about a boy

When S was born, 11.5 years ago, I was determined to do everything right. I read parenting books, I knew early in my pregnancy that I would nurse exclusively, that I would co-sleep, that I would love love love this child so much that no harm could ever come his (or her...I didn't know) way. What I didn't know, or couldn't really fathom, is that life has its own trajectory and even if I was the most amazing parent on earth (which I'm certainly not) so many other factors determine how a person's life turns out. Peers. School. The internet. DNA. There's so much at stake, yet so little I really can control, in terms of his eventual destiny, and the way he chooses to lead his life, the mistakes he'll make and just how much they might affect him.

This fact terrifies me.

And of course, I feel exactly the same way about all four kids. J & I look at each other sometimes, and reluctantly shake our heads with the unutterable knowledge that, with four, odds are fairly high that at least one of them will go through some very difficult times. Obviously we aren't assuming that it will happen, but I can feel us mentally bracing ourselves for it.

Back when S was a baby, I read what I considered to be a parenting bible. It was written by Katie Allison Granju. Katie also participated on the hipMama forums, which for me as a novice yet determined and overwhelmingly in love new parent, were the source of so much of my parenting decision-making. If anyone knows how to parent, it's Katie. If anyone is wise, and loving, and close to her children, it's Katie.
On Monday, after over a month in the hospital due to a drug overdose and a vicious attack, Katie lost her 18-year-old son.

I can't imagine how ripped asunder she must feel. I can't put it together in my head how it must be to logically come to terms with the fact that not only has your child died, but that there was nothing you could do. A parent who has lovingly and mindfully raised her children with intention, and yet....it didn't stop it from happening.
I have talked to S about it. He's seen all the pictures of Henry-- and he can see himself why I'm reminded of him, a little. When I read that Henry had not made it, after following every single update for over a month, and I burst into tears, his eyes welled up, too. I hope this affects him profoundly. I hope he sees how my heart can break for another mother, and in imagining her pain, and I hope with all my heart he remembers when he is 15 and tempted. Or 12 and tempted. (A sixth-grader at his school was suspended for smoking pot on campus this school year.)

I am looking at this differently. I think my generation tends to think that despite all the experimentation we may have done, we all made it through, intact and healthy and responsible. We have jobs, and homes, and our own children. We vote and we care rabidly about what happens to the next generation. So, yeah, we turned out pretty damn alright. But kids... the game has changed. Little sneaks out of parents' booze cabinets and smoking a little bud out of a Coca-Cola can are no longer the main attractions.
Lock up your prescription meds. Replace household chemicals with natural cleaners that can't be abused.

Talk to them. Tell them what could happen to them. Tell them how it would wreck you. Cry.

Tell them a story. Honor Henry and his family.

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