Sometime during the late 1980s in another city late at night, I was cruising in the passenger seat of my friend “Herbie’s” car. Another friend, “Dennis,” was in the back.
Herbie asked Dennis to pass him a brick from the back seat. I don’t know why he had a brick in the back of his car but Dennis passed the brick to me and I gave it to Herbie. Without missing a beat, Herbie hurled the brick out of his window and it smashed the front glass of a closed business. We sped away.
I think about that incident with the brick when I see groups of young people arrested for crimes like the youngsters that robbed Travis Dairy and killed the owner, or the four people recently arrested in the death of Naomy Rojas.
A parent’s biggest nightmare is something bad happening to their child. A close second is finding out that your child has done something horrible. It’s tragic when your teen goes along with a group and throws his or her life away.
That incident with the brick illustrates how easy it is to get into trouble with a group of people.
We’d been drinking earlier and were driving looking for something to do. When the driver asked for the brick, I didn’t know what he planned to do with it. But that wouldn’t stop me from being culpable if we’d been caught. That’s the danger when you’re out with a group doing dirt. You may not know that someone in your group is about to vandalize property, rob someone or even shoot someone. It can happen in the blink of an eye.
In those instances, you’re not innocent. I wasn’t innocent.
What if that wasn’t a brick the driver asked Dennis for? What if he asked us to hand him a gun? Would I hand it to him, not knowing what he was going to do with it? In seconds your life can forever change. It’s almost an insurmountable goal to think we can get teens to make those decisions at the last minute. Sitting in the car drunk is too late. We’ve got to keep them from getting in that car. Better still; keep them from hanging out with the wrong crowd.
These are conversations that should be ongoing with our kids and grandkids. Sometimes even good kids can do stupid things in groups. We feel less personally responsible in a group of friends.
If Herbie had been driving alone, I don’t think he would’ve hurled that brick. He wasn’t a bad guy. (In fact, today he’s in law enforcement in a Northern California city!) On the flip side of that, I probably would’ve thrown that brick in the presence of friends just to fit in. We shouldn’t have been drinking but I don’t blame the alcohol. Teens can do reckless things while totally sober.
I was reluctant to write this column because no one wants to hang a spotlight on his or her shameful, stupid moments. But I decided to do it because I was a gifted student from a good religious middle class family and still was fully capable of making stupid decisions to fit in.
It’s hard to impress upon an “invincible” teen that thinks he or she knows everything to be wary of bad influences or just the problem of groupthink. But that’s our job as parents and grandparents.
I don’t want to ever get a phone call that my grandkids were arrested along with several friends for doing something awful. I’m going to be a broken record on this subject. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]