So far, I've managed to get away with very little outright lying, relying on omissions and half-truths and vagaries and misdirections. Last night, I put all those fears aside and told the truth to the best of my ability.
He is 14 now, this boy of mine. He hears kids at school talking about it. He hears the disdain with which they speak of their parents. He doesn't want to have that disdain. He just wants to understand.
And while I'm helping him understand, while I'm sharing the truth, he is sharing, too. He is sharing his curiosity, asking questions about my truth. He is sharing his limited disappointment. He is sharing why his friends are saying they're jealous of their parents. He is sharing his thoughts on hypocrisy, quick to note, "I don't mean to insult you."
No offense taken, son.
I talk of how it was different back then. The turmoil that had torn American society apart and keenly separated the young from the old gave way to far more freedom for kids. Parents not only turned a blind eye to what was happening, they aided and abetted. Schools had smoking lounges and dances and post-game parties where it was just known by every school employee in the place what was going on. If caught with contraband, you were sent out but not turned in. At the end of massive parties, in private homes and the schools, adults would watch kids pile into cars and drive away. If police were called to break up a party, they, too, watched drunk kids drive away and did nothing.
Yes, honey, I drank as a kid. And I smoked pot. By the time I was his age, I'd been doing both for more than a year. Let's not even begin to talk about the college years and typing others' term papers in exchange for drugs or drinking grain alcohol mixed with Hawaiian Punch at huge beach-themed parties in the dead of Jersey winters or dropping mescaline or acid and wandering the campus.
I didn't make it through a recounting of the high school years before Youngest joined us in the kitchen. The conversation ended then.
No, the conversation was paused then. To be continued again. And again. And again. Because he needs to be told all the time -- they all need to be told all the time -- that I am one of the lucky ones. In any one of 200 or more occasions, I should have died in a fiery car crash. He and his siblings shouldn't exist. But now that they're here, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they're here a very long time.
If that makes me a hypocrite, then I'll happily take on the role of hypocritical mother to three blessedly alive children.
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