Today was a whole new odyssey in parenting a teen. Today, my husband and I decided to pee test our teen for nicotine.  I knee-jerk reacted when we found out some of his friends were tested (and tested positive) by their parents recently. We later found out that my son’s friends are juuling.

I immediately ordered the test strips for an at-home urine dip test online. The very next day, the test strips arrive. Without really much thought, we are demanding our teen gets into the bathroom and pees in a cup.  He has absolutely no idea what is going on.  He thinks we have lost our minds.  And maybe we did a little bit.

This is where the rubber hit the road for us as parents. And something just didn’t feel right about what we were doing but we were already right smack in the middle of it. Without even a premise of a conversation, my kid is in my bathroom literally peeing in a cup. The current parental reality is, all of a sudden, blowing my mind. When did THIS become part of what a parent does?!?

My heart starts breaking a little bit after we had a moment to catch our breaths while he was in the bathroom. Part of me is screaming out loud in my head because we are forcing our child to comply with an at-home pee test.  And, what is even worse…he is actually doing it BECAUSE WE SAID SO.

Wait!!! Wasn’t I just myself peeing on pregnancy sticks in the same bathroom over a decade ago, hoping that we were pregnant?!  Again, another layer of mind-blowing stuff is happening for us in the blink of an eye.

On the other hand, our teen is pretty chill about the whole thing. Thank goodness (!!) he tests negative for any nicotine. But, really, what the hell just happened in this little house we call our home? It just felt so very wrong all of a sudden. Where were HIS rights? Why didn’t we just ask first? Then calmly decide how to proceed forward? Why do I need a damn test strip to feel a little bit better about how terrifying parenting has become?

Our neighbors’ kids tested positive. But I just snarl at a world where juuling is a thing so often used in high school. Why am I, of all people, so naïve, angry, and surprised?  I was one of the kids who regularly snuck cigarettes out of my parent’s purses, dressing drawers… hell, right from the front pocket of the shirts my dad always wore! Cigarettes were everywhere when I was growing up.  An ashtray on every table, in every car.  But, here I sit, shocked that this is even something that may be striking close to my home, my kids and their friends that I love and would do anything for?!

Listen, I am certainly what you would call a “gear-based” person and mom. I am always worrying and fretting about the next, upcoming societal threat to my kids. I want my boys to stay clean and to not get tangled up in all of the scary shit that is out there these days. It is no longer the days of figuring out whether my kid is trying a cigarette or sneaking a drink… it’s life and death stuff these days for parent worries.  No joke, it is a parenting world that demands vigilance.  Drugs are everywhere. Kids are dying or overdosing at the high schools often enough that it is a conversation being had here at home.

So, what is a current-day parent to do? My husband and I trust our kids, for the most part. We have been completely present parents and have made intentional decisions to be at home with them as much as possible. We also have openly talked about the scary things for a long time so they can have a place to voice themselves if they so choose.

We have let them know that they are truly protected within the walls of our home and it is our family castle. That has allowed them to really talk to us (at times) if they needed to. But they are out in this world, more and more away from us. Away from that castle.

Kids don’t grow up latch-key anymore, running in at dusk when finally called to the family dinner table. I am not saying that was any better of a time as we grew up, but it is strikingly different just one generation forward.

So, back to the pee test.  The sample is obtained and we have dipped the do-thingy. Now we set the timer for five minutes and wait.  Tick tock, while we all just sit there quietly looking down into our laps. My teenage life kind of flies across the screen of my mind’s eye and I suddenly feel like such a hypocrite.  If only my boys knew how much I smoked and sometimes drank at their ages. They would be livid.

DING, the timer sounds. I pick up the thing and it is negative.  No nicotine… Whew. Deep breath… parental pause.

Boom, it’s time to jump back into our afternoon. There are five of us and we all have places to be, going in five different directions usually. Life is a blur. We all fall in each night around 6 p.m. or so for family dinner. We talk, sometimes laugh, sometimes argue. Then, poof, it’s over and we all disperse again. Homework, bedtimes, etc.

It’s a palpable contracting and expanding these days. And it is set against the backdrop of the current day scariness of what it is like to parent. The dilemma for us though is this… “to pee or not to pee?”

It certainly did not feel right for some reason when we were doing it. Parenting has just gotten super messy. Gone are the days of diapers and no sleep. Gone are the days of looking both ways when you cross and not talking to strangers. The stakes are just way higher now.

With teens especially, I don’t know the answers for sure. At least once a day, one of my kids will sass back after they feel like I have wronged them in some egregious way. I simply respond to them that I have never parented a teen before so they will just have to be patient while I am figuring it out. The inevitable sigh and eye roll ensue. Then life goes on, one scary moment at a time.


About Michele Mergner:
I am born and raised in Cincy but was originally an East sider until I moved to Clifton in the early nineties where I went to college. I reside in the Clifton Gaslight with my hubby of 20+ years and our 3 boys. I am a full-time nurse. I consider myself an urban homesteader, writer, and an avid reader. I love my life and community in Clifton. My life with 3 kids at 3 different schools has gotten busier than ever. 2 of my boys are teenagers too, which is quite the odyssey. We are homebodies who focus on life around the family and the 2 dogs. I couldn’t be busier but I couldn’t be happier!



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