I wonder if you could help me with an issue that probably troubles a lot of parents. The subject is alcohol and drug use. I realize that children have to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes. And I was pretty good at letting mine skin their knees, even break their arms. Now, however, I'm in a bind, sometimes in a panic.
Please understand that I lost a lot of my contemporaries to the effects of drug use when I was an adolescent and young adult. And the effects of alcohol - ravaging the body, soul and family - are all too apparent. My current mission is to convince my kids not to use these substances. I feel sick when I see my bright, curious daughter dulled and "checked out." How could it be fun to be stoned and stupid?
So far, I deal with my concern by commenting frequently and explicitly about the immediate and long-term effects of substance abuse. I don't want them to fool themselves into thinking that what they're doing is harmless, "no big deal." As a result of this approach, I'm perceived as way too judgmental. And they now keep their distance from me, whether or not they're under the influence.
I want to watch my children soar. But as they test their wings, I live in fear of a crash landing. What's a passionate parent to do?
Mommie Fearest: I'm curious, have you ever heard of hood-surfing? Hood-surfing is where you straddle yourself across the hood of a car while the guy or girl who will deliver a heart-felt eulogy at your funeral two days from now accelerates to a speed that seems appropriately dangerous, then does little weaving maneuvers to bring everybody in the car to the proper level of hilarity. For extra bonus points, 1) consume plenty of alcohol beforehand, 2) do it on country roads at night and 3) turn the headlights off.
Would I recommend hood-surfing? Hell, no! Did I used to do it? Hell, yes! And it seemed fun at the time, but in retrospect it was unbelievably stupid. The thing is, I was smack dab in the middle of my unbelievably stupid years. I could fill the rest of this column (I mean until I retire) with my various exploits, but let's just say that cow-tipping gets a lot more dangerous when the cow turns out to be a bull. And yes, I was drunk that time, too. Alcohol wasn't just a social lubricant for me. It was a license to thrill.
What am I getting at? I'm getting at the fact that if your kids have reached a certain age - and that age does seem to get younger all the time - there's not a whole lot you can do to keep them from doing things that are unbelievably stupid. You can harass and harangue them. You can cut off their allowances. You can hire private detectives. And your kids will still find a way to slip through your fingers and onto the hood of a car. Worrisome? Yes, it's worrisome, because some small percentage of them will pay dearly. But that's life...
...and death. It's a mother's job to keep her children alive, so I don't begrudge you your mothering tendencies. But I think you may want to be very careful that those mothering tendencies don't turn into smothering tendencies. And I must say, you seem a tad overreactive. "How could it be fun to be stoned and stupid?" If you don't know the answer to that question, you don't really know what you're dealing with here. I'm probably breaking the law or something, but my advice to you is that you take a couple of hits off the fat end of a doobie. At any rate, try to mellow out.
To put the Librium back in my equilibrium, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.