Some gentle readers who have been with me for 250 of these rabble-rousing musings have had the unmitigated temerity to suggest that my anti-drug, pro-running, be responsible for your kids screeds can be summarized as "fun is bad." Not everybody wants to wake up at oh dark hundred, join similarly afflicted loonies, and train for 50 km romps through the swamps after which the most cogent remark is often "another packet of IV glucose solution, please." Surely, there are other ways to fill our brief moments of strutting and fretting across the stage without inflicting more discomfort than that which is inevitably headed our way after the doctor says, "The bad news is that you have a painful, incurable disease; the good news is that I'm sleeping with my receptionist."
To address this dreadful calumny, that I recommend suffering for its own sake, I will only suggest that ordering a $700 bottle of vodka at a South Beach club while listening to records being sawed in half does not work for me. If listening to "Paul is dead" played backwards and a blood alcohol level that would kill a moose works for you and you are able to be at your desk at nine o'clock the next morning then good for you. Not that you asked, but you have my blessing. My concern is only for those for whom this definition of fun leaves them un-launched, sad, addicted, unconnected--emerging from their parents metaphorical basements only to eat Cheetos and borrow the credit card this one last time.
One of the great things about a predilection for distance running is that we always want to stop. One of the not so great things about addiction to oxycontin is that you always want more. See the difference?
Where did all those young people in the treatment programs I visited recently in Arizona and Utah come from? How did they get there? How did their addictions come to control their lives? No one ever woke up in the morning and said "I have an idea! I will become addicted to Xanax. I will ignore my studies, my family, my children, my responsibilities, and devote my life to the procuring and ingesting substances."
I'm thinking the process was more gradual.
Just as every heart surgeon who does heart transplants once did a heart transplant for the first time (a good thing if a scary one), every chemically dependent young adult once took one pill once for the first time.
The forces of evil are, as always, as clandestine as ever: a respected oral surgeon, with a wink and a nod, gives "extra" pain killers to an adolescent with the suggestion that he "have a good time." There seems to be a conspiracy to convince our kids that nothing should ever hurt.
That our kids will never have a bad day seems an unlikely promise to fulfill and an improvident suggestion. The Dread Pirate Roberts summed up this concept: "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."
I am not suggesting that there is anything to be said for needless misery. But there is something to be said for delaying gratification. You don't have to join my running group at 5:45 am to go schlepping and sweating through the fetid swamp to appreciate the joy that comes from not running, but you would do well to allow your children to understand that a little discomfort is to be expected.
If the cross-country team doesn't appeal, a boring after school job would not be the end of the world. Giving your kids Advil rather than Darvocet after a minor procedure might not be a bad idea either. And if you do give your child a narcotic after surgery, throwing away the extra 19 pills could be an important step in avoiding a basement filled with unrealized expectations and Cheetos.