I can easily recognize how much different my life growing up was compared to my parent’s lives. Because of this I don’t assume that my children’s lives growing up will be like mine. One of my favorite things to do with my mom is to ask her to tell me stories of when she was younger. As she colorfully describes her early days I am able to see a much different world of games, interests, social behavior, and childhood interactions compared to my own. Some of the basic differences that prevail in most of her tales are the apparent simplicity to life and its gentler consequences. For example, as for Christmas presents, the most she expected was a single toy, not the mountain of gifts that I was brought up receiving. It isn’t really that hard for me to see that time has changed some of the most basic social interactions between my children and the world that surrounds them. In fact, the changes are not just on how they interact with me and within themselves, but also how society’s external influences interact with them. This is why I strongly believe that today, more than ever, I need to stay informed on both sides of these sociological changes. In order for me to have any kind of real connection with my children, the days of crossing my arms and simply stating that it is my way or the highway are pretty much over. It is not so much that I cannot take this kind of stance, it is more about how much less effective this parental approach has become in the twenty first century. Just because I, as an individual, refuse to jump on the band wagon of current technology or social behavior, that means absolutely nothing with regards to their influence on my children. My inclination is to hitch my retro-aged wagon to the train of progress, or get ready to become totally clueless and ineffective to my children’s needs and the world that surrounds them today.
What do I know about teenagers and mind altering drugs? Really, what are the chances that my child will experiment with alcohol, marijuana, heroine, cocaine, or LSD? Do I know the difference between these substances? Which ones are addictive and which ones are not? What happens when they take any of these substances? Would I be able to recognize the effects by simply looking at my child’s behavior or demeanor? What about over the counter drugs or prescription drugs? In the past, for my child to get high, at a minimum, he had to be connected to someone that could provide him with the necessary concoction for his trip to an altered state of reality. Today my children are able to find what they need inside my own medicine cabinet or that of a friends or family member. Getting drugs is no longer about dark corners and fishy characters. Today’s pushers are unknowingly mothers, fathers, grandparents, other relatives or neighbors. Pain killers, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, cough syrups, muscle relaxants, allergy medications, and many others are the elixirs of choice for today’s getting high activity. All my children need to do is log on to the Internet and get the right cocktail mix and poof, there it is, the perfect potion to get high! The truth is that now days, as ironic as it may sound, getting high with some Internet recommendation might be much less harmful than what a lot of kids are actually doing instead. It is not uncommon for them to go into your medicine cabinet, grab whatever they can find, and then head to their local party house and simply throw it into a big bowl that is then used for everyone to simply grab a random handful of pills and consume them to later discover what the effects will be in the next few hours. If you think that I am exaggerating, maybe it’s time for all of us to take a reality pill and start doing our own research so that we can find out how common this is in real life.
This may all sound a bit harsh, but better for me to discover this reality today, than ten years from know when it might be too late for me to catch up with the times. When I take a look back at my own life and how much different it is from that of my parents I easily discover the true magnitude of our sociological gap. It amazes me how little generational time has gone by between me and my parents, which then allows me to make an assessment as to how significant the gap has become in relation to my life and that of my children. I remember what it took to buy a few condoms when I was young, or worse to take a peek at the December issue of Playboy, Penthouse, or if I was lucky Hustler magazine. Not every store in town carried condoms, and much less what now seem to be almost tame adult magazines. The toughest thing was having to face the clerk at the register with a box of condoms or the cute bunny on the cover magazine, and still I remember doing it. Today, not only can anyone to see some of the nastiest, raunchiest, and most perverted sex images by simply typing a few letters on the keyboard of our computers, but also when we decide to go to the store and to buy our “I don’t want to get her pregnant, much less die for having sex” lubricated condoms, the decision comes in flavors such as “Twisted Pleasure, Her Pleasure, Intense Ribbed, and Shared Pleasure” to ensure that we get it right in the 12 variety pack, plus two bonus! What I am trying to say is that times have changed and they are only going to change even more so the time to figure it all out is now!
As a father I need to stay informed. It’s not good enough to know what I already knew from my own experiences, I also need to dive into my children’s world. If I own a computer, and it is obvious that if I am writing or reading this blog chances are that I do, I need to try to keep up with all of the advances that are touching the lives of my children. The closer I am to their world, the easier it is going to be for me to understand what is going on. About two years ago my oldest son one night decided to disappear on me and head out to some party at some unknown to me friend’s home. All I knew was that when he originally asked if he could go I said no, but then a couple of hours later the little rascal simply disappeared. Even though he knew that I am the nerdy type and pretty good at working with electronic media, for some dumb reason before he snuck out of my place he forgot to turn off his computer. I searched the history of what he had been doing on the computer and was able to find the location of his escaping adventure. Imagine the surprise in his face when I showed up knocking on the door of the house in which he had disappeared to and was actually planning on spending the entire night at! I swear I wanted to strangle him in front of everyone but somehow our joint therapy on anger management had at least taught me to control my discontent and handle the situation a bit more civilized. It could of been one of the most terrifying nights of my life not knowing where he was and how to find him, but the fact that I knew how to do a couple of tricks on the computer from which he had stupidly planned his escapade, truly saved the night.
I need to learn about my kid’s habits and what is going on in their school, and what is happening all around them. I cannot wait until I have a crisis on my hands to then start learning; more knowledge is always better than less. In fact, most kids believe that their parents are so dumb that they will leave every clue in the book out in the open thinking that we won’t be able to figure it out. If I ask them, most of the time they will even tell me about other kids and how they are getting into trouble. The more I know, the more equipped I will be in order to effectively keep things in order.
I know that this post is a bit harsh in some of it’s content since most of us don’t really want to hear about the possibility of our children doing drugs, having sex, or getting into any kind of serious trouble. Unfortunately not wanting to hear about these kinds of issues is one of the reasons that sometimes we end up finding out the hard way that we should of done something about it a lot earlier in their lives. The least I can do is to stay informed, learn as much as I can, and definitely keep my eyes open for any of the signs that might bring with them the unfortunate news that the innocent younger years are over and that it is now time to deal with some much more serious and scary issues. I have asked a lot of parents about these kinds of subjects and can safely say that it happens more that most people like to admit. There seems to be some kind of hushness to admitting that we have problems with our children, as if it portrays us as bad parents when in reality it is just a sign of our times. My experience has been that once I start telling someone about some of the situations that I have had to deal with, suddenly a new portrait starts to become clear about their parenting experiences too. It is almost as watching one of those old Polaroid photographs beginning to slowly but surely reveals itself as if it was magic. Like they say, hope for the best but plan for the worse.