“Talk to the children,” the experts always tell parents. “Talk to them about sex. Talk to them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.” “Open lines of communication are healthy,” they claim.
So I talk to my kids like the experts want me to. Most mornings when I drop my kids (and Abby, our wonderful friend who rides in with us each day) off at the back of the school, I yell, “Good bye. I love you. Don’t do drugs or kiss boys.”
I figure it covers it all, right? I’ve bid them a warm adieu, confirmed my love for them, warned them of the dangers of drugs, and affirmed my desire to not become a grandmother at age forty.
Done, done, and done.
The kids roll their eyes. Well, Abby politely rolls her eyes without actually rolling her eyes, because her parents have raised her to respect other adults. My kids slam the van door and run away, wishing their father could drop them off instead.
Some days I’ll roll down the window and yell it across the parking lot, just to be extra convincing.
They really, really love this.
There’s nothing funner in the whole world than messing with your middle schoolers, I tell you. Pure delight.
Now that the children are eleven and thirteen, they can outwit me. “What about Caleb? Can he kiss boys?” Audrey demanded.
“Fine. No kissing girls or boys,” I amended.
“Are we assuming gender? We can’t just be assuming anyone’s gender,” she shot at me recently.
And while I personally will continue to assume gender for every human I encounter until the day I die, I don’t have time for this fight in the middle school parking lot, so I yell, “Fine. NO KISSING OTHER HUMANS.”
And they giggle and run away, off to the relative sanity of the school building.
I’ll be the first to admit that these open lines of communication are about to kill me. We really, really do want our kids to talk to us about anything, especially since we’re a Christian family in a very secular school. We can’t assume that any teacher or administrator shares our beliefs, ever. And while quite a few key adults at the school do indeed share our beliefs and the rest of them have been very respectful, it’s still up to us to make sure we verbalize what the kids need to know.
They are loved. Drugs are dangerous. Kissing is only slightly less dangerous than drugs.
But talking about it can be so uncomfortable. Like, shoulders-up-to-my-ears, full grimace, wanting to die while I explain that every single song by Maroon 5 is about sex and the song “Sugar” is not, in fact, about sugar.
[…brief pause while your blogger takes a moment to watch the video to “Sugar”, which she quite enjoys…]
But at least we hope that one day our kids will be enjoying sex at a proper age, with a nice marriage license and ceremony before God and everyone to sanctify it.
Sex, sure. Eventually. But drugs are another story. We don’t evereverevereverever want them to mess around with that menace. Our mental health is a precious gift. It’s the one thing we have to survey the world properly and then respond in a healthy way. Why would you trade a clear mind for one addled with addiction and despair?
One day, when my kids are at the inevitable party and someone offers them a joint or heroin or the recipe for meth, I want my voice in their ears yelling “Don’t do drugs!” Trust me, they’ve heard it enough times now that my face will pop into their view even if I’m 800 miles away.
And this is precisely my goal. Listen, I get it. I can’t watch my kids’ every move until I die. One day they will go out into the world and make their own decisions, and they’re already doing that every day. I’m sure I’d be horrified if I knew everything.
But they know they’re loved. They know that drugs and kissing have immense consequences. And they know we’re always willing to talk about it.
But, please. Your father will be explaining the lyrics to “Animals.” I just can’t.