Oh, man. Shoutout to the parents of teenagers. I have two sons, ages 10 and 8, and we’re in a sweet spot right now. We are past the neediness of preschoolhood but not to the craziness of adolescence. It’s good stuff. Because that craziness of adolescence and teenage years is not for the faint of heart. And I know this solely from a 30-second interaction I had over Mardi Gras.
As every New Orleanian knows, we all have our “spots.”
Neutral ground vs. sidewalk side. Magazine vs. Napoleon vs. The Avenue. Every spot comes with its unique personality and culture, which is just something else that makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans so awesome. For years and years, we set up camp on The Avenue, right in the thick of it across from Superior. We loved the easy access to the margs, loved that the emcee would announce every group and that the bands save their best stuff for it. It’s a lively area, and you’d better plan on staying for the duration of parades because the crowds are so thick, you’ll never get all your gear out until the neutral ground empties.
As we got older and had small kids, we moved to Napoleon, neutral ground side across from Sophie Wright where we had paid parking and home-cooked cafeteria meals along with impeccably clean bathrooms. I traded my Superior margarita for a Superior Seafood frozen pomegranate mojito. Life was different over here, but with my family in tow, it was perfect. So we’ve been over here now for about six years. However, this year, through our work, my husband and I were invited to the stands by Superior for THERsday. Grateful for a private space with food, bathrooms, stands, and of course, Superior margaritas, we brought the whole family and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. From my bubble in the stands, I observed throngs of high school and college kids living their best lives on St. Charles and Amelia.
My husband and I laughed, recalling how it wasn’t long ago that we occupied the same neutral ground.
I remember one time where I was a little unsteady on my feet and my best friend put me in a ice chest and wheeled me around. Of course, this was before the age of Insta and Snap, thank God. I was generally safe, my friends and I stuck together, the boys with us respected boundaries, our parents cut us loose but always got us to and from the route. It was the best case scenario. I fondly remember the nights I don’t remember that well. But that was before I was a mom.
Fast forward to Mardi Gras 2023. As Babylon ended, my 10-year-old and I left the stands briefly to chat with some friends on the ground. “Baby Got Back” blasted from Superior Grill’s speakers. We’d been watching a group of girls in jeans and bikini tops have a real good time. We laughed it up together and screamed, “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun!”
And then my string bikini-clad little teenage friend got a little too into it.
And my son saw his first boobs. And we were both thrilled to share that experience together. I went into mom mode and helped put her back together. I gave her the water I’d just been drinking, as she thanked me and said, “Ohmigod, you are like soooo aaammmazthing.” I’m no prude. Things happen. It was fine. But man, as a parent, this 30-second interaction left me exhausted and thinking that girl is gonna HURT tomorrow. The nurse in me wished I could walk around with IV fluids for all of the children of Mardi Gras.
But back to my original point.
I salute you, all the parents of teens at Mardi Gras.
I am exhausted and anxious for you. Even if your kids are in college, I’m still worn out at the thought of your thoughts. I know you’ve had all the conversations about drinking. And drinking water. And safety in numbers. And consent. And not driving. And staying off the side streets. And I want you to know that from what I saw at St. Charles and Amelia, I think your kids mostly heard you. And I’m proud of you and your teens. But yes, I’m tired for you. Ash Wednesday is just around the corner. Hang in there.