“I want to talk to you about heroin. Our state is in the middle of a terrible epidemic.”
“Did you see that story about the kid killed in that horrible crash on the highway? You know they were drinking before they got in the car, right?”
“I want to talk to you about consent, and what it really means.”
“Your body has changed a lot in the past year. I suspect you’ve got a lot more changes in front of you this year. Let’s have a quick chat.”
“The only disease they mentioned in your health class was AIDS? We need to have a talk.”
“Another unarmed, young black man was killed by a police officer. Why? Well, let me explain what’s been going on.”
“So here’s the thing about the recent burglaries on our street. The way they’ve occurred—it was probably people looking for cash or things they could easily sell to get cash to buy drugs. Because this is what happens when people get addicted to drugs.”
“All of those people are fleeing terrible violence in the Middle East—mostly Syria—and Europe doesn’t know what to do with them. No one does, including us. Many of them have died. There is a history…”
“Do you have any questions about _____?”
If you have a teenager living in your house who loves to discuss topics ranging from difficult to embarrassing with you, then you aren’t cringing right now. Also, please call me and tell me what that’s like. Because I haven’t got a clue.
My own teenager, fourteen-year-old “Jack,” is of the eye-rolling, oh-God-not-another-Talk-please variety. When he hears anything in my words or inflection begin to veer in the direction of a Talk, I can see his upper body subconsciously settle into place. He’s learned he will receive Talks whether he wants them or not, so he tries to prepare himself and hopes the imminent one will be quick and that he won’t have to answer too many questions.
I deliver my brief lecture, punctuated with “uh-huh” and “no” from Jack whenever required. If I ask him for more, it’s like I’ve asked him to solve the problem of time travel. (Actually, he’d probably prefer I ask him that.) Occasionally I can lighten the atmosphere with a joke—presidential politics comes to mind—but that’s not always the case. When I’m satisfied I’ve been understood, I ask if he has questions, he says no, and one of us leaves the room.
Obviously, this is not the way I’d like for these things to go. But I can’t ignore these topics. Jack is not a little kid anymore.