Too Close To Home

Reprinted from the 7/16/14 edition of The Platte County Landmark

I never thought it would happen to my kid. That’s what I keep telling myself. We speak in hushed whispers at the supermarket about these types of things happening to “bad” kids or “bad parents.” I just never thought I would be one –more importantly, I never thought I’d learn that my kid was one.

Let me back up and try to explain. Let me try to put into perspective the shame my family feels today. I grew up in a very strict household. We were not wealthy, but we never were left without. This upbringing, however, came at a price. There were certain land mines that you never touched in the family. There were certain things that were taboo.

Growing up, the most difficult years of my development were my middle school years. I never seemed to fit in with any crowd, yet the social conventions of peer pressure provided me no protections. I was challenged to try new things, some of them bad things. I had to learn to adapt and respond and say “no.” Most of us did. Some of us didn’t. Those kids were quickly labeled the “bad” kids.

This past month, I noticed a change in my son. He just completed his fifth grade year and with that, all the confidence of being the king of elementary school. He had this inner swagger. But after school let out, I began to notice this darkening in his personality. He was changing. Maturing. You could see it in his friends, too. Even his online buddies seemed to be intent on pushing the envelope and testing limits.

I guess the job of a parent is simply to educate and prepare your son or daughter when they are faced with these inevitable choices – and as I look at my son preparing to embark on young adulthood, I thought I had done that. I thought I had gone through all the scenarios. But I guess I hadn’t.

Late last week, I heard him from outside a closed door. He was talking with his friends, like he does many nights, on the XBox. Only his speech was different. Older? Warped? Something didn’t sound right. I knocked on the door. I was greeted with only silence.

Concerned, I opened it and poked my head into the room. Awash with the glow of the television screen, I saw my son’s once innocent face. His eyes were wide. He had a pained look on his face. I looked up to see a sight that no Midwestern “good” parent should ever see in his life. All the years of preparation. All the years of hoping your son would make good choices. All that time in the backyard playing catch and talking to your boy about the man he would become.

And there it was. On the television screen. Red handed.

My son was playing FIFA Soccer 2014 on the XBox.

He is the third generation of Kamler baseball boys. His grandfather has toiled in the baseball community for 40 years. His father, a 25 year baseball umpire. He himself, had been playing baseball since he was three. But I guess you never see it coming.

My son was playing a soccer game. He was convinced to start playing it by his “friends.” He had found the family landmine and jumped right on it.

I’m a horrible parent.

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