Last week, we lost two teenagers in an automobile accident near where I live. Several years ago, the same thing happened. I wrote this piece back then with the thought that, perhaps, one teenager would read it, take it to heart, and remember that, while driving a car, even a momentís inattention can lead to situations with consequences that cannot be undone. Iím publishing it again this week. Same situation. Same thought.
This is from a parent.
I donít know what itís like to hear the words two sets of parents heard last week.
Like every other parent, I donít ever want to know because Iím not sure Iíd be strong enough to handle it.
So, this is to you, the teenagers. Itís a request and an explanation. Itís a message and a prayer. Itís from one parent Ė actually, itís from all parents - to you.
I know itís hard to believe, but we were once just like you. We were once just as young and daring, just as eager to tackle the world and, down deep, just as scared to death to face that world.
We were once just as sure our parents hadnít a clue as to what we were about. The only difference between us and you is a lot of "been thereís, done thatís" and, believe me, our "done thatís" were just as dumb and dangerous as anything youíve survived so far.
Thatís why we worry.
We made it, though. We got older. We met someone. We fell in love. We got married. We had you.
That means we sat up endless nights while you were a baby. We changed you when you were wet. We fed you when you were hungry. We held you when you cried. We fretted when you were sick.
We watched your first step. We made faces to see you laugh. We listened to your first words. We bragged about you at work. We carried your photographs in our wallets.
We watched you grow. We sent you off to your first day of school. We kept your projects and put your drawings on the refrigerator. We watched your first play.
We cheered when you made the team. We drove you to every game and stood by watching you play.
We worried about whether youíd be popular and then, when you were, we worried about your friends.
We were angry with you when we shouldnít have been and asked questions we shouldnít have asked. We made mistakes and hurt your feelings. We didnít say, "Iím sorry" or "I love you" anywhere near often enough.
We argued with you. We let things slide that we should have called you on. We stayed awake when you were out later than your curfew.
We watched you change into young men and women ready to pursue your own dreams. We were scared and happy and sorry about that all at the same time. Thatís because we wanted to see you succeed but, deep within ourselves, we just didnít want to let you go.
Still, we wanted to see you become firefighters and doctors and lawyers and policemen and merchants and pilots and beauticians and teachers and librarians and scientists and writers. We wanted to talk with you about how exciting your work was and how well you were doing. We wanted to listen to you tell us how mean or arrogant your boss was and how youíd never be like that when you were in charge.
We wanted to see you meet the man or woman of your dreams and do the same crazy things we did when we fell in love. We wanted to see you get married. We wanted you to ask us all of the questions we asked our parents when we were just starting out. We wanted to pass you a few dollars to get you past the tough spots. We wanted to see you have children and watch you start all of this all over again.
The tough part, though, is that, sometimes, the things we lie awake and worry about happen.
Sometimes, things that are beyond our control take you away from us. Sometimes we never get to see or do all of the things Iíve mentioned because youíre not here anymore and, when that happens, it brings a hurt that cannot be described.
So, this is for you, the teenagers.
Itís from a parent. Itís from every parent.
Itís the same thing parents have said to their children for all time. Itís the same thing youíll say to your children. Theyíll feel the same way hearing it from you as you do when you hear it from us.