I have been trying to write this post for well over a week. I am sure you have noticed that I haven’t posted much of anything along the lines of real writing in quite some time. Today I realized that if I don’t just do it, I may never write again because this is haunting me and any ounce of humor or self deprecation or whatever it is you come back to read day in and day out is being buried under this incredibly awful weight of something so unthinkable and horrible that I am unable to let it go.
Last Sunday morning at around 1:30 a.m. five teenage boys left a party that was two doors down from our home. They had been drinking and decided they were hungry and set out for some food. Five boys, music blaring, laughing, speeding down a curvy road, the best of times.
Then it all changed. The driver misread a turn and crossed over into the wrong lane. He tried to correct the mistake and as young drivers will do, he pulled the wheel too hard, causing the car to turn to sharply and flip over. One boy was partially thrown from the car, he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and died on the scene.
Another was critically injured and rushed to the hospital. Two of the boys escaped with only minor injuries. The driver of the car was taken to juvenile hall and charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and a DUI. Update: He hasn’t returned home since that evening. He was sentenced to up to 547 days in a juvenile camp. His hopes for college, a sports scholarship over, a normal life? All over.
It is horrifying to think what these boys went through in the moment that it all went wrong. The fear as the car careened out of control. The moment it flipped and then when it finally stopped and they looked around, the terror of what they saw. One friend badly injured, another not breathing. I ask you to think about this, not to be gory and over detailed, but to make you remember that no matter how much you would like to blame and be angry at these boys, they are just that, boys. They made a mistake that a whole lot of us have made in our lives. Whether in high school or out. It is important to remember that in these tragedies. They are just boys and we are all human and it does NO GOOD to blame and judge.
The boys were all Seniors at my son’s high school and while I have never met any of them, I have cried so many times, I’ve lost count. It is every parent’s worst nightmare and here it is, like a bad dream that you keep trying to get out of, but every time you pass by the piles of flowers marking the location of the accident, you are slammed back into the nightmare. Five boys, one gone, four whose lives are forever changed.
We are a community filled with sadness and so much judgement and blame, you want to look away. The blame is so horrifyingly loud. You can hear the conversations over and over, “The parents of the boy who died were out of the country celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, do they really care about their kids?” or “The kid that drove the car was over the legal limit and allegedly said to a police officer that he “used to smoke marijuana”, he must be a horrible child. It goes on and sadly, on and on.
I understand our need to blame. We all think, “If I can just figure out something to blame, someone at fault, a reason, then we can make sure we don’t do the same in our house or subject our kids to those situations. I can talk to them at length about it and then it won’t happen to us.” If only it was that easy.
The truth is these were good kids with good families and as the cliche goes, it can happen to anyone. You can spend your life and time judging a horrific and tragic event and the people involved, or you can figure out a way to ensure that you are working harder to make an event like this NEVER happen in your neighborhood.
This accident made my head spin and I started wondering, “Do I do enough?” I think I am strict and I check in and I do what I am supposed to do to ensure my child’s safety. But do I? My son doesn’t drive yet, but that doesn’t stop him from saying he is staying the night at a friend’s house and ending up somewhere else and in danger. How often do I just trust what my teens tell me simply because I can reach him on his cell phone if I need to?
Did those boys say they were staying at each other’s homes, the oldest trick in the book, and the parents believed them because they had no reason not to and they could reach their kids on their cells? What happened to the days when our parent’s called our friends’ parents and made sure we were telling the truth?
What if we got back to the good old days? What if Every Parent Calls. Either you speak with a parent or your child stays home. If we all did it, our child wouldn’t be the “dorky kid”, it would just be the rule. I have run this idea by some mothers and gotten mixed responses.
Some have said they, “frankly don’t think parents give a shit.” REALLY? Others have said it just won’t work because most people won’t do it. Some have said parents will push back on this idea because they don’t want to embarrass their children. However, the majority say they love the idea and would definitely do it. Would they though? As this tragedy fades, will we forget? What will the next wake up call be?
This has touched that dark and frightened place in the back of my brain. The spot in every parents mind where we know the worst is possible and could happen to our child, but we try hard to silence it so that we can wake up every day and parent our children.
I have spoken to Keenan at length about this accident and about drinking and driving. This week I looked at him with tears streaming down my face and begged him to not make me that mom, EVER. He looked at me with his red teary eyes and promised. He promised. And you know what, he will forget. He will be 17 and he will forget my crying face because at 17 we think we are invincible. We can have a few drinks and drive, or we can drive our cars at breakneck speed. It’s what teens do. If you think your child is an exception, you are mistaken and you better unbury your head.
This is a link to the article describing the accident. I strongly urge you to print it out and have your teenagers read it. Discuss it over dinner with them. Never stop talking about it. And call. Check on your kids. It might just save their lives.
Please leave your comment and then join me and other parents of teens to discuss this issue further at TheBlogFrog.