It is an epidemic, they say.
How do we keep them safe?
These children of ours.
How do we keep them from shooting up their arms,
and snorting into their nose,
and vaping in their lungs?
We consult handbooks.
We attend meetings in the community.
We ask questions.
We do our research.
After all, we are modern parents.
We do not shy away from the big stuff.
Should we monitor their every move,
with apps and phones and GPS?
Or should we give them the freedom
of a childhood long-ago.
Kisses in the cornfield.
Late night runs for Big Gulps.
Jumping off the swings in a deserted playground.
We tell them about our own experiences.
We talk about our own horrific hangovers.
We explain the dangers.
But in the end,
is it little more than screaming into the wind?
Are we destined to hear our own words
hurtling back at us at warp speed?
Should we have had less kids?
Or more kids?
Are we too busy?
Or not busy enough?
Mentally, we scan our offspring.
Will it be the 12-year old
with an unquenchable thirst
for sugar and soda?
Or the diagnosed boy,
desperate for relief
Or maybe the uncertain girl,
worried about her place in the social hierarchy.
It is too much to bear.
Should we hug them more?
Or guide with a firmer hand?
I mean, really.
Do we even know these people
who occupy our world and our senses and our home?
You see, we are modern parents.
We manage screen time,
and cheer from the sidelines.
We buy organic bananas,
and plan family ski trips.
We live in the moment.
We plan for the future.
We watch them climb behind the wheel of a car,
and long for the babies who have turned into teenagers,
and the plump toddlers who held our hand in the store.
In church we pray,
hard wooden kneelers biting into our knees.
Please. Keep them safe.
But the thing is this.
No one knows.
No one knows
the right combination of genetics
and wholesome friends
and silly late-night antics.
It could be me.
It could be you.
It could be us.
It could be any one of us
trudging up the steps of rehab,
a sullen addict two paces behind.
We are modern parents, after all.
There are no guarantees the hugs will work.
Or the ski trips remembered.
Perhaps, this is hardest of all.
A thought, though.
Maybe we are shining the light in the wrong direction,
with the manuals and the meetings and the questions.
Maybe, all this time we have been looking the wrong way.
We are asking the wrong people.
Maybe we should ask them.
These strange, extraordinary people who occupy.
How do you make yourself feel better.
When you are.
What scares you?
What do you dream about?
Do you even like bananas?