I don’t trust my kids.
Not any of them.
I want to.
But I think if you blindly believe everything your kids are telling you, you are making a big mistake.
I was a kid once. I know how things work.
And even the really good kids will, at some point, try to get away with something they know they shouldn’t.
Or make some really dumb decisions.
Yes, I’m talking to you, the father whose daughter is a girl scout and an honor roll student.
And you, the mother of the devoted church goer.
And you, the parents of the son who is the starting quarterback and captain of the football team.
And even you, parent of the class valedictorian.
None of you are immune.
None of your kids are perfect.
They may have started off that way.
I did. Up until I was fifteen, I was the perfect kid. I was a good student. A great athlete. A respectful daughter. An overall responsible kid.
Then my brother was diagnosed with leukemia.
And that’s when the switch flipped, and I started drinking.
I went from chastising my friends who had already been drinking and smoking for months (or even years) to joining right in with them.
That eventually led to smoking pot, dropping acid, eating shrooms, doing coke, lots more smoking pot, and for the grand finale, an OD on prescription medication.
It would take a while for me to get my shit together.
And now, at 45, I am just starting to figure things out.
One of your children didn’t die from cancer, and so your kid isn’t at risk.
Or you live in a wealthy town, and that shit doesn’t go down where you live.
You are wrong.
Kids are doing drugs and drinking and smoking and engaging in all sorts of other unhealthy behaviors everywhere.
Even the ones who don’t appear to be fucked up. The good kids. The athletes. The intellectuals. The religious ones.
Sure, there are some risk factors that make some kids more susceptible.
But nobody is immune.
Even with what my family went through when I was in high school, if my parents had to wager money, I’m sure they would have bet the house that I would never, ever do any of the crap that I did.
I often wonder what path I would have taken if my brother had never gotten sick.
I wonder if it would have made a difference.
And who knows what decisions all of my children will make.
One thing is for sure.
They are at high risk for addiction. They are genetically predisposed. They have relatives with a history of depression and addiction.
It would be foolish of me to not keep a close eye on them. To not know what they are doing and where they are. To not know who they are talking to and texting.
To monitor their phones and their online activity.
I think it is foolish of any parent not to do these things. Whether there are red flags or not.
And you, that parent who just thought, My kid would never do those things. I don’t need to keep that close an eye on my kid. I completely trust her.
Maybe you are right.
But maybe you are not. If you aren’t aware of what your children are doing, you are being naive.
I’m not saying your children don’t deserve privacy or independence.
But there is a difference between allowing your child to have independence and allowing your child to do whatever he wants because you are positive he would never do that.
I know. Your kid is sixteen. Or seventeen. Not six or seven.
But sixteen or seventeen is still a kid.
You are the adult.
I get it. It sucks. Having to stay on top of your kids is no fun. Especially when they are older. This shit was supposed to be over when they were in the double digits. Once they are old enough to stay at home alone, you can let your guard down and relax, right?
I know. It’s tiring and monotonous and boring.
Do you really need to check up on what your kids are doing when they look you right in the eyes and tell you exactly what you want to hear?
Um… yes. You do.
Sure, your kids are different than they were when they were preschoolers.
They are bigger and stronger and smarter. They can out run you now.
And with all this technology that they can navigate easily but you can sometimes barely understand, it is very easy for them to outsmart you.
This is a tough topic to deal with.
If your child is involved in drugs or drinking or any other unhealthy or illegal activity, it is easy to turn a blind eye.
If you don’t know whether your child is doing something they shouldn’t be doing but have a funny feeling in your gut, well, you know what the truth really is.
I get it. It’s hard. And it’s easy to convince yourself that there is a reasonable explanation which does not involve your child doing anything wrong or being unstable or in trouble.
Because it is so hard to look at your teenage child without remembering that perfect little baby that he or she was.
And wondering where you went wrong.
You may not have gone wrong anywhere. Sometimes you do all the right things and this shit still happens.
Other times, the reality of the situation is that sometimes you are at least partially at fault.
And while that feels terrible, sticking your head in the sand won’t make things any better.
You certainly didn’t do it intentionally.
Making a mistake doesn’t mean you get to throw in the towel.
When you signed on for this parenting gig, you kind of signed a contract for life.
And making a mistake doesn’t put you in the fuck it category.
Your job is not over.
While some fuck ups get you fired from a job, being a parent isn’t one of those jobs.
You don’t get to quit when you don’t like aspects of your job anymore.
Whether it’s your fault or not doesn’t matter.
What matters is that if there is a problem, your child is counting on you to help.
She may not act like she is counting on you.
He may not say that he is counting on you.
But he is. She is.
And the way in which you are accountable is different for every family, and sometimes different for each child within the family.
One child may need more support and understanding from you.
Another child might need a serious kick in the ass. She may need counseling or rehab or she may need to be temporarily removed from the home.
Yes. You may have to say goodbye to your child for an indefinite period of time in order to do what is best for him or her.
Being firm with a teenager who believes they are entitled or can do no wrong, a teenager who is depressed or bipolar or addicted or whatever totally sucks.
But it doesn’t suck as bad as dealing with a teenager who is pregnant. Or in jail.
Most of this parenting gig is not easy. But it’s not just hard for you. It’s hard for all of us.
And you can look at this as either a good thing or a bad thing, but if your child is in trouble, if your child is using or addicted or mentally ill or troubled in some other way, you are not alone.
There are teachers and doctors and lawyers and all sorts of professionals, single parents, happily married parents, divorced parents, widowed parents, gay and straight parents whose children are pretty fucked up. Whose children are struggling.
And there is support out there for you.
If you live here in the Brookfield area, check out Brookfield Cares.
If you live in another town or state, there is a good chance there is an organization out there that can help you.
A place where you will not only receive information, but meet other people who can relate and understand completely what you are going through.
Educate yourself. Even if your children are young.
Especially if your children are young.
Know the warning signs before there is a problem.
Because whether your kids are six or sixteen, they need your help and your guidance.
And they are counting on you.