the dark things in the world

When my son was about 12, a friend called and asked if he could babysit.

I froze up, silent.

He got it very quickly. “Um, we often come home really late, staying out until 3 am, so would it be ok if he stayed the night and we brought him home in the morning?”

“Yes,” I said, with relief.

What was I worrying about? Alcohol. I knew he and his wife drank far more than I approved of and the thought of them driving my son home drunk was NOT ok. I think that sometimes they took a taxi home. I hope so. I suppose they could send my son home in a taxi, but by having him stay the night, he would sleep too. Their children were five and six years younger than my son.

So I would take my son there, or they would pick him up, and he’d go to sleep when the kids did. I don’t know how late my son and the kids stayed up in that house. I do know the household reminded me of my childhood home, where the adults stayed up and partied. I did not party in high school at all. I didn’t want to. I was not interested in drinking alcohol illicitly. I could perfectly easily have drunk it at home: my parents were too tuned out by then to notice. I knew what people were like when drunk: why would I explore that with my peers? My father would break things in the house when he fell, there were burn marks in the floor from cigarettes, my parents would scream at each other at 1 am. I kept my head down and did very very well at school: I wanted out, even though it was not conscious. I loved my parents. Home was chaos and I escaped into books and schoolwork.

Parents need to think carefully about babysitting. Do they know the family? Do they need to drive their child to the house and pick them up? Once I went to babysit and the family had two enormous St. Bernards. The male growled at me. The owner said, “Don’t worry, he will attack anyone who tries to get in the house.” I was quite terrified of the dogs, and the male trailed enormous strings of drool into my lap. That night at 1 am I found Monty Python on cable and wondered if I’d wandered into another universe. We didn’t have cable, so it was surreal. I didn’t tell my parents about any of it. These were not people we knew: friends of friends.

Parents need to be careful as well to tell teens that adults can behave inappropriately and that a normally nice adult might behave badly when drunk. Many babysitting friends told me about the father of the kids they were sitting making sexual comments or putting a hand on their knee driving them home. This is not ok and teens need to be warned. They also should be warned about signs of drinking and inebriation and have taxi money or be able to call for a ride if they are not comfortable with the adult driving them home. And if the adult makes any sort of inappropriate remark or touch, they should NOT babysit there again ever. I would tell the offending adult why, though I think that would often get an angry or denial reaction.

I have various friends with 9 year olds. One parent made a comment that they don’t want their children to know anything bad about the world until they are ten. Another didn’t want their child to know what the term domestic violence meant.

I disagree. I would respond saying, “If your mother doesn’t want me to discuss that, then we will leave for her to talk to you about it later.”

How can we shelter our children with the magical childhood until ten and then send them to babysit at twelve? How can they recognize an adult is impaired or inappropriate behavior unless we talk about it? I have been asking adult smokers what age they started smoking for years: most of my older men started at age 9. The other day a woman said she’d tried cigarettes by age 7. Our children are not stupid, they hear things, they try to puzzle it out with each other: they deserve honesty from the start.

For a small child, that may mean a very simple explanation. My mother died of cancer when my daughter was two years and six months. By age four she had processed it to where she asked me “How old was grandmother Helen when she died?” I said that MY grandmother was 92 when she died, but grandmother Helen was 62. She asked, “How old are YOU?” I said, “I am forty. I hope to live as long as my grandmother, but none of us know how long we will live.” She studied me for a while and then went off.

They say that small children can’t process death. Clearly my daughter could! Maybe children can’t because we do not talk to them about it. We aren’t respectful. We try to hide all the dark things in the world, we try to keep them in a fairy tale. I feel angry on behalf of our children. To me it feels like parents lie: they will not tell their children what is going on. It’s not okay. And how can they handle the dark if no one will discuss it until they are ten?

 

Adults can be pretty weird sometimes, right? The photograph is from this year’s Kinetic Sculpture Race.

beer and the Supreme Court

I want to reblog this and ask: Mr. Kavanaugh, you drank alcohol as a teen. How do you feel about your daughters drinking alcohol as teens? Is this acceptable? Is this expected? Will you turn a blind eye? Or do you have a double standard? Can teen males drink but teen females are “asking for it” and are “bad girls” if they behave the same way?

This matters. I don’t want a Supreme Court Justice who thinks it is fine for either teen males or teen females to drink and use drugs. So, sir, speak up: what message are you sending to all teens in the United States?

https://therecoveringlegalist.com/2018/09/28/the-elephant-in-the-kavanaugh-hearing-room/

hope for change

I want us to have a culture where teens don’t drink to black out or to where they tell themselves that it’s ok to harm another person, where women are not punished for speaking up, where neither boys nor girls nor men nor women tolerate rape or domestic violence or discrimination or hatred.

T for turtle

Blogging from A to Z,  the letter T! T is for turtle and teenage and travel!

On Hawaii we went to a park and saw green turtles. They are born about 1000 miles away on a different island. They travel in the sea and now come to Hawaii to rest. The ones who rest on the beaches are 20 to 140 pounds. As mature adults, they will be 200 to 400 pounds and live back in the sea.

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We both have zoom lenses. We are not supposed to go closer than 20 feet.

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And here is one just arriving for a rest:

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T

 

 

 

teens high risk for addiction

What teens are at high risk for addiction?

Would you say inner city, poor, abused, homeless?

This study : Adolescents from upper middle class communities: Substance misuse and addiction across early adulthood. which I first saw in WebMd, says that the privileged upper middle and rich children are at higher risk  for addiction than many of their peers.

350+ teens in New England were studied.

Drug and alcohol use was higher than across country norms, including inner city.

Rates of addiction diagnosis by age 26 were
19%-24% for girls
23%-40% for boys
These rates are two to three times the norms across the country.

Rates for addiction diagnosis by age 22 were
11%-16% for girls
19%-27% for boys
These rates are close to the same in girls, but twice as high in boys as peers across the country.

The teens were often popular high achievers who are A students. Parents tended to drink more in those cohorts than the norms.

Also: “Findings also showed the protective power of parents’ containment (anticipated stringency of repercussions for substance use) at age 18; this was inversely associated with frequency of drunkenness and marijuana and stimulant use in adulthood.” That is, parents who sent a clear message that consequences for illegal and underage substance use including alcohol and marijuana would be serious, provided protection for their teens.

A second article: Children of the Affluent: Challenges to Well-Being says this:

“Results also revealed the surprising unique significance of children’s eating dinner with at least one parent on most nights. Even after the other six parenting dimensions (including emotional closeness both to mothers and to fathers) were taken into account, this simple family routine was linked not only to children’s self-reported adjustment, but also to their performance at school. Striking, too, were the similarities of links involving family dining among families ostensibly easily able to arrange for shared leisure time and those who had to cope with the sundry exigencies of everyday life in poverty.”

Other children’s perception of parenting examined included:

felt closeness to mothers
felt closeness to fathers
parental values emphasizing integrity
regularity of eating dinner with parents
parental criticism
lack of after-school supervision
parental expectations

This aligns with my observations both in my town and with patients. I see parents “check out” sometimes when their children are in their teens. “I can’t control him/her. They are going to use drugs and alcohol.” I told my children that if they partied I would NOT be the parent who says, “Oh, he needs to play football anyhow.” I would be the parent who would be yelling “Throw the book at him/her. Bench them.” And I saw parents of teens going out to the parking lot to smoke marijuana at a church fundraiser when it was still illegal. And saying “Oh, our kids don’t know.” I thought, “Your kids are not that dumb.” They invited me along. I said, “No.” And I really lost respect for that group of parents. What example and message are they sending to their teens? Yeah, cool, do illegal things in the parking lot, nod, nod, wink, wink.

Meanwhile, my children keep me honest. “You are speeding, mom.”

“Yeah,” I say. “You are right. Sometimes I do.” And I slow down.

the tide going out

I am thinking about the term “white trash” and choices.

Is “white trash” a discriminatory term? A derogatory term? Is it a type of person or is it a “lifestyle choice”? Or is it a sum of choices?

A friend tells me that it is not discriminatory. Not an insult. A lifestyle. Then the friend says, “Some people would assume that I am white trash because I live in a trailer (manufactured home) and don’t own my own land. I rent.”

Would this person be white trash to you? Does it make a difference if they are male or female? Over 60? Under 30? Single? Have children? Would you feel differently about a single male parent than a single female parent? Would you feel differently if they are widowed instead of divorced?

And at what age do we become responsible?

If I am a child growing up in a household with alcoholism, verbal abuse, parents with mental health issues or grave illness or abandonment, where is the line where I become responsible for myself?

I surveyed my smokers for years, what age did you start? The men mostly said age 9. There was more cultural pressure on women, but the youngest started at 11 or 12. And then the horrific stories, where the parent is offering whiskey to a child under 10. My sister and I wandered around peoples’ houses in the dark when we were under ten. She was three years younger. I was a kid who did not trust adults and was careful. Scared. So we did not get into drugs or alcohol and I hated my father’s unfiltered camels. My parents would not touch illegal drugs, thankfully. I took care of my sister, but we were entirely unsupervised in barns and houses and outside….

I think that our teens are making choices at far younger ages than parents want to admit. I see parents check out when the child is fourteen or even younger. Teens who are nearly living at friends. Teens who already seem lost. And sometimes the parent is wrapped up in a divorce or a parent is sick or dying or a parent is in jail or abandons the family.

What age did you make choices? Did you make good ones? And is white trash hate speech? If you made bad choices, were you able to change later on?

What is the line between free speech and hate speech? And what is the line between love and enabling?

I am still searching….


Over the Rhine: Fool and Let it fall

For the Daily Prompt: rhyme. No, it doesn’t rhyme. But I am thinking of the phrase: no rhyme or reason….