There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Used to be that if you found an interesting news article, you’d clip it out of the newspaper/magazine and store it in a safe place. Sometimes, if it was particularly moving or important, you’d haul yourself down to a Kinko’s or something and make copies. If one deemed it EXTRA pertinent, you might purchase a stamp and mail it to someone. In today’s “copy and paste” world, news nerds like myself are one click away from sharing various news links…or in my case, SAVING, interesting articles.
I have several dozens saved. I won’t give you an exact number…as it might be used against me as a measurement of my nerdiness. You can probably imagine that several of these saved articles fall into the faith and family categories. What can I say other than that I’m fairly predictable and in some regards, very old school. I tried sharing a SAVED article with my son recently…via a link in a text message…to which I received a sullen reply and an interesting emoticon followed by the words “you know, I’m not reading this.” Sure, I’ve been known to send him (and my daughter) preachy sorts of things, but in my defense this was actually a sports article and a good one at that. But my kids are too wise and know their mother too well…the warning lights start flashing, “SHE’S TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING.” And, yes, they’re right.
Lately, my SAVED files have been focused on one subject–SUBSTANCE ABUSE. I have countless, tragic articles on teens dying as a result of drinking games, drunk driving accidents, and every type of drug overdose. It’s morbid, I know. Some of these news links have photos…sweet, smiling photos of adolescents who have become victims and horrible, graphic photos of teenagers lost too soon. These are the kinds of things that break my heart. In the sweet smiling photos I see my own babies…innocent and full of promise. In the horrible, graphic photos I feel my eyes well up with tears and my throat tighten at what I can only imagine is a mother’s worst nightmare.
The researcher in me keeps hitting the “save” button and then I pour over the article looking for what went wrong and scanning the account for early warning signs and prevention strategies. The mother bear in me keeps hitting the “save” button, vowing that I will protect my children from drugs and alcohol at all costs. The realist in me keeps hitting the “save” button knowing that these sorts of things are happening NOW, in our schools and in our community. I do these things all the while praying…for an angel to watch over my kiddos, for good role models and friends for them, and that I might be the kind of parent that can love them through anything. I do this because I am not naïve, families (like mine and like yours) have been hit over the head and completely broken by these sorts of tragedies. If my research has proven anything, it’s that no one is immune.
Saved by the Bell. Season 3, Episode 21. 1991
But the news nerd in me says, “Tell them, show them” as I compile my montage of anecdotes and news links about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. I play out in my head conversations about how to handle alcohol and what responsible drinking looks like and then, oftentimes following beer commercials (while watching sports on TV,) we talk about it. I remind the kids that alcoholism has taken the lives of family members. We talk about some of the science behind addiction. I quote my mantra (courtesy of the Saved by the Bell television show,) THERE’S NO HOPE WITH DOPE. (I have actually told my children that I would foot the bill for that tattoo!) I scrunch up my nose every time some one tries to convince me that recreational marijuana is a good idea…and then I talk about it with my kids. I tell them that while I worked as a reporter that I met a woman who was my age (22 at the time) and addicted to meth. She looked gaunt with leathery skin. She slurred her words because she had lost so many teeth as a result of her addiction. Her hair was falling out and she was in jail. I remember this so clearly because in talking with her we discovered that we had similar backgrounds…middle class upbringing, two parent household, grew up in a small town, etc. And yet our lives were so different. When I share these things, I’m bold enough to tell them, “This is NOT for YOU.” And then I pray some more.
So here’s what I want them to know….
- With one “hit,” they can drastically change their life.
- Drinking games are not games.
- Underage drinking and drug use is dumb (you’re destroying brain cells) and dangerous.
- Being “under the influence” of anything will cause you to make horrible decisions.
- Be on guard. Today strangers (and so-called friends) can put drugs/alcohol in your drinks and food.
- Bad guys will prey upon girls (and boys) who are under the influence.
- There will be photographs and I will find out.
And here’s what I also want to tell them….
- I love you. I will help you and care for you first…but that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences or a lecture for bad choices.
- A bad day, date, break-up does not determine your worth. Don’t add to your heartache by throwing drugs and alcohol into the mix.
- Peer pressure sucks. I taught you to the difference between right and wrong. Be strong. It won’t be easy, but I believe it is in you to say “No,” in fact I’ve heard you say it a thousand times already.
- I’m going to ask you where you’re going and who you’re with. This is for both of us. It makes you accountable and helps me gauge just how much I should worry about you and whether or not I should just NOT let you go.
- And finally, don’t die doing something stupid!
I’m sick of people glamorizing drugs and alcohol…in music, television and social media. It turns my stomach to see celebrities practically endorsing this kind of lifestyle. It’s gut wrenching to see so many young people, full of hope and promise, end up broken or dead…and for what? I wish I didn’t have a SAVE list full of these horror stories, but I do. So listen up, kiddos, I will continue to tell you (and your friends) all about them. I will even share the photos. Know that I’m adding to my arsenal of articles everyday…because you are loved and I truly do have so much more to tell you.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 1:8