Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I'll Be the Least-loved Parent

When I was 13 and binge drinking and smoking cigarettes and smoking pot whenever I could, I naturally gravitated to like-minded friends. I spent most of 8th and 9th grade with them, moving as a tribe to the houses with the most-absent and least-attentive parents. With basements.


During the school year, we'd have to be content with getting high during the day and only going all out on the weekends, when we'd all sleepover at one girl's house, and then sneak out to hang out at the creek or this kid's tree house or near the 7-11, begging passers-by to buy us beer or Malt Duck. [The very act of writing the words "Malt Duck" produces in me the need to vomit the overly sweet tasting wine-like drink that was my drink of choice when hard liquor was unable to be swiped from someone's parents.]


After a break of sorts of a few years, where the friends I hung with were more condemning of drinking, I came back full force by the winter of my senior year. At 17, I was driving over state lines to West Virginia, where the drinking age for everything was only 18 and where we knew a place which paid scant attention to that minimum. On warm days, we'd skip school and go get wasted. The nights were spent drinking and going to parties. By that age, too, my parents had divorced and my mother had not only become one of the most-absent parents but also one of the most indulgent, buying me booze, likely in the hopes that it would keep me home rather than driving drunk.


We were busted by parents a number of times over the years. Not once did the parent who caught us tell the other parents about what we were up to.


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Monique had a half-brother who was 15. Monique was probably about 30 at the time. I was a few years older. She got a call at work one day. He was dead. He and a buddy had been drinking and doing drugs at his buddy's house. They were fooling around at the pool. When he went in and didn't come back up, his buddy panicked. Before calling 9-1-1, he got rid of all the evidence of their partying. By the time the EMTs arrived, Monique's brother was dead. The buddy's mother had known about what the boys did at her house while she was away at work. But she kept it to herself.



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These thoughts came to mind recently when I was talking with someone about his discovery a number of months ago about what his son and his friends were up to. He went through the son's texts, and it was clear there were a number of sophomores and others doing drugs and drinking. I asked him if he told the other kids' parents, and I think he said he'd told one set of parents with whom he was friendly. He didn't tell the others because, really, how many of those parents would believe? And how many would just say it was fabricated by his son or him even? And how many would just ignore it and not face up to it?

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Looking at my children at nearly 14 and 12 and 8, I can't imagine them doing the things I did as a kid. They are good kids. They are smart kids. They aren't interested in any of that. They eschew the very thought of taking a sip of wine or beer that we occasionally offer. [Okay, Youngest does, but just to mess with the others' heads.]

My mother couldn't have fathomed what I was up to at 13 or 14 or 15. And, like I said, when I was about 17, she was complicit in my underage drinking. [I will point out that beer and that dreadful Malt Duck could be purchased at the age of 18 way back then.] In the younger years, she never busted me and my friends. But I am pretty damn sure that she would have reacted the same way as the other parents did when they did discover the truth: she would have turned a blind eye.

I can't say with certainty what I would do were I in any of those parents' places. My kids aren't there yet. But I want to believe that not only will my kid face the music, but those other kids will, too. I'm willing to corral the kids and their friends and the students on the playground when they're young. I'm planning on doing the same when they're older.



15 comments:

Caloden said...

Thumbs up! It is such a hard and frustrating place to be. But the world is a different place now than when we were kids. Turning a blind eye just isn't possible. Good for you to be thinking of it, many parents simply hide from it.

Tara R. said...

I want to believe that my kids are smarter than I was too.

There would be some parents I would tell if I thought their children were heavily involved with drugs and alcohol, and others I would counsel myself since I know their parents would either be abusive or indifferent to it.

Coma Girl said...

Well said!

I am struggling right now because I know a neighbor's son is selling drugs. It's actually kind of obvious, plus my step-sons are around the same age and say all the kids know he sells.

I'm just not sure HOW to tell the parents. We were friendly when the boys were younger, but now they've drifted apart (thank goodness!).

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

I just can't fathom that! Not only would I call the parents, I would be all "You want I should tan his/her hide while they're here, then you double-time them when they get home?" I'll probably be the parent who will call the other parent and say, "Bubba is coming over. He's grounded from playing video games. Smack him on the head if he even looks at your PlayStation!"

It would be uncomfortable, but I would do it.

Patois said...

Coma Girl,

I'm struggling in advance, that's for sure. Dealing drugs? I would really want to know if it were my kid, but I'm sure I would absolutely hate being told he (or she) was doing it.

Patois said...

Tara,

I suppose we couldn't trust the kids to knock it off with just a threat of, "If I catch you again, I'm telling your parents."

Beck said...

I already fink kids out all the time - but the issue is in this community, the parents don't really give a crap OR community standards are really low.

I remember lots of parents when I was a teen who would ATTEND drunken teenage parties. So my issue with telling parents is that a lot of them will not see anything wrong with their kids behaviour. It's grim.

Jomama said...

If I would want to know if my kids were doing it, then I feel obliged to tell the other kids parents in the reverse case. Yeah, damned awkward conversation, but they should have the chance to parent their kids. And it removes the excuse that they didn't know.

Possible abuse as a result, though--that would be hard. Perhaps reach out to another interested adult, teacher, counselor, priest, or social worker? Not a perfect situation, but if there is abuse going on, then THAT needs to be reported too.

Patois said...

Beck,


They've begun prosecuting parents whose children have parties where alcohol is served, whether the parents are home or even if they knew of the party. That's likely had a bit of a chilling effect with regard to adult presence. As far as some not giving a damn, I just had a conversation with a friend at school this morning. She'd read the blog post and talked of a friend of hers whose 16-year-old daughter is smoking dope. Her friend's reaction, "Well, I did it. How can I tell her not to?"

Patois said...

Jomama,

Good point about bringing in a third party in certain situations.

Eluciq said...

this post scared me...i have a halo above my head & it is pretty shiny...however my husband..ha! i worry already about what my boys' will do to stay cool...i have one that is much like Napoleon Dynamite and the other that will do about anything to keep friends close...ugh! we are not there yet either...but i have begun worrying and speculating what we will do when we cross that path...yikes!

thanks for being so honest!

Lori said...

Yeah, this is why I try to be home in the afternoons as much as possible, even if we're not interacting with each other, at least I am here, and can keep an eye on things. Just in case.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I know that some of my daughter's contemporaries are smoking pot, some of them regularly. But I only know because my kid tells me (the one classmate that is also my FB friend has gotten more careful about posting such stuff). So I guess I err on the side of continuing to hear what my daughter and her classmates are up to, rather than turn the kids in and turn off the flow of info. That said if I knew they were drinking to excess, driving drunk/wasted, or doing other drugs I might make a different choice.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I know that some of my daughter's contemporaries are smoking pot, some of them regularly. But I only know because my kid tells me (the one classmate that is also my FB friend has gotten more careful about posting such stuff). So I guess I err on the side of continuing to hear what my daughter and her classmates are up to, rather than turn the kids in and turn off the flow of info. That said if I knew they were drinking to excess, driving drunk/wasted, or doing other drugs I might make a different choice.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Oof, I'm not ready for the teen years. And, I also remember parents who partied WITH the kids and would've been no help at all.

But, I hope I have the guts to tell parents if I find out the kids are doing stuff they shouldn't be doing. And, I'm SOOOO glad that the worst stuff I deal with now is staying up too late at a sleepover.

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