Twelve students — most from my daughter’s college — recently landed in hospitals after taking tainted doses of the recreational drug Molly, a form of Ecstasy. Two of those kids were airlifted to large medical facilities because of the seriousness of their condition. All survived.
This episode received enormous press coverage but I knew about it from other parents e-mailing and stopping me on the street, checking on my daughter and sharing concern over her school, which seemingly has serious drug problems and a reputation that is in the toilet.
My friends are acting as if, because drug-use-gone-bad happened at my daughter’s school, it means students at other schools are safe, aren’t using the stuff, and are immune from harm for now.
Parents, I’m convinced, are superstitious pagans, believing in evil furies and demons in order to explain the seemingly random tragedies that befall children, looking for something to blame. I do this too, reacting to what happens to someone else’s kid with genuine horror and regret but also with the tiniest bit of relief, as if it means my girls are protected from the gods of destruction, their appetite sated with the pain and suffering of someone else’s child for the moment.
The reality, folks, is that drugs are on every college campus and students have access to them.
The truth is that other young people will be harmed — by driving drunk or by drunk drivers and from ingesting illegal substances. No matter how hard we look for a reason why it was those 12 kids, there isn’t one except that on that night, they were the ones who happened to end up with the tainted pills and ate them.
I hope my daughter isn’t taking ridiculous chances with her health and safety. She is, however, 20 years old and still prone to intense bouts of curiosity, and subject to episodes of peer pressure and the occasionally overwhelming desire for excitement.
There are things I expect from her — not to drive impaired or stand in snow in bare feet — reasonable steps she is capable of taking. As much as I would like to send her a charm or talisman that can protect her from unexpected and unpredictable consequences of her actions, there are none.
No parent wants to get that call from a hospital or the police but just because 12 parents’ phones rang a few weeks ago. The rest of us aren’t protected for even one night.
My job as a parent is to manage my fears and live with my nightmares without heaping them on my girls. If it takes keeping out of the way of black cats or believing in wicked sprites and vengeful spirits, okay. I have to let my children live their lives, knowing deep down that no matter how many good luck charms I carry in my pockets, there is no protection from the random or unexpected.