It's Red Ribbon Week at my kids' school. I, not surprisingly, have all the feels. The kids brought home coloring pages for the coloring contest at school, and thanks to their school mascot the Owl, it obviously has a wise little owl perched on a branch and the caption is:
"Owl Never Do Drugs"
My children know that I've written a book. They're so excited for me, and they both seem to want to follow in my footsteps. My little guy has a book he writes in before bed every night, and my oldest has a journal she's writing a story in. I love that I can inspire that passion and creativity in them. What they maybe don't realize is what the book is about. Aryn, my oldest, knows it's about drugs. We've been able to have a few conversations because of the nature of my book and thanks to what my family went through she now knows that "drugs" aren't just things that strangers might try to hand you, or hide inside of your candy. My youngest, Nick, has no clue what "drugs" are. It's just a fun week to wear different shirts and color a page and hope he gets the prize in his age category.
So, now, being the parent I realize it's up to me to educate my children.
My cousin, and best friend, the person I grew up with who knows maybe better then anyone what our family went through, she's been reading my book. I asked her to. It was interesting as we sat together yesterday talking in my kitchen while the kids stomped around upstairs playing and giggling together. I've felt incredibly lucky that our kids are as close as they are. That's beside the point. I'm just so happy for their relationships to each other. She and I, my cousin, we were raised in this mess together and I really enjoyed hearing that my book sparked a conversation between her and her daughter. Her daughter is also taking a RAD class (self-defense...etc) and these important topics come up. What I love, is how real they are together. No topic seems to be off limits. As I watched them, and heard about what they talked about I realized that, maybe we're teaching our children wrong?!
That this conversation came up during Red Ribbon Week at school feels a little serendipitous. It's the perfect time to bring it up, and ask my children what they know and how they feel while expressing to them how to be safe when dealing with drugs of all varieties, and all situations. It's not just about your friends peer pressuring you into taking the pills they found in their Grandma's medicine cabinet, or the weed your friend stole from his uncle who "bought it in Colorado", but it could also be that the child themselves breaks a leg at soccer practice, or any other bone for any other reason.
Children actually need to make some of these grown up decisions at a very young age, because we are all exposed to "drugs" at all ages of life. I'm not at all surprised by parents who are paranoid about vaccinations, or over the counter cough medicine. This is a very real backlash of how we've all grown up experiencing this very extreme epidemic. I'm paranoid too, and I certainly have my own opinions on the matter. We use several types of "drugs" in our own household to take care of our family, but what really struck home this week is how very little our children know about the things we give them throughout their lives, and yet, we tell them "Don't do drugs!" What does that even mean anymore?!
Don't... do... drugs...
"But Mom, I've done drugs all my life."
We are raised on drugs. We are raised to believe that they heal us. We are raised to believe that they are the cure-all to our ailments. If something is wrong, take something. You'll feel better, but...
Don't do drugs.
This, of course, puts ideas in my head and no wonder I can't keep up with the overwhelming "I gotta fix the world!" weight I carry around on my shoulders.
Children take drugs from infancy onward. Isn't it time we change the way we teach them about this particular subject? My kindergartner has no idea what he's being taught this week, and yet he's the one taking the most "drugs" in our family thanks to his asthma. He's been on drugs since he was 5 months old. Drugs saved his life. Yet... Drugs also killed my mom.
I have some mom-ing to do now, and I would encourage you to think about this subject and help your children wrap their heads around what is "OK" and what is "BAD" in terms of drugs. Open up this conversation in your homes. Children are much more perceptive then we might realize, and they deserve to know the very contradiction they are living in.