ON ILLEGAL DRUGS AS A SYMPTOM
I caught a blast from the usual gang of don't-quote-me's and can't-sign-their-name bravehearts for deigning to speak out publicly in the wake of last week's tragic drug death.
"Who died and made you God?"
"How dare you criticize the Town/the schools/the drug awareness program?"
"You don't have a clue about what's really going on!"
To their shrill head-in-the-sand expostulations, I'll share with you the insight I received from a former Hudson mom whose 18-year-old son was picked and questioned by police for two hours the Sunday night before last.
The 16-year-old Hudson lad accused of supplying the party drug that killed a 13-year-old Westwood Junior High School Grade 7 student gave police her son's name.
The connection? Her son and the accused had attended Odyssey, an alternative school for at-risk youth. She knows, because when she was living in Hudson, she used to drive them to school.
She agreed with everything I said - because she had lived that hell for years.
Her son was released after questioning. She thinks it's because he's been more or less straight since being kicked out of his father's home here. "Thank God he's finally met a girl he likes and straightened himself out," she told me.
She still has vivid memories of the nights she spent driving around Hudson looking for her son at 3 a.m. He was just 14 then, one of those kids we see with the low-slung load pants, buying beer from an over-18 behind St. Thomas Church, then lugging it down to Hudson's hobo hangout at the foot of Cameron.
Back then, nothing she could say or do could get through to him. "My father instilled respect in me, but our son would just laugh at us and head out the door."
She says she and her ex-husband had different attitudes about child-rearing. "He thought we should just let them sort it out on their own," she recalled. She concedes it's a major reason why they are no longer together and why she was glad to move to the West Island with her son and daughter.
"On the West Island, they can grab a bus and be at Fairview in 20 minutes. In Hudson, they have to get lifts everywhere they go.Now when my daughter says to me 'gimme a lift to Fairview' I tell her to take the bus."
Another wise counsellor, who spent years in the city before moving back, advised me to walk away from the whole drug issue.
"What are you going to change? Nothing. Nobody can do a thing about the drugs, because they're everywhere. Half the kids end up trying them, half of those end up using them, and half of those kids end up with problems."
He used to be angry. Now he's not. Instead, he asks questions - such as why a community of Hudson's affluence doesn't have a hockey arena or indoor sports complex that can be found in many municipalities with a fraction of Hudson's valuation roll. I can't answer him.
I spent an hour this past week talking with Mike Klaiman and Donna Karpman at the Community Centre. Mike has the energy and the drive, while Donna has years of experience and the unique perspective that comes with motherhood. They have some excellent ideas - which I will present in detail in next week's paper - and I hope they get the opportunity to put them into practice. But they admit there's a period of time in teenage lives when they simply lose them.
Drugs are a symptom of that, rather than a cause. Last year, La Presse carried a disturbing series on the toll that marijuana was taking in Quebec schools. Students as young as 12, smoking up before class, then sitting there catatonic, incapable of learning. Or students skipping classes so they could work as guards and harvesters in the illegal marijuana plantations, then showing up at school driving brand-new pickup trucks purchased with their earnings.
And that's just marijuana. Ecstacy is cheap and ubiquitous. Most of us have followed The Montreal Gazette's story of loss and redemption centred on two crack-addicted brothers. This past Saturday, you may have read how crystal meth is the new diet of choice for body-conscious young women.
I think drugs are just a symptom, rather than a root cause. As Donna Karpman says, today's teens are living with pressure most of us have never had to face. The example she used is how Westwood Seniors are now being told that a sizeable percentage won't be accepted into CEGEP because of the tough new exams designed to prevent students from flunking out when they hit John Abbott, Dawson or Vanier.
Are there answers? This week, we've received a river of letters on the topic of how to reach our teenagers. But as you'll soon realize, there is no common thread, because the fault lines in every family are different.What would you do if your teenaged son or daughter walks away from you, laughing because he or she knows there is nothing you - or anybody else - can do?
We have created a society which has spent the past half-century preaching the gospel of self-indulgence, instant gratification and the glorification of self. Is it a shame that so many have problems, or a miracle that so many of our sons and daughters turn out fine?
2006 Lake of Two Mountains Gazette Ltd.