Her words spoke volumes to me. After ten years of working in the field of preventing adolescent sex, I was fully aware of the worst-case scenario. Like the mythical head of Medusa, it was a simple phrase that erupts into many tentacles of bad consequences.
Worst-case scenario? Was the reporter thinking of the student who calls mom and dad to tell them they tested positive for AIDS?
Perhaps the reporter was thinking of the one in five adults who are now infected with genital herpes. Even with a lifelong prescription for Famvir, this infection will control the lives of millions of people with regular outbreaks that can only be treated, not cured.
Maybe the reporter, as I have, has spoken with ob-gyns who have treated women as young as 18 for cervical cancer. A new vaccine Gardasil has been introduced to the market that prevents HPV infections, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) responsible for over 97 percent of cervical cancer. What do parents tell their daughters?
Or maybe the reporter had personal experience with someone close to them who had undergone an abortion in college. My own friend was overcome with regret and depression, amplified by the boyfriend who "loved" her during sex and promptly abandoned her after the abortion he wanted.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. So many stories of worst-case scenarios, personalized to the individual who has to live out the scenario. I am friends with a pregnancy counselor who prevented a post-abortion suicide. I attended the trial of an abortion doctor who walked away from a woman patient and let her bleed to death.
Speaking with the reporter, an unexpected pause let a flood of worst-case scenarios fill my mind. I told the reporter, "I’m trying to figure out what would actually be the worst-case scenario."
She joined me in brief silence. "Gee, I guess there are a number of possibilities, aren’t there?"
Of course, I knew from experience that the worst case she most likely had been referring to was a phone call from college: "Mom, I’m pregnant." But considering this question and the many people I know who have dealt with this scenario, I could see only life and hope.
"I am old enough," I told her, "to remember the college housing for married students and families. Children and marriage at one time were not hostile barriers to future happiness. Maybe discipline and patience were required. But life was big enough for it all."
One dear friend gave birth to her unplanned baby and chose adoption to bless the lives of a mother and father who could only wait for her generous gift. Today, she is much more at peace with her "scenario" than those I have spoken to who regret their hasty abortion decisions made under pressure and isolation.
When did babies become the enemy? When did they define the "worst-case scenario" for American culture?
As our children leave home, and as we continue to parent them from afar, perhaps the best gift we can give them is an understanding of the wonderful joys that come from sex that produces life.
Four years in college is a slice of their life, a time when they set the stage for their future ... not just careers ... but lives as mothers, fathers, parents. The best-case scenario is a dream they can catch, if we take the time to build it.
Our fears and our hopes both have the ability to capture our mind. Which will it be for our children? The best-case scenario ... or the worst?
A former elementary school teacher, Jane Jimenez (email@example.com) is now a freelance writer dedicated to issues of importance to women and the family. She writes a regular column titled "From the Home Front." Her work has appeared in both Christian and secular publications. Jane and her husband Victor live in Phoenix and have two children.
More columns by Jane Jimenez