My grade schoolers now know this:
“If you illegally sell marijuana the cops’ll bust you and throw you in the slammer where they’ll make you get tattoos of Voldemort on your corneas. Also, pot makes you stupid. And don’t ever smoke it or your lips and eyebrows will fall off.”
Or something like that. Here’s why the conversation came up:
Last summer the wildly considerate owners of the house next door to us rented it to three 19-year old boys, one 19-year old girl, two German Shepherds and one big, red, non-tail-wagging Rhodesian Ridgeback Hound from the Gates of the Seven Rings of Hell.
Soon it was hard to tell who actually lived there as a steady traffic of soul-patched, pants-on-the-ground, baseball-cap-worn-backwards, stoned, rich, little bastards driving collision-dented Beemers and Infinities shuffled in and out of the house every half hour in a cloud of Giggle Weed denser than Pig Pen’s dirt nebula.
Get your blunts, your aces, your funk, your grifa here!
“We are so screwed,” Henry said, the day they moved in to which I replied in a Steely Voice.
“Honey, just remember, keep your friends close and your sexually-irresponsible, teenage neighbor drug dealers closer.
“Whenever I’d see one of the kids outside the house I’d smile hugely, “Hey, guys! How’re you doing?” Their eyes would blink as they tried to focus on my looming figure. Who is this big-haired, tense-smiling old lady?
“Oh….heeeeeyyy, you’re that lady that lives next door.” (This happened at least ten times with the same kid).
My brain cells, not being awash in Cannabis sativa, would launch into rapid-fire mode.
“So, listen, I was wondering if I could bring your dogs treats from time to time so that if they get out they’ll know me and my kids and they won’t eat us. Because we had a dog, she died, we miss her, my kids more than me, she pooped so much … but anyway I love dogs and so can I just walk down your long driveway and up to the gate in your backyard where you may or may not be growing copious amounts of Paca Lolo in your garage, which you may or may not have converted into a hydroponic greenhouse, and just give your dogs a treat?”
“Oh, uhhhh … Great. That’s just … thanks so much.”
So the girls and I took pig ears to the guard dogs.
The shepherds fell madly in love with us. They licked and nuzzled us through the gate and I fell in love with them and wanted to adopt them because the teenagers never walked them.
I offered to walk them if the kids would give me a key. There was a brief moment where their ghanja-infused ganglias tried to understand the offer, then expressions of horror and trepidation bloomed across their slack-jawed, Zombie faces and they’d say, “Hey that’s so cool. You’re so cool … but, no, no key for you, antiquated one.”
Perhaps they suspected I was a narc gone undercover in the guise of a neighborly mommy when really I was gonna take them down to Chinatown.
The Hound Dog from Hell never did like the girls and me.
She wouldn’t bark at us when we brought her the pig ears, but she wouldn’t wag her tail either. I suspect she was a socio-path just born to be bad. Sure you could quell her homicidal tendencies with a giblet or two, but once you ran out her expressionless eyes locked onto yours and you just knew your remains were going to be dug out of a cement slab in Cujo’s backyard by a forensics team in ten years.
So things hummed along. The teenagers were quiet, freakishly so. It seemed they didn’t want any attention to be drawn to themselves.
Let it be noted for the record, however, that a Mary Jane miasma permeated the neighborhood and, now that I think of it, may account for the oddly laid-back winter our street enjoyed.
No one blocked each others’ driveways, or minded if you put your extra trash in their cans. People who previously despised each other allowed their dogs to sniff butts. It was melllloooow.
But winter ended.
And spring brought with it a cop car delivering two of the boys next door home in handcuffs. They were released on their own recognizance (as reported by my neighbor Erica who had an enviable view of their front yard).
The next ominous kerfuffle occurred when the girl apparently cheated on one of the boys with one of the other boys and there was an expletive-laden argument that everyone could hear within earth’s atmosphere.
Finally the event that cluster-f*cked it all was the day two buff, ex-special forces type detectives in an unmarked sedan banged on the front door of the house and tried to make the kids come out.
It was like Waco, Texas … were they gonna burn ‘em out? Shoot ‘em out? Offer them cookies?
Finally the detectives left (though they did circle the block one extra time) and shortly after that the kids left too.
It had been one year since they’d carried their boxes from an auspicious, elephantine silver moving vehicle that looked like it belonged to The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, but they left in the dead of night, and apparently (according to Erica) carrying several huge pots and high-pressure sodium lamps and throwing them in the back of a bullet-riddled Mercedes (I might be exaggerating a little).
For weeks now workmen have been repairing the damage done to the house and the yard. Supposedly a family is moving in next door.
We’re hoping it’s not a family of Carpathian human traffickers.
But what the neighbors gave us was an opportunity to start the long series of conversations about drugs with our own kids.
After one of our Drug Chats Clare told a classmate there was a “marijuana bust” next door. I don’t remember using the word “bust,” but do nurture abiding passion for my childhood favorite Starsky and Hutch.
I’m not sure the classmate’s mom was thrilled, but I think kids are more sophisticated than we realize. When my daughter wants something from me she talks like a 2-year-old and pouts (she’s 9), then as soon as I leave the room I hear her talk to her friend in a voice that sounds like Alex Trebeck, “Do you think she fell for that ham-fisted routine? I’ve just got to manufacture tears more facilely.”
My point being that they understand life and relationships at a level of sophistication they rarely reveal to their parents.
I’ll never forget Clare, at 7, distilling what I’d said in a conversation with her about sex, “You mean, you can fall in love with a man’s cute side, not his nice side because of sex?” It took me 32-years to learn that.
I believe keeping children innocent, in terms of information, is overrated.
There’s power in information. The tricky part is figuring out what to explain when and how much.
I may not be doing it at the right pace, but so far in our conversations about the most difficult subjects – sex, drugs, death, God and why all the Disney shows promote Fame as a career – both my daughters have shown a great deal of sober understanding and intelligent reasoning.
There are definitely times when I say too much and need a better filter between my brain and my mouth, but the best compliment I’ve received as a parent was when one mom whose children I have over here frequently said, “My kids love you. They say you talk to them like they’re real people.”
I’d love to know what conversations you’ve had with your kids and at what age and how they responded?