The other night as my 11 year old son was getting ready for bed, he and I had a conversation about our neighborhood and how one person that we see in our day-to-day routine often seems to be, shall we say, in an altered state.
“Why does he act like that?” my son asked.
I told him what I thought. He acts like that because he is a drug addict.
And then I added an admonition that he should never, ever do drugs. The dangers, the horrors. I talked about addiction and the cautionary tales and I quoted a friend I admire who said once “if you make a decision to do drugs, the drugs will make all the other decisions for you.” I was really gilding the lily with a dose of “and people who do drugs often live in their parents’ basement”, extra-terrifying for my kid since we live in an apartment building, when my son asked: Have you ever tried drugs, mom?
A bit personal, don’t you think, kid? I mean, we just met, what, eleven years ago.
But have I ever tried drugs? Like what? I mean, haha, caffeine is a drug!
After all the awkward stammering and pretending that I didn’t hear the question, I mumbled something along the lines of “long ago…in a galaxy far away..different back then…I didn’t necessarily inhale..not because I was running for office..I was just a huge geek and not good at the inhaling…not that that’s a skill set that you want to be good at, of course…look! It’s past your bedtime! Lights out! Out, I said!”
On the plus side, I’m pretty sure my son now thinks I have drug-induced brain damage. The downside is that I missed an opportunity for a real conversation. Another downside is that I am still unsure how to have that conversation. Further downside (and you may notice that we are at the subterranean level at this point) is that I am still unsure how to answer that question.
I looked through the Time To Talk website which is an excellent guide to talking to kids about drugs and alcohol and they address the “have you tried drugs” question head on. But I’m not sure that it gave me much guidance. Because although I definitely see the merit of one of their suggested responses, “Everyone makes mistakes and trying drugs was one of my biggest mistakes ever. I’ll do anything to help you avoid making the same stupid decision that I made when I was your age,” it’s just not true in my case. Granted, my experience with drugs was very mild (and in case any law enforcement types are reading this, completely fictional obviously) and it didn’t come close to being one of my biggest mistakes ever. My experience was more along the lines of “one of the many non-events that happened when I was a teenager.”
So why is it so difficult for me to say that to my kid?
I know one of the reasons is that I don’t want an admission on my part (yep! And it wasn’t a big deal!) to be taken as parental condoning of illegal activity. I absolutely don’t want my kids to do drugs and I absolutely do think that it’s more dangerous now. But another reason is that I know I was lucky. I didn’t like it very much and it was easy, a relief, really, for me to walk away from drugs. But I have friends who fell in love with drugs and I watched as they did things that you don’t want to see people you care about doing.
I’m not sure if I can convey this to my son in a pre-bedtime conversation. I’m not sure how to tell him that I want him to have a healthy life and to make good choices even though I know it won’t always happen. I don’t know how to tell him the truth about my experiences without implicitly condoning a bit of experimentation.
I just don’t know.
But if anyone has any ideas, I’d certainly appreciate hearing about them.
Photo source: Wiki
For more of Marinka, visit her personal blog Motherhood in NYC and The Mouthy Housewives, where she doles out advice as though it were candy. Mmm … candy. Also, follow her on Twitter, where she never refers to herself in the third person, but does have a potty mouth. Sorry!
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