Monday, January 9, 2012

In Which My Son Does the Right Thing

For a little bit lighter subject matter, I thought we would talk about peer pressure and puberty. Sounds like fun, right?  I thought so.  So much more interesting than stupid test results and doctor visits. Don't worry-I have lots more health crap to bitch about. I'll be back with more soon. Pinky swear.

When you first brought home your little bundle of joy, did you just stare in wonderment and that little pug nose, sweet cheeks, and toothless grin, and think, "Ahhh, one day you'll get offered weed at the local skate park"?  Yep, me too. I'm a sentimental old fool.

To be fair, I also thought, "One day I will go to your wedding(s)" and "One day I will refuse to pay bail". Oh, and my fave, "One day I will watch you stumble around drunk and vomiting-please don't be 14".  My parents wished the same thing.  Sorry, Mom and Dad. Blame it on my cousin's wedding. At least I never barfed in your car.

Why am I talking about infants and drug use? Well, my son had a situation. And the good news is, he did nothing wrong (that I know about).  And he came to me.  And he was honest (I think). And he was conflicted. Actually, considering it had to do with drugs, it's actually a very good story.  Truly heartwarming. With a happy ending and everything.

Let's go back to a couple years ago.  I have been having age-appropriate discussions with Monkey Boy and Princess since they have been able to ask questions. I have a Child Development background, and have worked with children for most of my adult life, so these discussions come easy to me.

MB (age 4):: Mom? Where do babies come from?
Me: From moms and dads.
MB: Okay.

MB (age 4 1/2): Where do babies come from?
Me: Moms and dads.
MB: But how?
Me:Moms provide eggs, and dads provide seeds. Then a baby grows.
MB: Okay.

MB (Age 4 3/4): Where do babies come from?
Me: Remember? Moms and dads make them with seeds and eggs.
MB: Yeah, but how do they get there?
Me: The egg is inside mommy, and the seed goes in and helps it turn into a baby.
MB: Okay.

...and so it goes.  I always make sure only to answer exactly what he is asking. I don't try to make it more adult than it is-we do tend to do that, don't we? And, MB is a curious child-always has been. So he has had a lot of information for a long time. Princess? She still doesn't get it. Doesn't really care. But I can tell you, MB wasn't giggling when his first Sex Ed class began. He was more confused as to why the other kids were laughing. And he asks pointed questions.

But when they get older, it's not how we answer the questions. It's the information we provide to them. And we have to sneak it in, so it's palatable. It's like brain antibiotics-disguise it as idle chitchat and no one barfs or cries.

So, about 2 years ago when he was 10, I began sneaking in information about drugs, alcohol and smoking. We'd see a smoker, and my children would express disgust. They might ask why someone would smoke. This is a perfect place to interject a few seeds:
Me: People smoke because they are addicted. Cigarettes contain drugs, and the smokers are physically addicted-their bodies have begun needing the drug.

Now, they will either go into "Stop talking" mode, where they just go, "Oh" and go back to their Gameboys, or they will ask more questions.
One of these convos turned to drugs, and I explained that there were different types of drugs-some were drank, some were smoked, some were pills. I told him the street names, and that sometimes kids chose to take them.
He wanted to know why.

Now, you can condemn me, or you can agree. You can respectfully disagree, or you can not give a shit. I'm going to tell you what I told him, and what I think is appropriate. Each parent has to decide what their preferred level of discomfort is-'cause let's face it: these convos aren't fun.  But statistics have proven they are necessary-telling kids to simply say no does not work. Right, Bristol?

MB (age 10): Why would kids smoke, or do drugs?
Me: Well, maybe they don't know better, or maybe they want to feel different, or maybe they have friends that ask them to do it. But like drinking and working, these things are better to wait for, when you're an adult. I don't want you to try them, but I know you have to make your own decisions. Just know that right now, everything you put into your body is helping to make it grow. So it's important that you keep the bad stuff out until you are grown-then you can decide if you want to take those risks, make those choices.

He's good with that. He gets that his brain will be different when he's older.  He understands that it's akin to liking a food he didn't like as a young child. And when he heard that kids his age might someday offer him drugs, I could tell he didn't believe me. I assured him that, yes there were 12 year olds that did drugs, had sex, drank. I knew them when I was that age, I was offered alcohol and drugs. I knew kids starting to experiment with sex. He was flabbergasted.
I continue to use these things as my argument for keeping him in the Montessori Charter School through Middle School. I feel strongly that we have a close-knit community that fosters support for the children. Sorry to sound all hippy-dippy, but it's true. My kids know so many adults in the community-all the parents that go on 10 field trips per year, offer clubs after school, assist in the classroom during parties and other times. it's normal for them to know tons of adults that will correct them. I still meet adults that realize who's mom I am-I met one the other night. I know her from Princess' room. But she knows Monkey Boy. When I asked her how, she said he helped with a younger child event last year, and he made quite an impression, being helpful and great with the Kinders. I was taken aback. But pleased beyond measure that a parent in the community was so enamored with my boy.

Let's fast-forward to about a 2 and a half months ago, right after Halloween.

He had a friend over for the weekend, and we live a couple neighborhood blocks from a large park, complete with a skate park where the tweens and teens tend to hang. They had been back and forth there all weekend.

On Monday night (it was a 3-day weekend) MB couldn't sleep. It was about 10 pm, and Princess came out to tell me MB was calling for me. I went in, and he was in bed, looking upset. He said he wanted to talk about something in private. My Spidey sense told me this was serious, as privacy was a newer concept to him, and he had never requested my presence for a discussion.
I sat on his bedside, and he told me that when he had been at the skate park, some kids he had befriended had asked him to smoke. He was quick to tell me that he hadn't, but that he was bothered by it. I told him I was glad he had told me, and that I knew he knew smoking was bad for him (I assumed we were talking about cigarettes).  There was a lot of nodding, and we chatted a bit more. He went quiet, and I said, "It seems like you still have stuff on your mind. Is there anything else you want to talk about?"  This is where he told me it was weed (marijuana), not cigarettes, and that one of the kids had pressured her sister into smoking, and she was only 12. He was really upset, and didn't know what to do.

Guys, I gotta tell you---all I wanted to say was, "you're never leaving the house ever again, as long as you live, and NEVER going to the skate park AGAIN EVER!!!".  But that's not what he was asking. He was looking for support, acknowledgement, answers. Instead, I said something along these lines: "Your dad and I are not going to say you can't go to the skate park. If it doesn't happen there, it will be at the mall, or the roller rink, or at the movie theater. Now that you have more freedom to do things, you also have more responsibility. And the responsibility is the choice to spend time with people that do things that aren't okay. Each time they offer things to you, it will get harder and harder to say no. That's why it's called peer pressure-pretty soon the pressure gets to be too much, and then you will have some big decisions. The other thing you want to remember is this: If the police come along, it won't matter what you are doing. You are with kids making bad choices. And if you all get taken to Juvenile Hall, I won't have an easy time believing you didn't do anything wrong. That's called being guilty by association. It's not fair, but it's real.

We ended with me telling him that his dad and I were on the same page and that he could always come to us, and that I was glad he had talked to me. It was a sweet moment, filled with my heart pounding in my chest.

Now this next part? I must offer an apology to Sky King.  He is truly an amazing dad, but like us all, he has made mistakes. And for this story to really express to you the importance of these moments, I have to tell the WHOLE STORY. Which happens to reflect poorly on Sky King.

I went out to the family room, where Sky King was waiting. I sat, and quietly told him about the conversation. At the end, Sky King was just shaking his head.
Me: What?
SK: He came to me today.
Me: He did? What did you say?
SK:Well, he said, "Hey Dad, some kids were smoking weed at the skate park", and I was in the middle of cleaning the garage and it was so random, so I said, "MB, why do you tell me stuff like that? I won't want you to go there". And then he walked away.

Wow.  Heavy, right? My brain can't even begin to process that many "what-ifs". Mind-boggling stuff. But he trusted us, gave us another chance. I followed up with Monkey Boy the next day, that dad had missed the point, that we were on the same page, and to give dad another chance. It all went well.

What is the follow up? He hasn't gone back to that skate park, he hasn't mentioned those friends by name. Only time will tell how he will respond in the future. I'm hoping he can stay strong, that he remembers what we have told him so many times, that he's comfortable continuing to say "No".

And I hope those little fuckers stay the hell away from my baby.

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