Deaf, Blind or Dumb?By
At what point in our children’s lives did we stop listening, stop watching, and stop talking about the things that stood to rob our kids of their future potential? How is it that otherwise competent people, indisputably loving parents, one day found themselves so beaten into submission that they could overlook, even condone, the potentially fatal mistakes of their dependent children? As another prom season slam dances its way across the high school scene, leaving behind it a trail of car crashes, arrests, alcohol poisonings and worse, I can’t help but wonder if any other parents have paused to contemplate a change.
The prom aftermath often leaves us with a brief insight into the substance abuse patterns that we have helped our kids develop. It stands as a report card, not just for the kids, but for the community in which the kids have been raised. It highlights the mistakes that we have helped to create and predicts the future that we have helped to build. For more parents than kids, it is a very “sobering” time.
Some parents never give it a thought. Others stop thinking about it the moment their child returns home. But there are some, particularly those who are (un)fortunate enough to hear the crazy stories, view the scandalous facebook pages and partake in the uncensored discussions, that can’t stop thinking about it. This prom season, my attention was diverted from the youthful indiscretions of the prom-goers, and turned instead towards a more disturbing trend that has been emerging from the prom aftermath. A trend that many readers will readily identify with. A trend that does not bode well for kids, parents or countrymen.
“…the moment at which you realize that it is “unpopular” to protect your child, is precisely the moment at which you need to stop caring about being “popular”.
Story after story in the after-prom newsfeed speaks of a very strange, yet repetitive, fact pattern. Parents, not kids, planning the after-parties. “Responsible” adults chaperoning intoxicated children. Mothers providing liquor or limos. Fathers financing early morning club trips and weekend accommodations. Moms and Dads not just ignoring, but actively involving themselves in the antecedent acts of recreational intoxication.
Committees are formed, budgets are developed, guest lists and itineraries are haggled over, not in an effort to guarantee a safe and fun high school dance, but rather to construct an extravagant exposé into the pop-culture party world; the very same world that has become infamous for robbing young and naive partygoers of their lives. In this world, the well chaperoned prom is merely a forethought. Afterward, an unchaperoned party bus awaits, followed by an early morning soiree, and capped off with a day or three of unsupervised time away from home. In an act that would seemingly defy logic, the parents willingly make themselves facilitators and financiers of their teen’s overindulgence.
While this may seem at first to be a teenager’s dream come true, for many it is actually the start of long and disastrous nightmare. A nightmare that begins with Mom and Dad letting go too early, and ends in the throes of systemic failure. It is a nightmare that is not only shared by child, Mom and Dad themselves, but by the community as a whole. This conspicuous act of facilitation entices other children. It chides the community’s anti-substance abuse role models, and pits other parents against their own better judgment.
“These parents may indeed be deaf and blind, but we are the Dumb ones. And that has to be changed.”
I’ve spent some time considering how and why a parent could find themselves walking such an ill-fated path. I’ve tried to envision the catastrophic evolution of thought processes. These parents change the diapers, they kiss the cuts, they cheer in the stands, and then one day they just say “screw it.” As if their role has suddenly switched from protector to party guide. Just feet from the endzone, they stop running and hand the ball to the other team. Rather than seize the value of this teachable moment, they purposely push their kids closer to the edge. They’ve given up on themselves, and willingly collaborated with the very forces that would beckon their naive and risk loving children towards indiscretion.
But then it hit me. These parents don’t think of it that way. They love their kids as I do mine. They actually believe that they’re doing something right, something healthy, something paternal. They believe that their role is to expose kids to the wild side, to hold their child’s hand while they gain experience in recreational intoxication. “You can’t stop them,” they say with a shrug. “It’s just beer,” they whisper under their breath. “You’ve got to prepare them for college,” they grumble. But all of these arguments are blatantly false; better I say fatally false. And decades of research has proven it. Heck, the morning paper proves it nearly every day. So what’s going on? Are these parents Deaf? Are they Blind? The short answer is yes. Both, actually. And we’ll get to that. But don’t call these parents Dumb, because they’re not. In fact, most of these parents are the farthest thing from Dumb. To find the Dumb ones, I’m afraid, we have to look in the mirror. That’s right, that label belongs to us…(continued next page)
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