From ‘Dazed and Confused’ to Aware and Involved

8 Jan

I am not one of those parents who thought my son’s childhood raced by….in fact, from my pregnancy on, I kind of thought the days went by rather slowly!

Maybe it was from owning my own business therefore working way over full time. It could be that because my business was running a cheer camp and having dozens of college kids working for me, I was pulled in a whole lot of directions. Or possibly because marrying late and having Ben even later meant that Gary and I balanced more than our share of friends from all different groups and walks of life. Perhaps it was because I got pregnant at 43 and gained twice the amount of weight that is recommended?

Could even be that along with Ben we had multiple pets who also required love and care. And maybe, just maybe, it was because my incredible, fun kid was very tough from the get-go. Whatever it was, my days seemed to go by unnaturally slowly.

Except today, when I woke up, I realized that the boy who I thought was a sixth grader is actually in the middle of ninth grade! The tiny feet I used to hold in my hand and wonder at are now a man’s size 12. And what comes out of the mouth of the cute little guy that used to melodically say ‘I love you mommy’ is now not fit to print on these pages. And the sweet and patient boy who would take an excruciatingly long time to recount his every move in first grade now either answers with a curt ‘fine’ or even ‘why does it matter to you?’ when asked lovingly how his day went. (Except, by the way, when he’s in a talkative mood late at night and wants to be best buds, when all I want to do is go to bed!!)

Yep, like many of my vintage friends told me it would – 6th to 12th grade goes by in the blink of an eye….

And so, my next two posts are really not that funny and far from light hearted. But they are timely. I’m going to be very real and cover some sensitive (hopefully not shocking) stuff. But real is the key…there’s a whole lot going on in the world of our kids.

So at the risk of sounding preachy or like a perfect parent (as I’ve told you before, I’m not that great and Ben will happily agree with that), I’m going to share a few things and even take a gander at what we can do as parents of children of any age to start engaging, guiding and teaching our kids like the adults ‘in charge’ we should be – TO our kids, who are IN our charge…. By the way, this is certainly not about hovering or being over-protective. I’m a firm believer that we must let kids fail on their own, learn some hard lessons and not dictate their social lives or daily decisions (you can read lots of my previous posts that relate to this, but especially this one about being cool or this one about homecoming) It’s just to point out what’s going on out there….

Here’s my impetus. I grew up in the sixties and seventies. I had older siblings. Drugs were everywhere and they were cheap. To buy alcohol, all you had to do was hang out in front of the corner store and ask the first adult you saw to buy you a six-pack or a bottle of Boones Farm. Seriously, it was that easy, just like in the movie Dazed and Confused.

Most parents didn’t ever seem to catch on. My brother grew marijuana plants on the side of our house (my mom thought they were just lovely, never quite figuring out what they were). In high school, my sister (now an incredibly respectable and well-thought-of adult) had crazy dangerous parties at our house because our parents traveled a lot and trusted their three teenagers to a very nice, old and oblivious former housekeeper. During those parties, I walked in on high schoolers having sex on my bed (I was in eighth grade – ewwwww!!) and the ambulance drivers trying to resuscitate a kid who almost drowned in his own puke.

After my sister and brother were done with their parties, mine began. Drugs were less in the center of my friends’ lives, but Slow Gin Fizzes and Whiskey Sours were aplenty!

During my time in junior high and high school in the early seventies, we lost several teens in our school to overdoses, drunk driving accidents and later, to AIDS. I stopped smoking weed in tenth grade because I didn’t want to act like many of those around me or die like the older kids. I never was one for peer pressure, so no one bugged me about it and I’ve shared that with Ben to let him know that 1) I get what goes on and the pressure that goes with it and 2) you can live to tell your own story and 3) please don’t be too stupid and keep some perspective about him as his Twitter lights up with inappropriate photos or invitations to parties that might lead in a negative direction…

Ben by the way, in his really Ben way, has let us know that he doesn’t expect that drugs are for him, but it would be unrealistic for us to think he wouldn’t be drinking a little sometime. My response? Well, it would be pretty naïve for us to think that he wouldn’t, but even before he was thinking about it, I have used the same strategy to casually and quickly point out someone who acted like a fool from drugs or rightly asked for a ride home after drinking.

And I make sure I ‘casually’ or sometimes sadly bring up the anniversary of a friends’ early passing, the latest news story about a young girl making one poor decision that led to her untimely death or whatever is in the news that might lend credence to the hope that he is listening, processing and committing himself to making good decisions – without the lecture – just a quick acknowledgment.

Just yesterday a song came on the radio about a boy catching his girlfriend and another boy having sex in the back seat of a car. Naturally, I used that scenario to quickly (meaning before Ben could tell me to STOP!) put my two cents in about how if you have to have sex in the back of a car, that pretty much means you aren’t ready to have it and it might lose some of its romantic intention.

Will it help or stop him? Not completely, I’m sure…however, my main point here is we want Ben to live his life – just like we had the opportunity to live ours. But we want him to do so armed with the realistic knowledge about the consequences surrounding his choices – and the fact that we love him and are here for him as he explores those choices. We’ve opened the dialogue so that these topics aren’t strange or foreign in our home.

And no, we certainly do not glorify our past, but we don’t hide it either. It boils down to being aware.

My friend and Blog Boss Sarah’s mom used this when she was a teen – “I hope you have as much fun as I did and get in as little trouble as I did.” I like that…and I sure wish it for Ben.

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