Jaren is a junior in high school now and is starting to become more independent, which makes me somewhat nervous. This is such a crucial time in his life and soon he will be entering adulthood. He will be face to face with choices that I will not always be able to assist him with and I trust that I have given him the tools to make those decisions.
I remember once, after bringing Jaren to my job for “Kids Day at Work”, one of my co-workers said to me, “You know what I like about Jaren? He is a kid. He acts like a kid. And I mean that as a compliment.” My co-worker, who did not have children, went on to explain to me that she felt parents tried to make grown-ups out of kids instead of allowing them to be kids and act like kids. She was right. Jaren was a kid, an innocent kid in every sense of the word. He was a challenging kid at times but nonetheless, still a kid and I liked it that way. I wanted Jaren to be a kid and enjoy his childhood. After all, our childhood is so short as compared to our adulthood. Jaren would have a lifetime of opportunities to be an adult and act like an adult but he would only have one opportunity to act like a kid and feel like a kid.
When I think about all the things that I was allowed to do and experience at such a young age and how different Jaren’s childhood experience has been compared to my childhood experience, it makes me wonder sometimes what my parents were thinking.
At the end of my third grade, we moved from a small rental home in a quaint neighborhood to a newly built home out in the country. Our closest neighbor was a mile away and the closest convenience store was four miles away. One would think this would have sheltered us kids from the corrupt neighborhoods. Surprisingly, I would learn and experience more than most kids my age.
On the weekends, my mother would be busy with our new little brother from her second marriage, my step father would be out drinking with his buddies, and my siblings and I would enjoy normal kid friendly activities, like riding horses, a mini-motorcycle, bicycles and roaming around on our property. Then our cousins and some friends formed a rock band. They drove out almost every weekend to practice in the barn where we lived. I was nine, my sister was eleven and the oldest cousin was seventeen. Let me repeat that last sentence. I was nine years old, the youngest of the whole group who’s ages ranged all the way up to seventeen and eighteen years of age. At first, everything was innocent but I would soon become witness as to why the 70’s is remembered as “Sex, Drugs and RocknRoll”.
First, I started smoking cigarettes. My sister started smoking and drinking before me. She tried to keep me from following in her footsteps but eventually I would make threats to tell our parents, and then bribes would be offered to me. Once we both were guilty of the crime, neither one of us could rat on each other. Mind you, all of this is going on just a few hundred feet from our parents’ home.
My mother would tell my sister to keep an eye on me. She was only two years older than me. That was a heavy load to carry.
Soon, my sister and I began to go to Rock concerts with our cousins. I think I went to my first rock concert when I was around twelve years old. It was a Black Sabbath concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA. I can’t remember if I had smoked pot before this time or not but I remember smoking it that night. It looked like every person in that arena was smoking marijuana. When you walked into the arena, it was one big puff cloud. Even if you didn’t actually drag on a joint, you could get high on the second hand fumes.
Everyone that we hung out with was drinking, smoking or doing drugs except for one cousin who was the oldest cousin. He didn’t smoke cigarettes or do any drugs. He just drank. But the legal age was eighteen back then so he was legally able to drink. The rest of us were not legally of age to drink. I wasn’t much of a drinker. Still to this day, I don’t drink alcohol much. But I smoked a lot of weed. Funny, because I never had any money to buy weed, everyone else was always offering me theirs.
Our parents rarely ever showed up at the barn. My parents were the only ones who lived on the property until our grandparents moved out there a few years later. But since there was loud rock music playing, they stayed as far away as possible so they wouldn’t damage their ears. And apparently, they trusted the older cousins or siblings to watch over the younger ones.
Later, our oldest cousin built a small apartment in the barn. Lots of things changed then. I had experienced the RocknRoll, I had experienced the drugs and now I was about to witness the sex. I witnessed cousins going into the bedroom, while the rest of us were out in the living room. Sometimes my cousin would tell the other band members to start practicing and he would be out in a minute. We all knew what was going on. Even in my young innocence, I knew something was going on. When they came out, they acted as if nothing had happened. They were not “a couple”. They didn’t act like a loving couple. They were having an affair.
Seeing this must have created some mixed feelings inside me. I was a kid in elementary school. Is this the right message for a young girl? Is this how a couple acts? Is this what love is? It also made family gatherings very awkward. I had to maintain the secret or else.
The ironic part is there were times when my sister tried to leave the house without me. My mother would tell her she couldn’t go unless she took me. My sister got angry and would grit her teeth and tell me to come on. Once we left, she would tell me she didn’t want me there. She’d warn me, more like bullied and threatened me that I better not tell our parents anything. I was trapped in a world of chaos and there was no way out.
I saw many things over the next few years.
Then one day, the summer before I entered high school, my sexual experience would change in a big way. An older cousin, who was four years older than myself made a proposition. He knew I was a virgin. He asked me if I wanted to learn how to “give head”. I nodded my head and told him yes. He said he was willing to teach me. We were standing in my parents’ front yard. I guess they were out to the bar drinking that day. He pulled his pants down and told me to get on my knees. I did. Then he instructed me how to give a proper blow job. As time got closer to the climax, he began to grab the back of my head and thrust it, gagging me at times. At the end, he chuckled and said arrogantly, “How was that? Now you know how to give a blow job.” And that was that. No love, no compassion. My first sexual experience was a cold, unloving, uncaring experience. After my troubled relationships with both my bio-father and step-father, this left a bad taste in my mouth for men in general.
When I got to high school, I began to experiment with all sorts of drugs. I was rarely home on the weekends. I stayed with friends and we partied the whole weekend long. I babysat for my friend’s older sister, who used to buy us beer and pot as payment for watching her kids. My parents didn’t know what I was doing over the weekend except that I was staying with a friend. My parents rarely questioned me.
Looking back, I couldn’t imagine putting my son in these situations. My sister and I were expected to make appropriate choices at such a young age, being strongly influenced by older cousins and siblings. Why a parent would allow vulnerable pre-teens to hang out with older teens and legal adults who were four, five and six years older than them is beyond me.
Life has taught me some hard lessons over the years. I was put in situations beyond my control. I was forced to make choices with an innocent, uneducated mind in the prime of my childhood. These choices changed me in enormous ways and would set me on the path for adulthood.