Thursday, July 29, 2010

Drugs, Part 1: The Conversation

The night started out as a typical, normal night, whatever that means. A sleepover had been arranged and I was driving my oldest son over to his best friend’s house. My mind was full, filled with a personal tragedy that I will likely share some other time. Still, being true to form, I managed to engage with some idle chit chat. Pieces of conversation devoid of meaning creating the illusion of engagement, feigning interest in some part of a video game I could care less about. But then it struck me. I could meld this tragedy and parenting - do something meaningful and make it a teaching moment. And so I naively wandered into a conversation to teach cause and effect, to show the dangers of activities hazardous to his health.

Being only a freshman in high school, I had no idea what his level of exposure is to some of the more common hazardous activities. You know - smoking, drinking, things like that. All those parenting books keep blabbing about how communication is key during these years, so I bluntly asked if he knew anyone that smoked. I was stunned with his reply: “Weed or cigarettes?”

Um, okay. Wow. “Ah, um, well I was asking about cigarettes, but do you know people that smoke weed?”

The answer, of course, was yes to both. I was dazed. I was perplexed about why I would be unprepared and shocked by the response. After all, I know what I did in high school and when I started doing it. Still trying to get a grasp of those three words, I continued to probe, the details of which I can't clearly recall. My brain kept whirling, swirling in an effort to process. And in that moment of fog, that dead zone of parenting when you wish you could push a button and make time stand still to figure out what you are supposed to do or how you are supposed to respond as a "good" parent, the bomb dropped.

“Well mom, have you ever smoked weed?” And, there it was. Twice now, in a period of under five minutes I was stunned again. Again, why did I not see this coming? Again, how could I not be prepared? Of course there is no button to stop time which left me about 500 milliseconds (that's half a second for those of you unaware) to figure out my response. Do I tell the truth? Do I lie? And in that moment I thought of my own youth and how I always disliked my father’s refusal to admit his youthful transgressions, and so I went with the truth.

“Yes, yes I did.”

You’d think that would be enough torture for the night. But no, it had to go on. The hammering had to continue. Cathy needed to be taught a lesson. Heh, the irony of it all. I asked for it by starting this conversation. I was going to "teach" him, remember? Now I've got to ride it out.

“Well, how old were you Mom? Were you in college?”

It was at that moment that I truly failed. Clearly I must have hesitated and, just as clearly, he saw it. Right then he knew. I didn't even need to answer. He's a smart kid, you know.

“You smoked in high school, didn’t you?”

What do they say? Three strikes you're out? I was busted. It was too late. No longer able to deny; no longer able to turn back. There are some things in life where there are no do-overs. The conversation had run its course and I handled it all wrong. I must have forgotten to read that chapter of the manual. Oh wait, they don't come with one.

I dropped him off at his friend’s house, full of misgivings and regret, and sped home as quickly as I could to consult the husband.

I relayed the entire conversation to him, looking for forgiveness or dismissal of my concerns, some sense that I didn’t really screw things up. Husband’s response, “He’s fishin’ for permission.” My heart sank.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Backpacking with the Boy Scouts

I know. It’s been awhile. Where have I been? Well, you can probably guess judging by the title of this post for one. Last weekend I went backpacking with the boy scouts and now, as I write this post, I am sitting on a houseboat on Lake Shasta. I am enjoying summer's finest moments.

Every year the boy scouts do an annual four day, 20+ miler backpacking trip and I go with them, although I'm not quite sure why. I guess it's enjoyable? This year it was hot. It was very, very hot. But it was also very, very beautiful. The mosquitoes were fierce which meant that as soon as dinner was done, everyone retired to the bliss of their tents; behind that wonderful invention called mesh providing the much-needed protection from those nasty little suckers. Tent time provided some writing time (in a journal of course) which I am starting the process of copying over to my blog.

The early retirement also meant that I got to spend some nice one-on-one time with the second son. I failed to bring any games (too much weight to carry as it was!) and so these evenings were made of conversation. On our last night, the second son and I put together our list of superlatives from the trip which I now share with you, from his perspective and mine.

Best of
Mom: The views

Echo Lakes - where it all began.
Lake Aloha
Gilmore Lake
First glimpse of Lake Tahoe in the distance!

Son: Snowball fight, in July, when it's HOT!

Worst of
Mom: Mosquitoes
Son: Mosquitoes

Best Quote
Mom: “Staring at nylon” which is what you do when it’s seven o’clock, still light out and you don’t feel like getting eaten alive.
Son: “C’mon coach. Put me in coach. C’mon, I can do this!”

Mom: The thought of bears in the night, especially when you have to pee, by yourself, in the dark.
Son: Slipping on snow, next to a cliff. Yes, that’s right. Mid-July and there’s still a TON of snow in the Sierras.

Best Equipment
Mom: Big Agnus tent, for two.
Son: Deet (bug spray in case you don’t know).

Best Luxury Item
Mom: Wipes
Son: Cheese Whiz, in a spray can.

Best Meal
Mom: Spaghetti with meat, freeze-dried, just add water and wait.
Son: Sheppard’s Pie, freeze-dried, just add water and wait.

Worst Ache or Pain
Mom: My stupid knee. Grrrrr. Uphill, fine. Downhill, not so much.
Son: Back – all that twisting while lifting the backpack to actually get it on your shoulders.

Best Article of Clothing
Mom: Mosquito net hat! Duh!
Son: Same.

Best Moment
Mom: When second son comes and says, “Mom, I think I’m going to sleep with you.”
Son: The tent – and being in it away from the mosquitoes.

Most Impressive
Mom: Seeing two families, with five kids under the age of five, hiking up (and I do mean UP) two miles to the first lake. One lady had a full pack on her back and an infant in a front carrier. Damn, that IS impressive.
Son: Hiking up Dick’s Pass. Two straight miles of steep grade, the view from the saddle – WOW! And, the sense of accomplishment when it was done.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back from the East!

The husband and I have just returned from a week-long trip to the East Coast. It was unplanned and unexpected, and it was fun despite the somber nature of the trip. You see, we were called back to celebrate the life of a true matriarch. A wonderful woman, with three sons, my husband's best friends, who unassumedly took on the motherly and grandmotherly roles for us and our children after both of our mom's had passed. There is no comparison to this woman or the positive impact she had on everyone around her. She was loved by us and will be missed greatly.

In the true spirit of this wonderful woman and her wish that we celebrate her life, not mourn her death, I've prepared the top ten list of my trip back East:

1.) The food! Can you say cheeseburg and meatball grinders? Dunkin' Donuts, medium regular please. Thinly-sliced deli meats for the perfect sandwich. Stuffed cabbage, homemade. The Colchester Bakery and the perfect pumpernickel rye.
2.) Quality time with family - my sister and her fam; my father-in-law and even my Dad!
3.) Meeting up with old friends not seen for 20+ years.
4.) Spending time with old friends that are more like family than friends, and seeing how their kids have grown.
5.) Celebrating my nephew's birthday in person for once!
6.) Picking out presents for the kids left home.
7.) Four, yes FOUR, rounds of golf!
8.) Central air (hot and humid are not my friends).
9.) The wondrous nature of bug repellent - you NEED it!
10.) The luck to get the heck outta there before the heat wave set in.