Don’t let the unthinkable happen herePublished 9:19am Thursday, May 12, 2011
Column: Thanks for Listening
Editor’s note: This is a reprint of a column that appeared initially on April 15, 2010.
Imagine this headline: “Two 16-year-olds and an 18-year-old die in a car crash last night.”
Is this the headline we want to see in the next month or so? Or ever, for that matter?
No, no, no, I say.
Every year between prom and graduation, parents and loved ones across the country hold their collective breath hoping such a tragedy does not happen.
Why then does it still happen? Stupidity is one reason. People, including underage kids, still drink and drive.
Consider this statistic: almost 40 percent of 15- to 20-year-old fatalities in Minnesota are alcohol-related. It should raise an eyebrow and make you say, hmmm.
Naiveté is another. If you think your child is perfect and would never do something like drink and drive, you are wrong.
Johnny, tell these parents what they have won.
Well Bob, the happily naive couple will receive a one- to 30-day stay in the local emergency room, providing their child was lucky enough to live through the crash or was not airlifted to a major hospital right away. If the child does not live through the crash, these lucky parents will have the chance to plan their child’s funeral and experience guilt-ridden grief for the rest of their lives.
If it sounds like I am making a joke out of this, I’m not. This is not a joking matter. It is the sad, hard truth, and I want your child to live for a long, long time. I have gone to funerals for young people who died much too young. I watched my son as he tried to adjust to losing his best friend a year after graduation. It is the worst kind of funeral. It is the worst kind of pain. It’s an experience I hope none of you ever has to go through, and for those of you who have, I offer you my sincere apologies and prayers. It is a nice thing to offer apologies and prayers, but if you ask the loved ones and parents of those kids who died too young, what they would prefer, I believe they would say, another minute, another day, another year, with their son, their daughter, their sister or their brother.
What I am trying to get across to you is be the parent that kids get tired of listening to. Be the parent that is not their buddy. Kids listen more than you think and they will still love you — but they will have the opportunity to love you a lot longer if they hear you and understand the message you are sending them. I would rather my child think I bug them too much about drinking or drug abuse than not to be able to talk to them ever again.
Love is the key word here.
Kids, if your parents have given you a curfew, great. If your parents have asked you about drinking and driving, awesome. If they asked about your friends, yay. If they bug you about when, where, who, what and how, good — it is because they love you. If your parents did not love you, do you think that they would go to all the trouble of knowing everything about you?
Parents, grandparents, teenagers and you are all in this together. The community suffers when a child or teen dies in an alcohol-related collision. We all wonder what the child or teen might have accomplished in their lifetime. How many lives would they have touched? Would they have become the person you most admired, the person you wanted them to be?
Please do me a favor, take a few minutes and tell your children, nieces, nephews and anyone you know — not to drink and drive. Our world needs you. You are the future and you deserve to live out the freedoms that many other teenagers have fought and died for.
Remember these three things:
We all have a choice.
We all have to live or die with that choice.
Please make the right choice — don’t drink and drive!
Want to win a few bucks: If you live in Freeborn County, you could enter to win $50! Just go to: www.healthyfreeborncounty.org and take the active living survey.
Tribune Publisher Scott Schmetzer’s column appears every Thursday.