Brett Buckner is an award-winning freelance newspaper/magazine writer who was raised in Albany.
Sometimes, parents have to lie.
All parents want is for our children to succeed where we failed. Doing that means steering them away from all the dreadful mistakes we made growing up … even if those “mistakes” didn’t turn out all that bad.
Take alcohol for example.
Not that I condone drinking – either to excess or simply to unwind after a long day of babysitting a sick toddler – but when your 15-year-old, terribly insightful and frighteningly intelligent step-daughter turns out of the clear-blue Tuesday sky and asks, “Have you ever passed out drunk?” your options are limited.
Stupid morning radio talk shows. One rogue caller and my misspent youth is suddenly under the microscope.
“Uh … Well … Uh … What do you mean by passed out?”
“You know,” she says without missing a beat, “getting so drunk you don’t remember what happened?”
The Diva’s expecting a funny story that’ll ultimately serve as a cautionary tale about why she should never drink to excess, or ride the dirt roads stealing stop signs with her buddies, or go to Panama City for Spring Break and make Hunch Punch in a hotel bathtub or be underage and give a bum 12 bucks to buy a bottle of Brass Monkey, or accidentally kiss the wrong twin.
What … I spent six years in college, ya know.
“Of course not,” I said, knowing that somewhere God’s pager was buzzing about a “LIAR” on County Line Road. “Alcohol isn’t inherently evil, but it must always be consumed in moderation. If abused, alcohol can be very dangerous and should never be imbibed by anyone under 21.”
“What about drugs?” she asked. “Have you ever done drugs?”
It’s like they spend all that time in their rooms – hours you assume they’re texting or watching something inappropriate on MTV – instead they’re coming up with questions to make their parents squirm.
“Nope,” I said with truthful pride. “Drugs are something I stayed away from and so should you. They can ruin your life.”
Not bad … lame … but effective. I never aimed to be the cool parent or the wise parent, just the parent whose kid never ends up on Cops.
‘Course right now, I’d settle for being the parent having just dropped his kid off at school and escaped this conversation.
“What about acid … ya know … trippin’? What’s that like?”
“I don’t know. It’s probably like what you’d see on Nickelodeon – dogs that sing, furniture that talks, a weird sea of colors and a bouncy soundtrack about moonbeams and butterflies playing in your head. Like a sticker-book coming to life.”
Humor did not dissuade her.
“So if drugs are so bad, what about The Beatles? I mean they did drugs and everybody says they’re like the greatest rock band ever?”
“It was the ‘60s,” I stammer. “Things were different then. Drugs were a part of the culture and not everybody saw the dangers. And it didn’t work out so great for The Beatles either. I mean … ‘We all live in a yellow submarine?’ Or, ‘Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey?’ It wasn’t all ‘Let it Be’ and ‘Ticket to Ride’ ya know.”
With the drop-off line in sight, I’m desperate to end our conversation on a strong note.
“Plus, John Lennon was killed by his drug dealer,” I blurted. “Remember that.”
Stepping onto the sidewalk, she promised to avoid drugs and alcohol. “That’s just stupid,” she said before disappearing down the hall.
Sure that part about John Lennon was a lie, but as a parent I’ll say whatever it takes to keep my kids off drugs … and Cops.