Don't Judge Malia Obama's Parents -- Because You Are Not Immune

malia barack obama

The day you become a parent, some things are just inevitable. Just as sure as our kids are going to one day burn themselves on a hot stove or cup of coffee -- no matter how careful you think you are -- they are also going to try alcohol and pot, maybe more -- no matter how strict or maybe even how open and honest you think you are. The Internet is buzzing today with a video of Malia Obama allegedly smoking a joint at Lollapalooza. The silly comment galleries are judging her, laughing, pointing fingers, but all I can see is the judging going on about her parents. Judge as you will, people, but no parent I've ever known has this thing tapped, yet every one of us feels like we're supposed to. 


When I was in 10th grade, my parents had to get a call from my high school dance that their 14-year-old daughter was not well (and probably, for sure, extremely intoxicated). I'm not sure if my parents knew an ambulance was on its way when my dad headed over to the school (we only lived a block away), but the ambulance and fire engine were there for me when he arrived. And they promptly hauled me off to the hospital. They gave me ipecac syrup to induce vomiting and gave me a high score of .21 blood alcohol. I think I won Most Likely to Try to Die at a School Dance. 

Now, my parents aren't the POTUS and FLOTUS of the United States, nor was it all caught on video (thank god!), but this had to be a gut punch for them. On the one hand, maybe they shook their heads and said, "Oh, teenagers ... ," but while they were waiting for me to wake up under those bright lights in the ER, the other kinds of thoughts surely crept in -- Will she be okay? How often does she drink like this? What now? And more than anything -- What did we do wrong?  

I eventually got sober, but with my history and the fact that my kids are 13 and almost 10, of course I am thinking about how I will handle this when the days comes. Today, I watched the footage. I read all the headlines, some awful, some kind. And I read many of the comments about her parents

"Poor poor Michele, Your perfect little world is not perfect. Trying to ... push your cause for children's health with your school food program....while your little darlin is a pot head!!! LOL"

"Hey Barry welcome to the REAL parenthood."

"Michelle telling us how to raise our kids, what they should wear, eat, and do, and what example does she give us? She should clean her own dirty laundry before she tells us that ours is do to be washed."

"Daddy taught her."

First of all, good lord, we are cruel. Second of all, this is real, folks. Real parental angst and woe -- real stuff of parents' nightmares. One of those things we all worry about -- no, not just the day we find out our kids are dabbling in drugs or alcohol, but the day we teeter in the balance, even if it's just for a second, wondering if this is normal or the beginning of something bigger, something scary and hopeless. On the one hand, it's NBD, and on the other, just beneath the surface, it's terror. That's right. And this horrible commentary, this is all we've got to say to one another? 

Unfortunately, there is no magical "good parenting" elixir we can swab behind our kids' ears to make sure they just experiment here and there and have fun and enjoy feeding the munchies -- but then also simultaneously never make bad or unsafe choices, drive cars under the influence, or, you know, LIKE the way pot or booze makes them feel better than anything else in the world does. We can read them books every night, feed them organic cereal O's, and even talk openly about drugs and alcohol and our experiences -- and they STILL might become addicts. 

So what do we do the first time we find out our kids are dabbling with booze or pot or ecstasy or meth or whatever. Most of us will show our concern in a big family sit-down and probably not without a little yelling or grand looks of disappointment. Many of us will share our own stories and talk about the importance of making responsible decisions and how one bad one can ruin your life forever. Others might ground their kids, try to cut them off from bad influences, or send them to rehab if it seems bad enough. But no matter, all of us from that day forward will ache and worry and love the hell out of them every night they come home safe. All of us will hope and pray our kids aren't the ones. 

So can't we be kinder to one another? Wouldn't it be so much easier to deal with this (probably normal) phase of our kids' youth if we felt supported by each other? If we didn't have to feel like it was somehow our fault (because unless you're giving your kids drugs, it's not)? No parent is immune. No parent has this thing tapped. 

When this days comes for us, what we really need to say to one another is this -- You are not a bad parent and your kid is not a bad kid. And you are not alone.   


Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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