So this weekend #2 and I made a quick run to Target before heading to gymnastics. As I was in my usual self-checkout lane, I noticed two young girls in the lane ahead of me. To me they looked about 10, but considering I think they were alone I’ll guess 16 and 12. The 12 year old approached the college-aged Target employee, giggling like she had just heard the word vagina for the first time, and asked if a person could eat Tide. My head instantly shot up because there’s no way I overheard that right. But the employee immediately replied, “no, absolutely not.” So I asked if that girl had really just laughingly inquired about eating Tide. “Yes, she did,” answered the employee. Now take a deep breath and just let this sink in. A young girl, basically a baby, just asked a complete stranger about eating Tide. And she was laughing!! Like it was some kind of hilarious joke. What. The. Hell.?!
I told my husband about this, and his response was “yeah, the Tide pods challenge. Idiots.” Um, say what?! So of course I immediately Googled it, and an entire string of articles from various reputable news sources popped up. First of all, how did I not know about this? Oh wait, maybe it’s because I do everything to avoid the news since I just can’t handle the constant barrage of shit stories that seem to have taken over. From having months left to get our act together and save the planet to yet another psychopath killing their child to some insanely idiotic comment made by a top leader of this country… and the list goes on. I know ignorance isn’t the answer, but most days I’m just trying to salvage what little bit of sanity I have left. So anyway yeah, I typically ignore the damn news and hadn’t heard of this challenge.
But hearing that girl and reading those articles, all I can think of is what is happening to our kids?!! Since when did challenging each other to eat detergent become a laughing matter or deemed fun? Whatever happened to the innocent challenge of daring someone to spray paint their initials on some bridge in the middle of nowhere? (Please note, I do not condone vandalism…just saying.) As a parent myself, I know we can’t automatically put the blame on parents either, because I’ve heard too many stories about horrible things happening to good kids that come from good families. And by good I mean loving, caring families. Families where parents pay attention and actually talk to their kids. But even so, I know that sometimes that isn’t even enough.
While my kids are all still very young, I’ve already learned that kids “learn” and unfortunately believe a lot of what their friends tell them. Case in point, my first grader thinking that sticking up the middle finger will kill all the birds. I can’t even begin to explain that one. But when he told me this, I was just thrilled that he had actually asked me about it (well more like told me what he knew to be true). But even so, my husband and I were then able to set him straight and remind him that he should not, and cannot, believe everything his friends tell him.
I worry about my kids – a LOT. I know all parents do, but I’m probably a little over the top with my anxiety and constantly assuming something horrible is going to happen to them. But my worries are typically things like I didn’t get their car seat buckled tight enough or I forgot to turn something off and my house is going to burn down or someone is going to choke as the result of the monster-size bites my kids seem to think is acceptable eating behavior. I sure as hell have never considered the possibility my kids might eat a cleaner or chemical for FUN. But hearing that girl and reading those articles about this ridiculously stupid and dangerous behavior, it begs the question that as a parent what do I do so it’s not my kid who’s asking the stranger in Target about a potentially life-threatening “game?” Well first, I consult my “How to Raise a Perfect Child” manual…oh wait, that’s out. But really, what do I do? How do I make sure that my kids don’t turn into reckless idiots? I don’t really think that there is a clear cut answer. However, I do know that there will be no back row parenting for me. I may not be able to keep up with all the moronic ideas kids come up with these days but I can make damn sure that I’m fully present for my kids. If I could put my kids in a bubble I would – so long as I could remain on the quiet outside. The alternative, I suppose, is that I’m left to talk to my kids. To never stop asking questions. To never stop caring. To never stop reminding them that they can always talk to me and my husband. And to never stop observing.
Parents aren’t miracle workers. Or magicians. Or all knowing. And just like these kids, we’re constantly learning. We too make idiotic mistakes, Lord knows my list is long. But we don’t give up and we don’t give in. Our job as parents is to love and protect our children as best we can. And to remember that knowledge coupled with open communication is a key factor to protection. Because what they don’t learn from us, they’ll eventually learn from their friends. And while I’ll never be able to control what they learn outside the home, I can certainly control what they learn inside.