Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How To Be a Drug Testing Family

Elizabeth Willis Barrett
September 5, 2012

I dislike the word “pee” and I had never used that derogatory word until drug abuse quietly stepped over the threshold of our home and created many changes around here.  I have currently given up all propriety and use the word “pee” often--most usually in “pee test” “and pee NOW!”   (I still refuse to use it with my grandchildren as in “Do you have to go pee?”   I really don’t like the term.) 

If you are still a bit reserved as I used to be, you can refer to pee tests as “UA”s if you’d rather or just “drug testing”.   UA stands for urine analysis which doesn’t roll off my tongue any better than “pee tests.”  So I will continue to refer to “UAs” as “pee tests” because it suits the situation better.  And the situation is this: there are way too many children becoming addicted to drugs and we as parents must do something.  Pee testing is one thing you can do to hold back the avalanche of drug abuse in the lives of your precious children. 

What has happened that our children think they can’t live life without something to take the sting away?  I don’t have an answer for that question.  I wonder if anyone does.  I do know that there aren’t enough fool-proof parental tools out there, but those we do have we’d better use.  Drug testing might not save your child.  But like seat belts--it might.

The first few times a child is offered drugs, he says, “no” on his own.  Our son did.  He even kept his friends from using drugs.  But he finally gave in and when he did, he found a world of escape that welcomed him like a long lost son and as hard and as often as he tried to leave it, that world held onto him like a jealous mother.

The “Just Say No” campaigns weren’t effective because “no” needs a backup and drug testing is the backup.  

Take your sweet 13 year old son.  Innocent.  Always obedient.  He’s at a friend’s house.  A  pretty good friend you think.  You’ve never met his parents, but he seems like a nice kid.  Your son goes down in their home’s basement family room.  Who should be there but his friend’s older sister and a few of her girl friends.  These are not dull, blend-in-the-wall sort of girls.  These make up half the high school cheerleading squad.  Your son is in awe of them.    They’re standing by an open window sharing a joint.  They ask your son if he’d like a puff.  He doesn’t want to seem like a dumb little kid to these super popular girls.  Who would?  He wants to please them.  He wants to be cool.

“Sure,” he is tempted to say.  And then he remembers.  His mom drug tests him.  As soon as he gets some of that THC into his system, his mom will know.  She will take away all of his privileges (if she’s smart) and she’ll tell each of these girl’s parents besides (if they’ll listen). Hmmm.  

“Nah,” he says.  “I better not.  My crazy mom drug tests me.”  

“Ah, poor kid,” they say.  “That’s too bad.”

They go back to their life-robbing dragging and your son is off the hook. If he had just said, “No”, the girls might have pestered him further. 

It would be nice if your child had enough self confidence to say, “Are you kidding?   And end up a drug addict with no education, no job and no future? No drugs for me, thanks.  I like myself a whole lot better than that!”

It would be nice, but don’t count on it happening too often.  Fitting in is a powerful draw.

The test becomes the scapegoat.   Let him blame his reluctance to use drugs on the test and on you --your prudishness, your invasiveness, your meanness--but give him a way out.  He needs all the help you can give him.

Here is another example: Your daughter complains to a friend that she is fat.  Her friend says, “I know a way that you can eat whatever you want.  You just take this pill and it will speed up your metabolism and you won’t have to worry about your weight anymore.” 

What a solution!  If you were a young girl struggling with her weight, wouldn’t you take an unknown pill for that kind of promise?  But that first pill could dangerously throw her into a cycle of addiction.  It would be life saving if your daughter could say.  “No, I’d better not. My crazy mom drug tests me.  And when she finds out I’ve been taking stuff, I’ll get grounded and she’ll probably tell your mom, too.”

I know, your kids would never do drugs.  They’re smarter than that.  You have talked yourself upside down convincing them that drugs are insidious, evil and simply unacceptable.  I was there once in that land of All is Well.  

We all hope that our kids are smart enough, but we don’t give enough credence to peer pressure.  It knocks and knocks and knocks until our child just has to answer the door.  And when he answers it, he had better have some tools beyond mere words to face down the temptation that marches right in with the peer pressure.  

Drug testing gives your child a stronger way to say no to temptation.  It also is a good report card to see how your child is doing as far as drugs are concerned. 

If you asked your boy how he was performing in English he might say, “Hey, Dad, I’ve got that English down.  I’m acing it.”  And you might say, “Great, Son, glad to hear it.  But let me have a look at that report card just the same.”

And even if your child didn’t want to show you his report card, you would insist.   If he really got an “A”,  you could be very proud of your progeny.   But if he wasn’t getting an “A” you would know that your treasured son not only needed to improve in English but also in honesty. 

Drug testing is like a report card.  It shows you how your child is doing and if she might need a little help.  “Any problem with drugs?” you might ask.  “No, Mom.  I’d never do drugs, you know that.”  “So proud of you,” you might say and you might have every reason to be proud, but you might not want to take her word for it.  You might want to check it out--look at her report card. That’s the Pee Test, the big UA.  If it is negative, you can praise her and reward her.  If the test comes back positive, you can fly into a red hot rage and then you can get to the bottom of her drug use before it gets out of hand.  

Getting started being a drug testing family might be a little rugged at first.  If your child had never had a report card until he was 15, the first report of his school grades would be hard for him to get used to.  The younger you start, the easier it is.  But even if your kids are older, you can establish that you are now going to be a drug testing family for their protection.  

I found a good way to teach younger kids about the addictive power of drugs. They might think they can try drugs and just stop when they are good and ready.  But like all addictions, drugs hold on and won’t let go.

Get a shoe box with a lid.  Cut a hole in one end that is big enough for your child’s hand to fit in. Put a banana in the box and tape on the lid.  Tell your child to reach through the hole and grab the prize.  Now tell them to pull out the prize.  If you’ve cut the hole small enough, they can’t bring their hand out with the banana.  They have to let go if they want their hand back.    That is a way, I’ve been told, that monkeys can be caught.  They are unwilling to let go of the prize and are therefore trapped.  If they would only let go, they could gain their freedom.

To teach them how drugs and other addictions can trap them, get another shoe box with a lid.  Instead of a banana, get a ball and cover it with Velcro. (I looked for a ball that had a Velcro-like surface but couldn’t find one.) Put an exfoliating bath and shower glove on the child’s hand.  You can buy them at Walmart for $2.98.  Have the child put his hand in the box and reach for the prize.  Now tell him to pull is hand out.  If you’ve done it right, the child can’t let go of the ball.  That is what happens with addictions.  You can’t just let go of them when you want.  They grab you and they won’t let go.  You are stuck.  You are inhibited from pursuing your dreams.  After all, how could you become a great baseball player with a box stuck on your hand?  Your kids might make a case, as my momentarily contrary grandkids did, that they could still do a lot with a box stuck on their hand.  But eventually they will have to admit that it is quite limiting.  Hopefully they will receive a mental picture that will stay with them long enough to say no to the things that are addicting.  At least long enough to say, “No, my crazy mom drug tests me.”

Since studies show that the average age for a child to start experimenting with drugs is 13, it might be a good idea to start testing at 11.  It should be done often enough that your child won’t forget that you are a drug testing family.  

Drug tests can be purchased online in bulk for as little as 50 cents for those that test for just one drug and use a dip stick--you provide the cup.  You can pay as high as $40.00 for those that test for many drugs at once and come with a cup and even the ability to send it to a processing place for further analysis.  The more you pay for drug tests, the less likely you are to use them often on each of your children.  So the $40 tests aren’t very practical or necessary.

There is a drug testing company in Gilbert that I have bought drug tests from in bulk.    Each time I thought it would be my last batch.  But the problem of drug abuse doesn’t go away.  It lingers and lingers and lingers like the acrid smell of a skunk, so I have bought in bulk over and over again. If you buy a batch of drug tests early in your child’s life and use them, you might only have to buy once.

We had access for a while to some very expensive drug tests and shared them with friends. Several months later one friend came back to us saying that she feared her son was doing drugs.  She had never used the drug test.  She was waiting to use it as a punishment instead of using it as a preventative tool.  

I took a drug test to another friend whose son was doing drugs with my son.  She didn’t want her son to see it so I put it in the back of her truck that was parked outside.  Because she didn’t want her son to think that she didn’t trust him, she never used it either.  What a waste of a great $40 drug test!  Her son is still on drugs.  

The best time to drug test is in the morning just as the child has awakened and before he has had a chance to go to the bathroom.  That’s because a favorite line of drug addicts is, “I just peed, I don’t have any more in me.” Also, the urine is more concentrated in the morning and will test well.  I’m not sure if you could ever drink enough water to dilute the test but I think my son has tried that.  Since all drug testing should be done randomly, morning time keeps the child from being able to “prepare” for it.  For instance, he could buy fake urine at a Head Shop to mess up the test. I know, your sweet innocent child would never do that, but you have to stay a step ahead of those who would.

Once I sent my son into the bathroom by himself and expected him to give me a mellow yellow unadulterated sample.  He diluted the specimen with toilet water and the test came out negative.  Now I go into the bathroom with him and stand there and watch.  I don’t want to turn my back for fear some shenanigans will go on that will ruin the test.  It took me far too long but I am finally done with modesty and rights. 

If you are just starting out as a drug tester, the best way to do it is to hand the child the cup to pee in, stand with him in the bathroom and turn your back.  The earlier you start and the better your relationship, the less the awkwardness.  

It will help if you can keep it light while you’re testing.  “Oh, I know, this is SO embarrassing.  I can hardly stand it myself!”  You can do that better when they’re young.  It might get a little harder when they’re older, but it is still imperative to be a drug testing parent. 

Your older children are especially not going to be excited about this new regime. “Yeah, Mom.  Wow, you are so progressive.  Yes, please, please let us be a drug testing family.  I can hardly wait.”

Their goal will be to make you feel stupid.  You can act tentative about drug testing if you want, but that won’t help.  Take back the reins.  Drive this parenting wagon and gallop it down the road to freedom.  Be strong.  Take courage from other parents who have finally seen the light after being herded unceremoniously into a very long and very dark tunnel.  You do not want to go there.

It is never too late to start a new pattern.  They’ll fight you on it, but when you have confidence in yourself and your parenting skills, you won’t cower under their bullying: “Get out of here!  I’m not going to pee right here in front of you! What are you thinking?  You don’t trust me, do you?  Nobody else’s parents do this.  This is so lame.  You’re crazy. I’m not doing it.”

Like I say, it is a lot better to start when they’re young but it is crucial as they get older. 

Drug testing will catch the big stuff like marijuana and heroin and Meth.   It will catch pain killers that doctors seem to hand out like M & M’s and the rightful prescriptees like to sell. But it won’t catch everything. You could test your child every day and it wouldn’t protect him against sniffing paint or huffing computer cleaner.  So along with the testing, you’ll need to continually educate him after first educating yourself.

Had I known about and used drug testing early, it could have saved our family an exorbitant amount of grief and a wonderful boy’s promising future. 

Drug testing is a tool.  It gives your child a way out and you a partial report card of their progress.  Use it!  

1 comment:

NP said...

Great post Liz. It should help LOTS of people!
Love & hugs,