The days of worrying about child safety in terms of plug outlets and car seats seem like, well, child's play in retrospect. Now I get the fun of worrying about what my girls are doing online, whom (and what) they're texting, replacing play dates with trips to the mall with friends, school dances (and what goes on in any dark corners), and my personal favorite, exposure to drugs.
I started worrying about the drug factor back when Sylvia was 6! Not that she was doing any at the time, of course, but just how her father's history (and, for all I know, his present) drug use would factor into the girls' outlook later.
My hope, obviously, is that they've experienced all too well just how damaging substance abuse is, and would stay far, far away. But that's not always how it works. Some kids may use their parent's experiences as an excuse to make the same mistakes, some are more prone to addiction by heredity and an "innocent" experimentation alters their life course completely, and some do indeed stay far far away. Of course, this is just a small sample of possibilities. The statistics can be whatever they are, but parents aren't dealing with statistics; we're dealing with our children.
Sylvia has mentioned that she's heard of drug use in her middle school. And sexual activities, and kids meeting up with online strangers, and pretty much any other horror story out there. I just remain grateful that she's told me what she has. I would be more skeptical if she said she's never heard of anyone doing any of the above.
And that's really the best answer I have to dealing with the dangers of the world: keep the lines of communication open. We talk about the latest news, and while the girls may roll their eyes or act shocked that I would even suggest they'd do such a thing, at least it's out there. Sure enough, many of those eye-rolling events come back to the girls on a more personal level, and that's when Sylvia tells me about what she heard of someone else doing at school, or how she's concerned about a friend.
I brace myself for the day that the talks will not be about someone else, but about one of them.
I have vowed to myself that I will not get crazy mad if I discover that either of my girls has experimented with drugs. That I will listen to what they have to say about it, and then explain as calmly as possible just how much harm they'll be doing to themselves and their loved ones if they ever try again. That being in control of your own life is a far greater high than giving it up to a substance. That we will attend Al-anon meetings or AA meetings so they can hear the stories of what those lost years did to real people. And then we will take it one day a time from there.
Yes, looking at just how much harder it's going to get before they reach adulthood safely is daunting and sometimes overwhelming.
Then I remember that they never stuck their fingers in a plug outlet, they do know how to cross a street safely (and will criticize others for jay-walking), automatically put on their seat belts, can chop vegetables properly and are cautious around a stove. We got there one day at a time, one accomplishment at a time. Just several hundreds more to go!
*This post is my entry for the The Safest Parent Competition sponsored by The Safest Line.