When I became a first time parent over ten years ago, I distinctly remember the moment when, as I was sitting in my wheelchair, waiting for his father to get the car to take me and my blue bundle of cherubic perfection home, thinking, "they're just going to let me leave with him???"
I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing.
Oh sure, I knew enough to feed him, keep him warm, change his diaper... but... what was I doing?
How am I going to teach this child, this amazing, perfect little being, everything there is to know to BE in this world? To know right from wrong. Good from bad. Truth from falsehoods.
Holy Mary, Jesus and Joseph... who on earth thinks I am capable for this job??
Turns out... I'm more than capable. I have managed, shockingly, to raise a pretty good couple of kids. Not single-handedly. Not without my share of missteps, screw-ups and downright failures.
My kids are polite, well-mannered, kind, thoughtful, caring, sharing, intelligent, humorous, and loyal little honor roll students. They can also be snotty, bratty, spoiled, snarky little beings with a penchant for fart jokes.
No one is perfect.
But, my kids are only 10 and 8 and, as anyone with adult children will tell you, the hard stuff is yet to come. The dreaded teenage years. And, let me tell you... I was a teenage girl and I feel like I should apologize to my parents for it over and over and over again.
My brother and I -- we gave our parents hell. Me more than him but still... we weren't perfect kids who never gave their parents a bit of trouble. We were sort of the opposite of that.
And yet, somehow, here my brother and I are. Middle aged adults with children of our own. We are, in certain aspects, success stories. We've never been to jail, never been to rehab, never done a lot of things that, at our worst, a lot of people thought we probably would.
We made it. So far.
Which brings me to a story I ran across this week... Henry's story.
Henry was an 18 year old boy -- and I'm sorry -- at 18 years old you are still a boy, not a man -- who died, tragically and painfully, of complications of a drug overdose and a beating.
Henry came from a nice family, with parents, stepparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins who loved and cherished him. And yet... he's dead.
His story is heartbreaking and soul wrenching. And it can be found here:
There's a lot to this story and, quite frankly, I'm still trying to absorb it all. Let it be known, I do not know Henry's family. I did not know Henry. I just came across his story and it has become, in some ways, an obsession to me.
Because, that could have been me. That could have been my brother. That could have been a lot of people that I know. And that terrifies me. The "could haves" of this story scare the peewaddling piss right out of me.
But, for me, I think the biggest thing that I have taken from Henry's sad end is that, when he approached his mother 4 years before his death and confessed, guilt-stricken and tear-stained, that he had smoked pot, his mom did exactly what I think I would do if, in 4 years, my son came to me the same way...
She kind of blew it off.
Oh... she was upset. And she said all the right things to her boy, same as I think I would. But she thought to herself, "it's only pot... no big deal." And she let it go. As I believe, upon reflection, that I would do.
She herself, Henry's guilt-stricken and tear-stained mother, will tell you that she feels like she wishes she had done things differently. She wishes she would have gotten Henry into drug counseling RIGHT THEN. She wishes she would have trusted him less, and verified more. She wishes she would have watched him closer. But she didn’t and now, a few years later, her son is gone and she's left with the "should haves".
I don't want to make the same mistakes.
So thank you Henry. Thank you, Katie. Because, if, God forbid, this does happen to me in 2 or 4 or 6 years time... I will be smarter. I will be stronger. And I will do for my kids that which you wish you would have done for Henry.