Against my teenagers using drugs I have the tides against my hands and feet. The tidal swell of teenage rebellions, both beautiful and grotesque, can be manipulated and can be guided, but the gods must be on your side, the circumstances ripe, the spirit strong and the parents who live down the block cannot be offering your 15 year old son a free Smoke Shack because Hell, you are going to do it anyway, so do it here. I won't see. I won't say. I'm cool. Cool like that.
What can guide a teenager down a jagged tribune can be the smallest of things- a butterfly flaps it's wings in Paris, and my son is dust faced and meth addicted. The parenting I have done from the childrens births to their lives now is the all mighty foundation, the neat and firm riverbed they are supposed to come back to in their 20's, when they are done moving away, and begin moving inward, towards who they are, who they want to be. To consider the foundation enough to avoid serious pain, years of relentless failings and misery is to forget entirely what it was to be a teenager. If you have lined up for your child a mentally and emotionally and financially stable household that functions well and provides dual parental involvement and support in an economic environment that supports education and offers activities and your child has no mental illness or serious health problems? then your child is as set as one could possibly be for growth that may falter, may move gracelessly but still surely toward a basically happy adulthood- one filled of course with heartbreak and disappointment, because we are alive, but still fundamentally all right.
However...if you are like me, and provided your child the best you possibly could, which did not include a stable and present father, or economic security, or the best resources that one could hope for with mental and learning issues, then your child's heart may be strong like bull and full of love, and their minds may be stable- for now- but they are more precarious, more vulnerable...to say, those gentle wing twitches in Paris.
One book on the teenage years allows that they are the years when you are as close to having the brain of a mentally ill person as you can be without actually being mentally ill. It is a period of great instability and growth within the brain, the emotional and analytical. Thought processes are jumbled and ridiculous, at times paranoid or depressive, swinging back and forth between happiness and confidence and acute restless bordering for horrible hours on despair. The joy of making out with music blaring and the sun on your body is met later that night with the certain horror that your breath stank and you will be ridiculed and alone for the rest of the year, and nothing that good will probably ever happen to you again.
So these delicate bulls, our teenagers who we love so deeply and passionately and who frustrate and scare us beyond belief, must have foundations. They must, or they will be wild and restless beyond control, and cause themselves and others great pain. You have no idea when you are young what it means to make choices whose consequences never go away.
And when my son heads to his friends house to hang out, meet up with girls, box with gloves in the backyard, I want to know that the parents in the house aren't turning up the music and turning their heads when one of the kids lights up a joint and says Hey, want some. It's cool, my parents don't care.
Fuck. That's what your teenager will think, because the one social constraint that enables him or her to say no and keep dignity and coolness intact has renounced their job. The parents are too cool. The butterfly flaps quietly. The joint is smoked.
As long as you keep your grades up, and aren't in trouble, it's fine once in a while.
As long as you don't drink and drive, it's fine.
As long as you promise to go to college and never use hard drugs, fine.
It's my goddamn son, and it's not fine. Did you know that alcoholism and addiction of all sorts runs like red blood cells through his veins? Did you know that mental illness runs in his family? Did you know that while some kids, some few, can hang and smoke and drink and that's it, many kids, like mine, will probably want more and more and harder because that's how good it feels, how easy it is, and how hard life is? Did you know that you have a moral obligation- forget the legalities- to ensure that the kids on your property are not doing anything that is proven to be detrimental to their futures, their bodies? Did you know that when you told your son OK and walked away, you told my son Your parents have just lost their last societal safe-guard against these kinds of traps? You are on your own.
They are teenagers. They aren't on their own yet. We have one chance fast slipping away to parent our children. If you choose to remove yourself from that obligation, please remove yourself from my teenager's life as well.
Or else I'll flap my wings of change in your direction, and it won't be from Paris.