This is a guest post by Lynda Harlos. Please check our her blog I Was The Perfect Parent Then I Had Kids.
I would stand with arms crossed in my superior way and think, “my children will never do drugs.” I was totally under the delusion that because I didn’t do drugs and because I was an educated women I would raise my children to walk the straight and narrow like my husband and I did.
I am sure you see all the multiple issues with that statement. From the self righteous thought I was a great child to the insufferable attitude that my children, through my wonderful parenting and by becoming educated, would be perfect children who would not do drugs or anything wrong for that matter.
One thing I learned, albeit way too slowly, is that you cannot make anyone be, say or do what you want them to be, say or do. Everyone has the right to choose their own path, even if we know the path they are choosing is wrong, we ultimately cannot stop them.
My oldest son, although brilliant in many ways, was one who had decided that he could control drugs in his own life and set out to prove that. As I am sure you have all guessed, he failed. There are two parts to this story, one about his struggle and what it finally took to get him off of drugs and the second story. This is the one I am sharing with you today: the struggles that go on in the family unit.
As is typical of humans, but mostly teens he thought he would be able to control the desire for drugs and not get hooked. The rule in our house was no drugs (and for the purpose of this article I mean anything other than alcohol and over the counter products). But what do you do when in your naivety you wake up one day and realize your son is doing drugs on a regular basis. Do you kick him out? Do you force him to rehab? Do you throw a temper tantrum? We had set up any consequences for this, mostly because I didn’t believe I would ever have to deal with this. In truth I am glad I hadn’t as I was not prepared for what life is really like with a drug addict in my home and nothing I could have given as a consequence would have been fitting.
Although we could not legally force rehab as my son was considered an adult at this time, we gave him the choice of going to rehab or getting kicked out if he didn’t. At the time we thought this worked but it didn’t. He had agreed to go in order to stay in the home but unbeknownst to us, he didn’t quit the drugs. I tell his whole story in my soon to be release parenting book, but for today I want you to hear a parent’s heart.
The son that was taking drugs became overly aggressive due to the drugs. Although this is quite normal for most drug users over time, it was the one thing I didn’t know to expect. The drug issues themselves were tough to deal with but what do you do when the one child is starting to hurt the other children? Because of sharing a bedroom with his younger brother he tended to be more aggressive with him. It took many years for them to be able to work this out and my younger son to learn to trust in his relationship with his brother again.
During this struggle, the one thing my husband and I were adamant about was that everyone stays safe. So the day I came home and found out he had hit my younger son was the day I put my foot down. He was informed that if he ever hit or hurt anyone ever again I would kick him out. Although my desire was to have him stay in the home and not end up being one of those drug addict people who are homeless, I would have kicked him out in order to protect my younger son. Not because my younger son is a favourite child, but solely because my younger son was doing nothing wrong and didn’t deserve this treatment. He was not the one doing drugs, he was not the one being aggressive. My job is to protect my children. But in this case I was going to have to choose one son over the other. My older son was choosing to do drugs and although he was addicted and therefore he was what some would consider beyond making right choices, my younger son did nothing at all to warrant this behaviour against him.
One night, after I found out that my older son had threatened my younger son, I told him to pack his bags. He had been aware of our stand on this but was surprised that I was going to follow through with kicking him out. In his drugged state he made a comment about not actually hitting his brother, and my younger son agreed with his statement with a look of ‘have compassion mom’ on his face. With both of those things going on, my husband and I agreed to allow him one more chance with the understanding that even to threaten the other children was a violation of our rules and he would be kicked out. Now knowing we would kick him out if need be, my son did start to see this as a serious issue.
There is so much more to this story, but my point in this article is to show how one person’s actions can affect the whole family. We need to be aware of this and make decisions that are best for the whole family unit. Taking into consideration every aspect, who is doing what and why? We need to always be mindful of those that are making choices that are hurting other people and think about the whole outcome of it all. Parenting is not easy at the best of times, but this goes to prove that parenting is nothing to take lightly. You have to have a degree in sociology, psychology, and every other ology out there in order to be great at parenting, and even then I know many parents that have a degree and they struggle just as much. The reason for this is because we are all born with the opportunity to use our free will.
Our job as parents is to think things through completely and unemotionally if possible. Once you have a decision made, pepper your words and consequences to your children with love. Hug them often, but stick to your plan, being flexible only if logic has been given that you had not thought of. The good news is my son did eventually get off of drugs and is now living on his own and is a very productive adult. To this day my son knows if he does drugs again, I will help out with food as you need to eat to live, but I will not pay his other bills. And I am aware that might mean he will be homeless and I will follow through with that even though it will break my heart. Sometimes people will only learn the lessons the hard way, and if that is what it will take I would rather know there is a chance they will learn then make life too easy for them. It is more important for them to learn the lessons they need to learn.