First there was one, then there were two, then three, and now it is six. Six children of people who my friends know and love, have lost a child. LinkedIn would refer to them as my second connections. Their deaths were all due to drug overdoses. They all came from “good families,” which I think means, “parents who are trying just as hard as you and I are.” Some of the parents were aware of their child’s drug issues, some were taken completely by surprise.
I don’t know why six losses is making me write this, because I have been wanting to write this post for a long time. My reluctance is due to your reluctance, and knowing your reluctance, I didn’t want you to not like me, be comfortable around me, be my friend. I’m willing to forgo all that if my writing can in any way prevent your child from being number seven.
Friends, we are in a crisis – an opiate, heroin, Xanax, fentanyl crisis. You know it. I know it. It’s on the news every night. So, here’s my question for you-
Why aren’t you drug testing your kids?
If there was a toxic mold at their school, you would have all of their bodily fluids tested. If there was lead in the water, you would be monitoring them daily. I know this, because I know you, and I know your devotion to your children. So, with drug tests available at every Walgreen’s, for anywhere from $14-28, why have your children not pee’d in a cup?
Of course, I know the reasons why, I’m a parent too. When we signed up for this mom and dad job, the internet may not have been a thing, video games consisted of Pong, and maybe, maybe cocaine was the worst drug we had seen our friends doing. Our parents didn’t have to deal with these issues, so we have no map to follow, no examples. We are all winging it.
The thing is, in this time in history, the drugs can be deadly. And I don’t want to go to your child’s funeral. I know you don’t either. So, let’s figure this out together:
First, it is perfectly okay to say to your child, “I hate that I have to do this. I don’t know who is more uncomfortable, you or me.”
Second, people can feel love. You can say this with LOVE. Your child will feel it. It will be both a heartbreaking and solidifying moment in your relationship. You tell him, “I love you too much to lose you. I will go to the ends of the earth with my hair on fire, to keep you safe. Right now, the best way I can keep you safe, aside from the bubble wrap I have been hoarding, is to keep you off dangerous drugs. The only way I know you aren’t on them is to test you.”
Third, discuss agreed upon parameters. It seems pot, weed, cannabis, marijuana, whatever you want to call it, is very prevalent among high school and college students. Maybe you are fine with it, so you tell them that: “If the only thing you test positive for is weed, it’s okay.” I would mention if they are “waking and baking,” as it is called, perhaps they should consider alternate coping mechanisms, but that’s up to you to decide.
Fourth, you may be saying, “But Mary, I know my sweet cherub did smoke pot once, but that was the only time,” or “I did catch my son with some weed, but it was his friends.” Oh, dear friend, please refer to page 272 in LIES TEENAGERS TELL THEIR PARENTS and see how those responses are ranked in the Top Ten.
If you are thinking, ‘My darling Zelda, who gets straight A’s, is on the soccer and field hockey team, and with whom I am so, so close, would never do drugs, and if she did, I would know.’ Hmmm. I get it. We are all so close to our kids. I’ll tell you how I respond to the voice in my head that tells me that about my boys: could I live with myself if something happened and I hadn’t done everything possible to keep them safe?
Fifth, expect a negative reaction when you tell them you are going to test them for drugs. If they are debate students, you may hear about their rights and invasion of privacy. Please consider this response, “You know you are correct. You do not have to have your urine tested. However, I am going to use my right to suspend all after school activities, use of your phone, the car, college tuition, etc. Of course, you can still live in your room and eat food.”
I can hear you, “Oh but Mary, that would be terrible. Little Johnny would be so mad at me.” Dear friend, this is the heavy lifting of parenting. I don’t know who said it, but I read once, “Kids want to know two things: who loves me and who’s in charge.” When a simple drug test could prevent a child’s death, its time to strap on the big girl (or boy) pants and be the parent.
You hate me now, don’t you? I get it. There’s a reason we don’t want to do this – a really BIG reason. What if it’s positive? What if it is?
The really good news in that moment you see it is positive, is you are looking at your living, breathing child. Do you know what a gift that is and what all those parents whose children died from drugs would do for that moment? Treasure it.
You know the truth. It’s a hard truth; it poses a rough road ahead, with many more drug tests and hopefully lots of counseling for you, your child and your family. But you can handle that difficult road, because you know who you have with you? Your child.