Thursday, March 20, 2008

Parental Guidance

While living in the U.S.A., we noticed much was made of teenage drug use. Practically every small town we drove through had signs posted near the school announcing that it was drug free. I was never sure if this were wish or reality. Neither as it turned out. Apparently, anyone caught selling drugs within the borders of the drug free zone would have to pay higher fines than outside it. Within this area drug pushers’ overheads are high.
But drug abuse is of course not restricted to American schools. From the International School in Basel, we got a handout telling us that the administration decided to hire an outside agency, Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) to raise parents’, teachers’ and students’ awareness of drug abuse.

It was the meeting with a representative of FCD, at the International School on December 17/99, that reminded me of our American experience, our European attitude, and a conversation I had with our youngest daughter two years ago in the USA. There, we frequently received reports in the mail or handed out from the school on teenage drinking and drug use. We were encouraged to be ever vigilant with our children, that we police their parties, their lives and our liquor cabinets. In our family, we’ve never really fussed about alcohol intake. I suppose it’s our European background that led us to think it’s not a sin to take the occasional glass of wine, beer or other alcohol. Over the years we’ve built up quite a substantial cellar of good wines we must get round to enjoying, before we have an equally substantial collection of good wine vinegars. In any event, prompted by school handouts, newspaper reports, school meetings, television warnings, bill board and radio campaigns against the evil drink, the devil weed and demon drugs, I decided I had best speak to my daughter and started by casually asking her:

“Do you drink?”
“Oh Mom, you know I do.”
“You do? What do you drink?”
“I dunno. Whatever you offer me. Riesling at Thanksgiving.”
“Oh right… did you like it?”
“Wasn’t bad with some ginger ale.”
“Of course, with a little ginger ale, but—do you drink at other times?”
“Sure mom—don’t you remember last Christmas? We drank some Pinot gris?”
“Right, right, Pinot gris you say?”
“Or Pinot noir, something pee no.”
“So what about marijuana, if you wanted some, would you know where to get it?”
“Sure. What’s this all about, mom?”
“Well you know Petra, it says in the school newsletter that I’ve got to talk to you?”
“Yeah? What about?”
“About drugs, alcohol dangers and family values.”
“You know we do our best to set a good example?”
“Yeah, so?”
“Let’s start with drugs,” I said, looking for my cigarette lighter.
“Mom, I don’t do drugs.”
“You don’t?’
“But you would know where to get them if you wanted them?”
“SCHOOL! What do you mean at school? It’s supposed to be a drug-free zone, all the signs say so.” I pulled a cigarette from the pack.
“Geez, Mom. You can be so gullible. You can’t believe everything you read, you know.”
“No, I guess not,” I whimpered. “So what sort of drugs can you get at school?”
“Everything, meaning?”
“Marijuana, crack, ecstasy, coke…”
“Coke? Since when is a Coke a drug? They were supposed to have taken out…”
“Not a Coke, mom, coke. Co-caine.”
“Oh, right. Have you ever tried any of these?’
“Naw, why would I wanna spend all that money to wreck my body?”
“Good point,” I agreed, exhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke.

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