“Mom, do we really need to talk about this again?” My almost-13 year old looked at me impatiently, his voice still cracking when he tried to raise it now that puberty had taken hold of my formerly sweet baby boy with blonde, curly locks. The person standing in front of me looked familiar, but was also a stranger in some ways. Now taller than me – stronger, too – his shape looked more like a man than a boy, and sarcasm was his second language.
“Yes. We are.” I screwed up as much courage as I could and looked him straight in the eye. “I’ll keep talking about it until you’re married with your own kids, and even then I’ll keep talking.”
He sighed, resigned. “OK, fine.” It wasn’t “fine,” but I plowed ahead, anyway.
Moments earlier, his phone buzzed with a news alert. He had been required at school to have the New York Times on his phone for current events, and he got into the habit of reading pieces from the online paper each morning. This morning, while scrolling, he saw another young adult had died due to a drug overdose. (Read more here.) While reading, he gasped – low but loud enough for me to hear in the same room. I couldn’t see the article from where I stood, and asked what was so shocking.
He looked at me, blood drained from his face. “Another overdose. He was thirteen, Mom. Thirteen. My age.” He put his phone on the table and faced me.
It was moments like these that I remembered how woefully unprepared we are to be parents, especially parents of teenagers. I simultaneously wanted to reach out and hug him and never let go . . . and also give him yet another (likely unhelpful) lecture on drug addiction. I settled for making a cup of coffee. I purposefully turned my back to him so my face wouldn’t show confusion, or weakness, or how I was wishing for a time machine to go back to the potty training years.