Tuesday would have been Katie Wilson’s sixteenth birthday. Katie was a vibrant, well-loved part of our small community here in eastern Ontario, when she died just a few short weeks ago after a battle with a terrible form of cancer. She was diagnosed in June, and went home to be with Jesus less than a year later.
I was thinking of her family and praying for her mom all day Tuesday. I have known the grief of losing a child, though never like that. I lost my baby before he really became a daily part of our lives, and as much as that hurt, I don’t pretend to compare it to what my friend Evelyn is enduring. And yet on the same day that I was thinking about Katie’s birthday I was reading on the internet about an extremely popular Mommy Blogger whose son died last year of a drug overdose. She is now threatening to sue the police department for not investigating the death more and bringing murder charges to the drug dealers.
The drug dealers do need to be brought to justice, and I fully support murder charges. But at the same time, here’s a Mommy Blogger whose son started experimenting with drugs when he was 14. He was in and out of rehab, but could never win the battle. He sold drugs to others–meaning that he did almost the same thing that the mom is now accusing the drug dealers of doing (these dealers also saw him go into overdose and did not call 911, so arguably their guilt is greater). But nonetheless, this boy was not a victim. And, I would argue, neither were his parents.
When your child starts experimenting at 14, you put a stop to it. You act like a parent, especially if you yourself are a parenting expert. I’m not disputing that she feels grief; it’s just that everytime I read the story (and it is all over the internet), she seems mad at everybody but herself and her son. Parents do not let kids get addicted to drugs. They just don’t. They confiscate their money, homeschool them if they have to to get them away from dealers, and lay down the law. They don’t let them go out to parties when they’re 14. They use their own house as a hangout so they know who their kids’ friends are. I’m not saying it’s easy, but you have a responsibility.
I’ve never had to do these things because we’ve raised our kids to not take drugs and to not drink. If they ever started, boy would that boom fall fast. I do not believe in letting kids “experiment” or in “teenage rebellion”. And when kids are involved with drugs, they’re involved with shady people like the ones who let him die. They’re contributing to the problem, too.
I know this makes me sound incredibly judgmental, but I think we have to get away from this victim mentality when everything is everybody else’s fault. There are some things that are just plain a parent’s responsibility.
That doesn’t mean that kids will always do what you want them to do; not by a longshot. In the story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible even God had a child who went off the rails, and God is a pretty good Father. So all of us, no matter how good a parent, may have a child who rebels or does something stupid. But that doesn’t change the fact that we should accept some of that responsibility, or at least give some of that responsibility to the child. In this case, it was an 18-year-old boy. He made the choice to keep taking drugs, despite having a supportive family that was doing everything it could to help him. He put himself in the company of dangerous, callous people.
So what would I do if I were in this mother’s shoes? Yes, I would hound the police to lay charges against that drug dealing couple. But I would probably spend more time talking to parents about how to deal with a 14-year-old who starts experimenting, because it is not innocent. Callous, evil people like those drug dealers will always be with us. I’d like to lock up as many of them as I could, certainly. But we can’t really change evil; they’re evil, after all!
What we can do is to influence regular, everyday parents to be more proactive, more involved, and more aggressive in fighting against their kids using drugs. Instead, she’s spending all her time lambasting the police and these drug dealers, which I don’t think will do much good. It’s reinforcing the idea that drug use is something that people get sucked or conned into, and they’re the victims. Yet as her own son’s life shows, drug dealers and drug users are virtually indistinguishable from each other. It isn’t like one is a victim and the other is evil; most drug users become drug dealers, too.
The best example I can think of is Cassie Bernall’s parents. Do you remember Cassie? She was the girl who said “yes” during the Columbine massacre when she was asked if she believed in Jesus. And she died then and there. But what many people don’t know is that in grade 8 she was involved with the wrong crowd and had started experimenting. Her parents clamped down so hard even their Chrisian friends told them they were overreacting. Yet within a year Cassie had turned around completely and given her life to God–and God used her in a mighty way, even if it was tragic.
Now perhaps these parents did everything they could–I really don’t know. But what seems to be the case from reading this story is that they keep saying that someone else killed their son. Yes, the drug dealers didn’t call 911. But I would say the main one responsible for this boy’s death is the boy himself. He had help. He had rehab. He had people who supported him. But he still chose the drug lifestyle, and the drug lifestyle isn’t exactly filled with compassionate people. It’s filled with the kind of people who would do this.
He was 18. If anyone killed him, it was him. And that’s probably the problem. Losing a child is terrible beyond all measure. But maybe the reason they keep blaming everyone else is because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate–that they’re actually mad at their son. He’s the one who left them, and who didn’t take their help.
But the only way to get real healing, I think, is to admit that you’re angry at him and then forgive him; it’s not to deflect the blame everywhere else (even if, as I have said, the ‘everywhere else’ does also bear some blame).
It reminds me of the story of Charles Morris, the host of Haven Today. He also had a son die of a drug overdose. They tried everything they could, but their son went deeper and deeper into the drug culture. I heard an interview with him after his son’s death, and he said that the one thing he and his wife were so grateful for is that he died before he could hurt anyone else. I thought that showed a lot of grace.
It is horrible to lose a child. I am grateful that my friend Evelyn and myself don’t have to add anger to our grief; we have simple grief. To have grief that is mixed with anger, because your child caused part of the problems, is so, so much worse. But it isn’t going to get better by ignoring your own child’s faults. I just hope and pray that they will be able to find closure, by, yes, seeing these people brought to justice, but also by seeing the role their own son played in his own demise. And then finding a way to forgive him.
UPDATE: Okay, now I’m feeling really harsh because I’m being roasted on Twitter about this. I think I was too mean. So let me try again. I totally understand grieving your son, and I totally understand going after the drug dealers who didn’t call 911. I don’t have a problem with any of that. What I do have a problem with is that in all the stories I have seen (and they are all over the internet), I don’t see family members admitting that the boy had any role in his own death. And I guess I just think that the best way to fight the drug culture is to say, “you are not a victim if you become an addict.” It was a choice you made. If we make them into victims, we excuse them.
And that’s my real problem. I hope that’s not too harsh! Perhaps I should have spoken about this without the specific case so I wouldn’t cause more pain to her…
I’m not exactly the most sensitive person, I guess. Sigh.