Ridin’ Dirty

My 7-year-old is not going to a birthday party this weekend and I’m not certain how to feel about it. One of her long-time friend’s father was recently arraigned on drug charges. He’s out on more than $12,000 bail for manufacture with intent to distribute.


The problem is, with the demonization of marijuana and the propensity of the authorities to jack up the charges so they get higher conviction rates, it’s hard to tell if this guy was growing a little more than he should have been or if he was operating a meth lab. There is a significant difference.

Because I tend toward naiveté my impression is that the dude is a pothead who really just had too much on him at the wrong time. Still really stupid, but not on a meth-lab-in-the-basement scale. But that’s the problem with not knowing your kid’s friend’s parents. I cannot begin to guess if this is the kind of guy who would get high with a house full of children or not.

So what really bothers me is how by-surprise the whole episode took me and how ill-equipped to deal with it I was. Truth is, I saw the kid’s mom and said my daughter would be there only to have my kid tell me she’s not going because the kid’s parents “might do drugs in front of me.”

Ouch again.

I’ve been to the family’s house a couple of times. It’s cluttered, but not much more so than mine. The picture I got was of a lower-income, lower-education, small town household. The place doesn’t have that we-smoke-inside aroma. No incense, no candles, it pretty much smells like their house. But a couple of conversations with the parents that amounted to more than a mutual weather report would have, I’m sure, given me a little more insight.

These are the unforgivable failures of parenthood. There are things you should protect your child from and things shouldn’t or cannot hope to protect them from. I always thought it weird when kids’ parents didn’t let them stay here because we didn’t know one another. After all, I know me and I’m a good parent and way more careful with other people’s kids than I am with my own.

Of course, they don’t know that and this is where their ideology and mine collide. What is being overprotective and what is being reasonably concerned? My daughter has spent more than a few night’s at this kids house already. Given that she never reported anything unsavory and that I’d been to the house a chatted, am I retroactively a bad parent for leaving her with a drug dealer? If not, how is it less responsible to let her go now than it was before he got busted?

The answer, as it turns out, is pretty simple. I certainly would be less ambivalent if he got busted for child porn, even if nothing ever happened to my kid. The best you can do as a parent, I think, is to learn from your mistakes and praise your good luck without becoming paranoid.



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