Teenagers’ actions touch everyone’s lives

HE SAYS THAT ALL HIS MOM DOES is cry and that his parents won’t look at him.

This breaks my heart. I have compassion and sympathy for the kid who lent his parents’ van to an improperly licensed driver after a party at his home. The driver, possibly under the influence of weed, if his Twitter account is to be believed, crashed a van into a tree then fled on foot leaving three seriously injured passengers behind, if newspaper reports are to be believed.

These are teenagers that I personally know, whose parents I have spent hours and hours with at local hockey rinks over the years; these are friends with whom we travelled in Europe with on a hockey tour. These kids are current and former hockey teammates of my son’s, and as anyone who plays rep hockey knows, as dysfunctional as it is at times, a hockey team is family. We spend more time with these folks from August through April than we spend with blood relatives in an entire calendar year.

I spent Labour Day weekend meditating—some might call praying—for the returned health of those most seriously injured. My thoughts rarely strayed, and when they did, I wondered how the driver was muddling through the crisis.

Between these moments, I searched online for answers visiting Facebook and trawling Twitter for clues. My son remained in close contact with his buddies in their hockey team’s BBM group. I spoke very briefly with the mom of one of the injured kids and cried throughout our conversation.

We all tried to make sense of the collision, to piece together details as best we could from the limited information we had. Words like “coma,” “paralyzed,” and “dead” floated around cyberspace with scary inaccuracy, and as quickly as thumbs could type the patients’ statuses were updated. The teens showed signs of recovery. They were on the mend. Two of the three might never play hockey again—a contact sport in which healthy bodies take constant physical pounding is not recommended by doctors and surgeons who treat critical care patients—and as hockey parents, we understand what that means to an athlete’s sense of self. That news alone can change a kid.

An article posted on a regional police department website answered a question I’d been asking myself, How could this happen? But I already knew the answer.

In many ways, the report was typical: An inexperienced driver, driving too fast, loses control of a vehicle and crashes. I’ve read dozens of similar stories in the thirty years since I was 15 years-old.

As three young men began to show signs of progressing towards better health, and we parents compared notes about how our own children were handling the crisis, I was able to reach beyond my own emotional distress and think about those who were, from my perspective, on the periphery of this dismal situation.

How would the boys—the driver and the boy hosting the house party—be treated when they returned to high school at the start of the school year three days later? Many peers in Twitterverse were compassionate and reticent to lay blame, but I wondered if some classmates might be as cruel and nasty as some of the kids posting messages on Facebook. How were the parents of the driver feeling? They appeared at the hospital, likely just as grief-stricken as the parents they were visiting. And the vehicle’s owners? One can only image the horror they felt as they looked at a set of tire tracks leading across parkland directly to the tree into which their van smashed.

An error in judgment crosses so many lives; it directly changes the trajectory of a few, and indirectly changes many 

It is impossible to know what lessons might be learned, or how they might be applied, but even in the midst of one of life’s miserable experiences, such as this one, we all seem to wish for the same thing—to turn back time.

Originally published on Valerie Poulin’s online workshop


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