Friday, March 5, 2010

Teach Your Parents

I'm a day late, but there's good news!
If you're a fan of great second-hand/consignment shops and you live here in NEPA, or if you're just passing through, you've got to stop by the Hen's Nest Country Variety Consignment Shop in Mt. Cobb (570-503-0536).
Having come to NEPA rather suddenly (upon the death of my brother, intending to lend support to my mother, another stranger-than-fiction chapter of my life!) I've been searching for an affordable, comfortable, visually appealing, clean and smellin' pretty used or new couch.
I left the bulk of my beautiful, less than 4-year-old furniture in Florida, as I had a terminally ill/financially strapped neighbor who really needed decent furniture, and in an effort to cut moving costs so I could financially concentrate on repairing my mother's very dilapidated, 100-plus-year-old home.
Since arriving in July 2007, and even before that, I've been to many, many second hand shops, and I've looked at just as many, likely more, second-hand couches. Either due to appearance, odor, or unreasonable price, no couch I've perused has come close to being the one I'd spend my hard-earned dollars on.
I was both surprised and delighted upon entering the Hen's Nest last weekend, to find not one but three couches I would deem fit for purchase. The couch I bought is the cleanest, most comfortable, best-looking, most odor-free couch I've ever seen among used furniture. And the price was, in my experience, a steal at $200, for a couch with working recliners on either end.
The other two couches are still waiting for a home, and are both very good deals for the prices being asked. Both are clean, attractive and odor-free. All of the other furniture for sale was some of the best-looking that I've seen in a second-hand shop.
I also bought a $30 cardio glider- another huge bargain- and still with some of its original wrapping on!
So if you're a lover of recycling, treasure-hunting, and saving money, check out the Hen's Nest. The employees and atmosphere are very pleasant, as well. Call first, as it's closed on Tuesday & Wednesday, and I think on Sunday, too.

Now on to "Teach Your Parents"

There are few circumstances more worrisome, deeply disturbing and/or painful, than knowing your child is being hurt, taken advantage of ,or behaving self-destructively. Add all-alone and far-away to the mix, and the cool, calm self one has achieved can dissolve into a puddle of quivering nerves in a heart beat! The degree of parental anguish, of course, depends on the severity of the child's situation.
Extreme situations are blatantly, cruelly, vividly, frighteningly illustrated by the recent suicides of young adults whose parents happen to be well-known.
I have a child (the older sister of the 21-year-old and the 11-year-old) who behaves very self-destructively, and at the same time works harder to succeed than most of her peers.
One moment, she is a slurring, self-pitying addict, the next, she's a well-spoken, brilliantly intelligent young woman. I never know which one I'm going to encounter. I have readied myself, as well as any parent can, for the middle-of-the-night phone call informing me that she's dead or grievously injured or in jail.
The entire time my older kids (25 in June,23 in May, just turned 21) were growing up, I was certain that they would be socially and psychologically better-off than my generation (teenagers is the 70s) and my ex-husband's (their father's) generation (teenagers in the 60s) had been.
After all, my children had the advantage of drug resistance programs taught by friendly uniformed police officers from the very early years of elementary school.
As their grandparents may have been unaware of the wild lives their children were living, their father's generation had pretty much invented free-love and the drug culture, and their mother's generation had taken up the freak flag and joined in and carried on with gusto and reckless abandon.
We were parents who would not be blind to our children's attempts at covert activities.We were parents who knew it all, who had done it all and whose kids would see us as infinitely cool people with whom they could discuss any subject.
No one ever told us (early enough to stop us) that drugs were really bad for your body and brain. To the contrary, those older, oh-so-intriguing children of the 60s told us the wondrous stories of seemingly endless and glorious adventures induced and fueled by hallucinogenics, booze, pharmaceuticals and the like.
My eyes literally welled with tears of joy when I first learned that drug resistance would be taught to my kids in school by an authority other than me when they were still young enough to be convinced that users are losers!
Also from an appropriate age, I taught my kids, and repeated often, that life is a precious commodity - a miracle, a gift. Once life is over and done with, it's just that, over and done, you can't get it back. Dead is forever, and dead simply sucks.
The James Deans and Janis Joplins and Curt Cobains of this world may make suicide and reckless behavior seem all sexy and dramatic and self sacrificing and noble, but that's just an adolescent, hormone induced illusion. Death is heart-wrenching. Death is hollow and sickening. Death is stone-cold, rock-hard, maimed-beyond-recognition ugly.
Of course, I've witnessed the beauty in death, but for my purpose, which was preventing my kids from surrendering to the despondence that leads to suicide and putting oneself in mortal danger, I had to leave the possibilities of peace, blessed relief and becoming more evolved, happier beings out of death.
If they felt suicidal, depressed, anguished, they needed to tell me, their dad, a teacher, parents of friends, some one in a position to help and provide counsel, immediately if not sooner!
Additionally, when they became older, car-driving teenagers, I taught my kids that in the course of their experiences, they had to be sure that they were in the company of some one with whom they could trust their lives. I retold stories of kids who over-dosed or became injured (and of one kid who was murdered by acquaintances from his neighborhood) while hanging out with friends, only to be left to die or end up in a vegetative state when their frightened cohorts fled the scene in an effort save their own butts.
I have taught and encouraged my kids to fight the good spiritual fight. Evil exists, and it sneaks into your life in many forms. Give evil even the slightest opportunity to slither in, and it will, and you'll lose control.
One of the most frightening, daunting challenges regarding my children came with the terminal illness and death of their father.
My little guy was six when his Dad died, and I didn't believe he would survive his Dad's death.
He and his Dad were "buddies," "best friends." His Dad taught him to cook and to clean house. His Dad made him feel larger than life, a confident equal. He was the person his Dad could depend on. They shopped together at Wal Mart and at flea markets, buying both essentials and things that neither of them really needed, but that my son now treasures, mostly model ships. He wasn't a baby lost in the crowd of school, or siblings or life in general when he was with his Dad.
My little guy attended a Christian School at the time of his Dad's death. His classmates and teachers prayed for his father daily, hopefully, and with great optimism.
When he died, they held a ceremony at school that included messages to Dad tied to balloons, and lots of support and sympathy.
My boy began to see images - while awake and in the living room- of his father being dragged off by hostile, cloaked spirits. He dreamt of his Dad falling from the sky, landing violently in the middle of a highway, and being struck and killed by a car over and over.
With the help of his loving teachers and classmates, and a Hospice counselor, my little guy persevered and became whole and happy again. The demons subsided and went away.
There is still sadness, such as when my little guy realizes he's forgetting his Dad as the years progress. But during those times, we talk and reminisce. We laugh and we cry and we take out the photo albums and write our memories down so we won't forget. We've learned to heal ourselves and to carry on.
During her father's demise, my older daughter, 17 at the time, allowed herself to plunge head-first into a world of drug use and self-destruction.
She was there with bandages for her Dad when his skin was paper thin and bleeding, and when he needed to be reminded to take his pills and potions.
While in a drunken and/or drug-induced stupor, she was beaten and sexually assaulted by peers at a party only months before her Dad died.
To this day, I don't know which was sadder, seeing my ex sitting in the emergency room, his face gaunt and sallow, his body devastated by cancer, or seeing my daughter lying in the emergency room, stitches in her tear-stained face, her body bruised and battered and violated.
Her outcome is not as clear-cut as her brother's. She has survived. She has even persevered. But the demons are still with her. Still taunting her, tempting her, and I fear that the demons may well eventually take her.
The point is, that from life-altering, devastating situations, to simple, every day dilemmas, my children have taught me that when all is said and done, I can't protect them or control them or save them from themselves and their demons.
I can only be supportive. I can encourage them and help them fight to be strong. I can relate my experiences, and have faith that they will follow the right path.
I've laid a foundation on which they must now build. The building may be strong and straight, or it may be weak and topple into dust.
As I brought my prized second-hand couch home yesterday, I was reminded of a recent phone call from my 21-year-old.
She was seeking advice, reassurance really, because her roommate had purchased a used couch and chair from Craig's List. The furniture is stained and dirty, to the degree that my daughter won't sit on it. This is a young woman who has been on her own since shortly after her high school graduation (with honors), when I left Florida in 2007 and she stayed to start college.
The roommate paid $300 for the furniture and expects my girl to pay half.
My girl works hard at two jobs and attends school. I told her to nicely but matter-of-factly tell her roomie that she will rent a steam cleaner and buy whatever supplies are necessary to clean the furniture, but that she won't pay for half of the furniture.
The strength and depth of my conviction was intense that my girl not let herself be taken advantage of - that she not put her hard-earned money toward junk.
So I suppose that when even the smallest of problems presents itself, the claws will momentarily spring forth, the blood pressure will quickly spike and (hopefully) recede.
But finally, my children have taught me to treasure the moments of goodness and peace and beauty and success.
They've taught me to have faith in myself and in them and in fate or God or in the natural order of things or in whatever one believes is humankind's guiding source.
And the next time I begin to react with stress to a child-related situation, I'll take a deep breath, recline on my new/used couch, and turn within myself to draw on inner peace, calm, and strength.
What do you think?

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