A few weekends ago I went to a community drug awareness forum. I feel it is important to make a showing at these events. At least, at this point in my parental career, a showing will do. I might even leave with some new information that I can annoy my remaining teen with. I end up with the same credibility as a “Jew for Jesus” around my kids following these events. I have seen the light even though it’s not shining the same for them.
I used to feel downright energized and electric with the intention of changing the world. I am older and my children are as well. The knowledge that there is heroin in my local middle school does not shock or frighten me. I have been on this for awhile. (On this news, not on heroin.) I became well informed seven years ago when I attended the last drug awareness forum that was held and made certain to stay abreast of all news related to drugs and drug-taking in the community. Vigilant. Alert. Not on my watch, I figured, at least for my kids. I wanted my children to be safe or buffered from the reality of drugs in this community for as long as possible. I wanted them to have real life strategies to avoid the temptations, withstand the peer pressure and also be clear of mind when they saw their peers vomiting and making really bad choices that they later regretted. I wanted them to see this for what it really was. Not as attractive or as harmless as we are lead to believe. I hope I have been successful on this front, so far.
I don’t live in the mean streets of New York or Yonkers or Poughkeepsie even. I live in an affluent, bucolic town in the Hudson Valley. We are not too good for heroin, or methamphetamine or other standard issue street drugs. We also seem to have access to a wide variety of opiates that come in shiny amber vials with enough pain-killing power to stop a few charging bulls. I have been vigilant. I have forewarned and foretold. I have pointed out and been very strong about my feelings. I have not toked a joint or discussed the medicinal value of pot around my children and I don’t intend to. This doesn’t make me right, or right-winged, or better than. I do have to keep my righteousness in check and it does come seeping out at times with the same bitterness of an ex-smoker. This is also not so attractive and may lead to drug-taking behaviors if I’m not careful. Vigilance being a dangerous thing. (What would the ad campaign look like? “This is your mom on vigilance…." pan to a mother wielding a frying pan toward a teens head?)
I am astounded and put off at how often I hear some of my parental compatriots. We, the seemingly, upstanding and educated discussing the merits of pot and the need for legalization. We proclaim that kids will be kids and we all did it and survived. Some provide alcohol for other parent's children or knowingly allow parties to take place with drugs and alcohol around and watch as kids drive away. Some in positions of power and leadership look the other way regarding athletes, or students in the schools. They apply their personal philosophy onto their decision making about minors. They fear the consequences of getting caught may be too harsh. Not too much consideration for the consequences of the illegal behavior I'm sad to say.
Does this seem to be unusual behavior? Does it occur elsewhere? Help me out here. Stretch it a bit. Would we openly discuss the merits of sexual enjoyment and look the other way when young minors, starting at say, 12 years of age, or maybe 9, were sexually active? Would we explicitly model our sexual activities so that our children can learn how to be sexually responsible? C’mon we have all heard or even shared the idea- “I let my kids drink at home because I want my kids to learn how to drink responsibly so that when they go away they won’t be so tempted and irresponsible.” Maybe we could stop being so hard on ourselves about other responsible behaviors as well. Why keep working and paying those bills? All of the stresses associated with work certainly impact our children. Wouldn’t it be more fun to just see what the world has in store for us, give up the mortgage, the cars, the assorted toys? Why fill our children’s heads with false illusions, let them know now when they are young, say 11, that there are no promises in life. Stop providing for them so they may learn how to do it themselves. Why make them feel secure? Besides a few tokes will mellow us all out and help us face the next day.
Preposterous, yes? Extreme? Not the same situation? For me, yes and no. I definitely struggle with the concept of hypocrisy around these behaviors. I enjoy a glass of wine, sometimes a bit too much. I don’t want to pass on the message that drinking and drugs, or herbs if you need to feel a little better about the substance, or pharmaceuticals if they are carefully prescribed and monitored, are evil. They have their place. But I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that we need to somehow show our children how to partake. I’m grateful that parents don’t typically feel the need to explicitly show their children how to be sexual. Why then do parents believe they need to show and provide their children with opportunities to drink and do drugs?
I don’t know what the right answer is about illegal substances and minors. I do know that I don’t have to try and figure that one out, the laws take it off my hands. It doesn’t matter much to me if it is good or bad. It is illegal and that’s enough. I don’t particularly like to drive 55 or 65 miles an hour but I know I will receive a costly consequence for such behavior and I would be foolish to tell my children it is ok to drive faster than the speed limit, because it’s more dangerous to take a bath or hurt yourself at home. (Many feel the need to state that drinking is worse than smoking pot.)
The laws about drugs and minors seem pretty straightforward to me. I have always thought the argument about being able to vote, and serve in the military can occur at 18 indicates a need to change the drinking age to match, was odd. Did this originate after someone had a few drinks or pills, or inhaled long enough to alter their thinking? Why not change the laws to match the current drinking age? Why not expect the age for all of these so called “rights” to be 21? Would as many young people join the military if they were a couple of years older, perhaps involved with a few real-life decision making events? I imagine it’s a lot easier to decide to join the army when you have few other options. Hmm, do I stay home and have to ask to borrow the car and clean my room and get nagged about getting a job, or do I join the army and get to pick my weapon of choice? Generally, those that join at 18 weren’t choosing between an acceptance into the college of their choice, an athletic or academic scholarship, an apprenticeship at Apple, or possibly getting killed or killing someone else. Talk to those returning soldiers. Really listen. Many are seeking help to relieve the stress, the guilt, the trauma. Many look for therapeutic interventions. Sadly, many more are drug addicted or drinking away the pain. But I digress.
Certainly there are messages we can share with our children to help them make developmentally appropriate choices when they are old enough to make them. Allow them to grow up with healthy skills and strategies. With respect for themselves and others. Help them to understand their full potential. Teach them that adults are different from children and walk the walk as much as you possibly can. Life is a gift, each new day ripe with potential. Let moderation and your conscience be your guide. My legs are starting to chafe from this ride on my high horse (no pun intended) so I'll get down but I won't be a downer. Be well.
After I apply chafing cream I may go get fitted for my Guardian Mother beret and my safety guard vest. (It could happen.) I wonder what vigilance in moderation looks like? I'm sure my kids will keep me in check. Kids will be kids, after all. Just say "No!" and tie a red ribbon around my old oak tree at least until your 21 or legal or both.