Monday, August 08, 2005

The Line

I came into work this morning to write about a 17-year-old boy.

He was dead.

The boy was out with friends at two a.m. on a Monday morning and all of them were apparently drunk or had been drinking. The 17-year-old decided, for whatever reason, to ride on top of his buddy's car. His buddy, and four other friends, drove around for a bit with the 17-year-old on the roof and I'm sure they were laughing and having a grand time.

I can almost hear them laughing.

Then the driver slammed the car into a tree.

The “car surfing” 17-year-old flew off.

He never got another ride...except in an ambulance.

No reason.

Several occupants of the car were badly hurt and the driver will likely face charges of intoxication manslaughter, his life too changed forever.

Booze no doubt played a large part in everyone's decision making, but so did something else - an inability to see the line.

How do you teach your kids about the "line?"

It's hard - there is no real lesson plan for parents - and the line seems to shift a little with every generation and circumstance.

When our kids were younger we worried a lot - needlessly I suppose - about their safety, but when they became teenagers and went out at night with friends we borrowed the words other parents we know had used with their kids - who all turned out super - and simply said, "Make good decisions."

Then we put our trust in God and our kids.

When my stepson Joey went to college, he moved all the way to Ohio. Although he was our second child in college, our first had chosen a school much closer to home and we didn't feel as worried about - let's face it - Tiffany was acting more like a thinking adult at the age of eight than I was at the age of 35...probably 45 too.

Joey though is our "artist." He was raised in two Christian homes, but he was sheltered from a lot of life…at least parts of life I had seen. I certainly didn't think him prepared for the world at large much less the urban environs of downtown Columbus. Plus he was going to be surrounded by art students with far different values...not to mention college art teachers.

We had no idea what to expect.

I wasn't there when Joey moved into his dorm room, but Amy flew with him to Ohio to help him get settled and she told me that as she was leaving she hugged Joey in tears and started to try to speak.

Joey interrupted her.

He said, "Don't worry Mama...I'll make good decisions...ya done good."

With the exception of used automobile purchases - and when you throw used car salesmen into the mix it skews anyone’s results - he has been true to his word.

All of our kids have "made good decisions" and truthfully we don't worry about them very much at all - they probably worry about us more...and with good reason.

Another story I wrote about this morning was somewhat humorous - at least I thought so. A kid in Oregon was sentenced to two years probation, fined a few dollars and a mark was put on his "permanent record" because he gave some other kid (pardon if this offends but it's the only thing I've ever heard it called) "a titty twister."

For those of you who missed or have forgotten adolescence, that is an act usually perpetrated upon kids by kids...although I found photographic evidence indicating it may not be completely a human trait.

It's exactly what it sounds person grabs the other by the nipple and gives it a twist. Lest there be no mistake, the "victim" is always a boy...this type of activity would take on an entirely different dimension otherwise.

It's not pleasant but it's far from fatal.

In this case, the kid who did the "twisting" was 15...the possessor of the now bruised nipple was 13.

The 13-year-old's mother filed criminal charges. She says it was an act of bullying and she's right - no doubt in my mind. Her son doesn't really know the other boy, if it had been one of his friends she says she wouldn't have made a criminal case out of it.

The story revealed Oregon has rather specific laws and penalties’ regarding this type of what was termed "Three Stooges-like" behavior. Swirlies, wedgies, and noogies are technically against the law too...although if I could have had my two older brothers arrested for every noogie I received as a child they'd still be serving time.

From a distance the story is funny although I'm sure there's more to it and I really don't fault the mother - no one wants their kid picked on.

Yet this 13-year-old boy is going to encounter all sorts of wrongs during his lifetime...he's also going to encounter all sorts of temptations. When those incidents occur - and they will - his Mom is not going to be able to intervene or make it better or rectify it after the fact. She might still be able to file charges but it could be of little use, or worse yet...little comfort.

The boy will have to stand and make a decision then and himself.

I pray he will know what's truly important.

I pray he will know where to draw the line and not end up drunk on top of a car or worse.

Like it or not, the world is always going to be a little twisted.