I was a good kid. I did well in school, had nice friends, and actually enjoyed hanging out with my parents—even when I was a teenager. And I think I grew up to be a pretty good adult too. I consider myself a highly functioning individual, an informed citizen who contributes positively to society. I’m a devoted mother, wife daughter, sister, and a generally upstanding person.
All good, right? But here’s the thing: When I was growing up (particularly in those teenage years), I did some really stupid shit. As my kids approach their teenage years, my hope for them is that they will avoid that same stupid shit.
The caveat here is that despite all the stupid shit I did, I never got caught, or things seemed to go my way when they very easily could have gone the other way. And my stupid shit occurred way back in the 20th century, before camera phones, texting, social media, and all other manner of recording damning evidence and destroying reputations. Things are a bit more complicated for kids of the 21st century. Here just a few examples of some of the stupid shit I did that I sincerely hope my kids will avoid:
1. Drive Without a License
In my early teenage years, my neighborhood friends and I thought it would be fun to take a car out for spin. Never mind we didn’t have driver’s licenses nor the first clue about how to drive. One early Saturday evening when our parents were out to dinner, we took my neighbors’ father’s very large Oldsmobile for a ride around the block. Save a couple short stops and a few tire tracks on my neighbor’s lawn, we somehow made it back to the driveway safely, and no parent ever found about it (until now, I guess.) What if something had gone wrong? We could have seriously hurt ourselves or someone else or been pulled over and arrested. Looking back, it’s obvious what a stupid thing that was to do.
2. Drink Cooking Wine in the Basement
The first time I ever consumed alcohol (save a sip of my father’s beer) was at a party in my friend’s basement. This also happened in my early-ish teenage years when there was nothing to do that didn’t necessitate a parent driving you someplace. So we decided to stay in at a friend’s house with a bunch of other kids while their parents were out. Too stupid to know any better, we found and drank the cooking wine. We got sick, threw up, and went to sleep. But what if we had drunk too much? We could have gotten really sick. It could have been bad. But we were too stupid to consider that.
3. Brake Major School Rules
My high school had very strict rules. Over half the kids boarded at the school, and the faculty and administration needed to keep a tight handle on those kids. As a day student who commuted to school, I had a bit more freedom. Once I got my driver’s license (um, maybe that practice around the block helped after all!), I took it upon myself to drive many of those boarding students into town knowing full well it was a clear violation of school rules. I’d meet my friends in our secret spot (behind the bakery across from the school), head into town for a meal or shopping, and get back in time before curfew. We never got caught, but we could have. And we could have gotten expelled from school, not gotten into college, not become functioning members of society. I’m sure I’m only exaggerating a little.
4. Go on a Sketchy Spring Break Trip
Remember those offers they used to promote for seniors to go on incredible spring trips for rock-bottom prices? (Yes, I know I’m dating myself here.) Well, if they sounded too good to be true, that meant they probably were. I got involved with one said sketchy trip to the Bahamas where the flights were so cheap you wondered if the planes even had any fuel in them.
My friends and I made it to the Bahamas and back in one piece, but several months after our trip, we found out that the airline went out of business because of safety issues. I’m so grateful we never had to experience one of those issues, but we very easily could have. I don’t even want to think about some of the really stupid situations we managed to get ourselves into in the Bahamas. Actually, I’m pretty sure I blocked out some of the more questionable choices.
Are you questioning the judgment of my youth? I am. As an adult, I can barely believe some of the stupid shit I did when I was a teen. But as a kid, in the moment (and let me reiterate again that I really was a good kid), I had not yet developed good judgment skills. And most teens haven’t.
Kids (even good kids) often don’t think about the consequences or the what ifs or the variety of ways a situation could go horribly wrong. But as an adult, and particularly as a parent, that’s all I think about—especially when it comes to my own kids.
I hope I can use my own experiences to prevent my kids from putting themselves in harm’s way. I know I can’t prevent every bad decision; I know my kids will, at some point, do some stupid shit. I just hope they won’t be so stupid about it.