She was shoeless, staggering down the sidewalk near a busy intersection, her socks falling off with every crooked step. She hadn’t brushed or washed her hair in days, her skin was dirty, her legs covered in little red sores.
The young woman’s clothing choice for her afternoon stroll: pajamas. We could hear her talking gibberish to herself as she struggled to hold onto her Sonic cup. After barely making it across the street before the light turned red, she fell and her drink spilled onto the asphalt in the Taco Bell parking lot.
“Mom, what’s wrong with that girl?” my 9-year-old asked from the backseat.
“I think maybe she’s on drugs. Or maybe she’s drunk. She might be homeless. A good example of what not to do with your life.”
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As I started driving forward, my son was still watching her.
Had we been driving through Mardi Gras in New Orleans or even strolling along on Duval Street in Key West during Fantasy Fest, I might have given her a “party pass.” But even then, you should have limits, especially if you’re alone.
My husband and I have always raised our son to know the truth. We don’t hide much from him.
I could have simply replied with an ignorant “I don’t know.” But I didn’t. I used the situation as an opportunity to teach him about the real world.
He’s allowed to watch most PG-13 films, knowing what’s real and what’s fake, and when he asks what that Cialis commercial means, I tell him it’s to help guys be with their partners. Our son knew about the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage hours after it happened.
He’s also growing up in a reggae-loving house and could probably recite the words to almost every Bob Marley song.
Loving reggae doesn’t mean that my husband and I sit around the dinner table smoking kaya while our son watches and sings “One Love.” It means we love the music, the words, how it makes us feel.
Our son knows what’s in my wine glass at dinner. He knows he’s not allowed to drink it. Our son also knows what’s in Bob Marley’s mouth on that T-shirt at the mall. He knows he’s not allowed to smoke it.
Do we want our son to drink alcohol before he’s 21? No.
Do we want our son to abuse alcohol after he turns 21? No.
Do we want our son to illegally smoke weed before he’s 21? No.
Do we want our son to abuse cocaine and meth? Never.
Do we want our son to drink responsibly at the appropriate age and maybe someday responsibly, legally smoke recreational or medical ganja? That’s his choice. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form. Alcohol is legal.
I could get into a big long debate over cannabis, but I have no desire to. Back in the day, during Prohibition, vodka was the devil. Now, vodka is a way to make me feel good during happy hour after a long day at work.
Was that woman we saw that day crossing the street partaking in anything responsibly? When you stagger in socks across a busy intersection during lunch time and fall on your face while talking to yourself, I’m gonna go ahead and say probably not. She may have had serious mental health issues as well.
As parents, we try to teach our children right from wrong. No matter what parenting style, I think we all have the same goals for our children: health, happiness, success.
To reach Tasha Fabela-Jonas, call 816-234-4886 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.