Seeking damage control ideas for pot smoking parents
May 27, 2010 7:52 PM   Subscribe

What can a mom do to ease her 12, 13 & 15 year old's heavy hearts and worried minds after they discover that she and their dad like to smoke pot?

They like to smoke behind locked bedroom door at the end of the day, and occasionally mom might go out in the backyard for a puff otherwise. Evidently, the kids have discovered their small stash in a dresser drawer, but no one has said anything about it. Also mom knows she has been careless with smoky smell on her clothes and blood shot eyes, and now she feels her 13 year old is now acting out.
What can be said or done to relieve their mortification?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The odds seem encouraging that some musician or actor they like has acknowledged smoking marijuana. You could point that out to them.

Also seems like an opportunity to explain the difference between physically addictive drugs and non-physically addictive ones.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:59 PM on May 27, 2010

Sit them down and ask them about it. Tell them that it's okay to let you know how they feel. Listen. And address their concerns as best you can--discuss issues of safety, personal responsibility, discreetness, and legality. With the last in particular, talk to them about the legal repercussions should others find out about your habit--and how those laws have been used to punish certain demographics for unfair reasons. Really, just talk to them respectfully and honestly. It might take them awhile to process, thanks to the anti-drug rhetoric they've undoubtedly had forced down their throats since childhood. It also might be a bit jarring for them to learn that you do something that's mostly associated with, I don't know, the scruffy older kids at their high school. But eventually, they'll be okay.

(I was, when I found out at thirteen that my then-deceased father had grown pot in our basement for years when I was a kid.)

Also, I wouldn't completely assume that this is solely what's up with the thirteen-year-old. Thirteen-year-olds act out, and an honest discussion is the only way to suss out the whole story.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:01 PM on May 27, 2010 [12 favorites]

1) Give it up, unequivocally. (Pros: Low legal risk. Cons: Not a great deal of fun.)
2) Pretend to give it up, then never get caught again (Pros: Fun. Cons: Lying to your kids.)
3) Fall back on basic parental hypocrisy, that is, "do what I say, not what I do." (Pros: Still fun. Cons: Utterly ineffective.)
4) Carefully explain that you and the long-dead people who wrote the laws disagree as to the basic dangers of marijuana, that adults often have to play along with complicated charades (political, legal, social, professional) just to get through dealing with people who strongly disagree with them. (Pros: Honest. Cons: Complicated and nuanced.)

My response to number three, after a period of shock and disgust with the "Just Say No" parenting, was to quietly sabotage my parents' plants, then the grow kit, and finally, always view any attempted stance at moral superiority with suspicion.
posted by adipocere at 8:04 PM on May 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

Anti-drug messages for kids often don't distinguish between pot and, say, meth. Your kids may be scared because they think you're junkies. You might consider starting a conversation with them about smoking pot as you would talk to them about alcohol consumption--in other words, make it clear that they are too young to partake, but that moderate, responsible use by adults is not an awful horrible thing. (That said, if you're getting baked every day at the end of the day, they may be feeling neglected, as well as confused or scared.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:06 PM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

Buy them a good book.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:06 PM on May 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

Give it up until the youngest child graduates high school.
posted by carefulmonkey at 8:08 PM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

phobwankenobi has it. you have to sit them all down and get everything out on the table. are you and their dad still together? this should be done unified. you should talk to them like adults while still understanding that they're kids.

what has your drug message been up to this point? have any of your kids gotten in trouble for underage drinking or smoking? that will also change the tone of your discussion.

also - your stash shouldn't be in your drawer. it should be under lock and key. you can get all sorts of padlocked boxes. not enough to keep a lock pick out, but should be enough to keep teenagers out.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 PM on May 27, 2010

I was going to recommend "It's Just a Plant," which I've bought for my mom as a gag gift one Christmas. It's gorgeous and a great starting point--but would really be more appropriate for them if they were, you know, children. I can't imagine that a thirteen year old would accept a gift like that with anything but a lot of scoffing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:09 PM on May 27, 2010

(Er, a picture book like that, rather.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:09 PM on May 27, 2010

I saw an interview with Sting where he was pontificating the non-danger of drug use. A quote that I've always remembered went something like "I took drugs... have I turned into a monster?" [don't answer that!]

So if your kids respect you and think you're OK people then that angle should work. I'd also hit 'em with a bit of "never under any circumstances, however, take drugs while your brain is still growing! I know it's going to be difficult if some of your friends do it, but hang in there until legal drinking age."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:13 PM on May 27, 2010

Mom and Dad should stop being mortified and take responsibility for their actions - which first and foremost means bringing this out in the open and addressing the children's questions. This is clearly a regular thing on your part, and they might have known for longer than the stash discovery would indicate.

In your shoes, I would talk to a counselor or specialist first, if possible, and get as prepared as possible to deal (together with Dad) with whatever the kids might throw at me - be in anger, silence or curiosity. Figure out how, where and in what order (or together) you want to tell them. Be as honest about the drug itself as you can be (including laws and side-effects), and figure out also how much is appropriate to disclose about your history with pot, and what you use it for. Ask them what they expect from you, and whether they would also like to talk to a third person (counselor / therapist) about it. But be firm about the rules that they have to adhere to as your children; your habit does not mean that they get a free pass to smoke pot or act up. Explain why.

Whatever the outcome, take stock of this situation and figure out if the drug is worth hiding - because sneaking around sucks, there is always risk of discovery and I'd imagine your choices aren't the best when you're dealing with your children while under its influence.

I used to tell my younger sister: if you're not smart enough to hide it, you're not smart enough to do it.
posted by mondaygreens at 8:17 PM on May 27, 2010

I agree with PhoBWanKenobi. Talk to your kids about it. They're old enough to have this conversation with you, and it'll be better for all of you if you're honest with them. Just be clear about what their boundaries are. Let them know that it's OK for you and dad to smoke, because you're adults, just like it's OK for you and dad to drink alcohol. But that doesn't mean that they can go out and start smoking pot right now. You're still the parent, and I'm guessing you don't want your kids smoking pot until they're old enough (whatever your definition of that is).
posted by lexicakes at 8:20 PM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

If the cat is already out of the bag, you'll eventually talk to them about it. You can prepare for it on your terms, or you can wait for it on their terms.

I found out officially at 16, although truthfully I'd known for much longer (I had lied to myself about what it was and what I could smell). Unfortunately it coincided with a mid-life crisis, my own rebellion, my sister going to college and some other stuff. What it meant was, that it didn't happen with people talking openly - it happend amidst other rites of passage / fights and that made matters worse.

I smoked pot later in college, when I was able to fully understand the hipocrisy of my actions. For a good number of years I blamed that series of events for my forray into pot.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:23 PM on May 27, 2010

My parents successfully hid it for years, until one summer at a family gathering: I was about 20, hanging out by the lake with my cousin and my brother, and my cousin lit up a joint and passed it around. My mom smelled it and came down and I thought 'shit, busted'... until my cousin passed her the joint and she took a hit. Man, that was a mindfuck.

My brothers and I later compared notes and each recalled isolated incidents over time -- parents spending long hours giggling in the bathroom with scented candles lit; occasional smell of smoke from the garage; even finding several joints in parents' dresser while putting away laundry. Somehow we never put it all together. My brother said he had somehow blocked out the memory of finding the joints because he couldn't wrap his head around it.

What to do depends on your family dynamic, I think. I had friends in high school who smoked openly with their parents, and others who's families were very strict about it. An open conversation would have been premature, I think, for me, since I never tried it while living at home, but would have helped a lot with my younger brother after he became a heavy smoker in high school. My dad took a hard line with him and I think really damaged their relationship. You really can't take a hard line if you smoke it yourself. No teenager would buy it and I can't say I would blame them.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:31 PM on May 27, 2010

A possible reason why her kids are kind of confused is that there might be kids at their schools who have a "druggie" reputation, and your kids are having trouble reconciling that image with the one of their parents. Just a thought from a current 17 year old.
posted by kylej at 8:37 PM on May 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

The fact that your children are uncomfortable with your daily pot habit is your problem, not theirs. If mom and dad liked to smoke occasionally, that would be one thing, but you say mom and dad smoke at least once, in their room, "at the end of the day" -- does this mean you're high during prime family time? That they notice the smell on mom's clothes, and her "bloodshot eyes" -- does this mean mom is smoking up and spending time noticeably high with her kids?

This is not adults doing adult things when they have time to themselves. This sounds to me like parents getting baked while trying to perform the duties of a parent.

Assuming mom & dad were just slightly high and not smoking to the point of being totally baked -- there is at least some portion of the day when mom and dad are a little high. I'll be honest with you, as the now-adult child who grew up in a household with an at-least-once-daily pot smoking dad, it sucked. I could tell when he was totally baked and it wasn't mortifying, it was scary. It felt like being an aware, engaged parent wasn't a priority to him, and I know why it felt that way: It wasn't.

As a teenager, I was not sophisticated enough to understand the way that daily pot smokers maintain focus. I hope your 12 and 13 year olds don't know what it's like to be high, but if they don't, they really don't understand what's going on in your head, they just know that you're on drugs.

It also scared me growing up that I did not know when my dad was high, or if he was going to be high. Friends coming over? Man, I hope my dad doesn't come out of his room completely stoned. School concert? Was dad paying attention or was he high? Graduation? Did he toke up before that?

Maybe I'm projecting my experience onto you, but if you'd asked "how can I ease my kid's minds now that they've found out that I smoke pot a few times a month?" my answer would be very different.

If you smoke at least once a day, you have a drug habit. It's upsetting for your children. You owe it to them to cut back significantly, or stop completely. You ease their worried minds by showing to them that they deserve parents who are soberly, presently engaged in their daily lives, and you show it to them by being that person.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:40 PM on May 27, 2010 [45 favorites]

Toss some numbers at them, i.e., number of deaths due to alcohol/cigarettes per year...probably upwards of a million. Marijuana 0.
posted by timsteil at 8:41 PM on May 27, 2010

They're old enough to have this conversation, but young enough that they must be experiencing some extreme cognitive dissonance and it may be really distressing to them. This isn't something that'll get resolved in one talk. As a grown up, honestly I feel confusion and distress when I think about the widely divergent legal, cultural, and practical status of marijuana in America. It's harmless and hilarious! And people go to jail for it! Everybody does it! And it's totally fine and silly and you're a square if you object! They kid about it on sitcoms and it's a felony with major consequences for many people! Yikes, right? I guess if I were you I'd approach them each alone in a laid-back kind of way and say hey, maybe I'm crazy, but I feel like you're mad at me. Is there something you want to talk about?
posted by moxiedoll at 8:46 PM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

i can totally understand pazazygeek's reaction - however, i read your description as "maybe slightly too often/noticeable, but mostly like a beer with dinner". the difference? the outward signs of a little pick me up toke are more apparent than a lager with pizza. if you aren't actually baked around your kids, you'll have to explain how it relates to other (legal) intoxicants. it's a difficult conversation, but most of the advice in this thread is sound - you need to approach this and soon. you don't want this to be something your kid yells at you when he has gotten in trouble.
posted by nadawi at 8:47 PM on May 27, 2010

Haw haw - how times have changed.
Kids at that age tend to see things in terms of black and white, good and bad, based on simplistic concepts fed to them in the school system. Drugs=BAD, no leeway. (My child was told by a respected teacher in Grade 1 that "sugar is not good for you", and it was *months* before we could convince her to partake in any dessert, and then only after a parent-teacher interview in which we addressed this particular point.)
It's really important to talk with the kids about the shades of grey here, point out the huge range that "drugs" includes (caffeine, penicillin, alcohol, heroin, etc.), and to show that not all drugs are bad all the time, and that some 'acceptable' drugs (such as alcohol) can be far more addictive, unhealthy and disorienting than some illegal ones (such as marijuana). Also point out that said parents wouldn't perhaps indulge in marijuana before they had an important task to complete requiring their undivided attention, such as learning new skills or during times of increased responsibility. Maybe mention that although marijuana can be enjoyable, it is best to get used to it gradually in a trusted environment when one is older, and certainly not a good idea to partake of it during work or school.
posted by fish tick at 8:57 PM on May 27, 2010

Guessing from your spelling of "mom" that you might be American, where there are apparently quite fucked-up laws around even minor drug usage & possession, have you considered that part of your kids' supposed mortification might be a fear of one or both parents being locked up in jail?

Perhaps you'd want to address that issue by stressing how careful you are, how you never smoke anywhere but at home, and so on.

PS - School concert? Was dad paying attention or was he high? - heh, you've just stumbled upon the *perfect* way of making school concerts not only bearable, but even potentially quite a bunch of fun! I'm putting my money on "he was baked out of his brains."
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:04 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider - if your kids don't smoke pot on their own, they may not want to, and may be facing peer pressure (direct or indirect) to start. If you do talk to them, I would recommend framing pot as one of your "vices" like cigarette smoking would be. At 12 to 15, they are very susceptible to the "everyone's doing it!" variety of peer pressure.

My group of friends in high school were not pot smokers, but some of our parents were. The worst were the ones who tried to make pot a selling point of their own coolness. The best were the ones who never mentioned it, and didn't let their kids notice when they were high.
posted by fermezporte at 9:18 PM on May 27, 2010

Stop smoking pot. As a child of parents that participated in various mind altering crap, it sucks to be their kid. Grow up.
posted by fifilaru at 9:36 PM on May 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

I find the use of the third person of the question odd. To me, the construction "We like to smoke behind locked bedroom door at the end of the day, and occasionally I go out in the backyard for a puff" is a little more resposible.

And is mortification what you fear? I would be wondering if my kids felt embarrassment, fear, confusion, mistrust, disappointment. If you're right and they've caught you, then already they are engaged in sneaky behavior patterns, just like you.

Do the kids know that they can come to you if they have problems or concerns? Do they know that you want to be the best parents you can be for them? Are you open and honest and happy in your own life? I think that's what your wish would be, but based on your description of the dynamics of the house I'm not seeing it.

I think pazazygeek has done a great job of vocalizing the issues.

I'll also stipulate that there are no pot deaths, it's less addictive than nicotine or alcohol, in a rational world it would be legalized, regulated, and taxed. But habitual pot use has a tendency to dull people out. And to raise 12-15 year olds effectively -- for the next 7 years you have teenagers -- to be that positive resource and parent, to help them navigate toward adulthood, you need to be sharp. The fact that you're seeing negative behavior from your kids -- and you're not 100% sure of its origin -- it sounds like you're not functioning as well as you could as a parent. Step up that game. Be the loving, honest parent you want your kids to have.
posted by artlung at 9:38 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was 8 I read some thing in MAD magazine about never being able to get a straight answer from one's parents to the question "did you smoke pot in college?" so I asked my Mom. She carefully explained to me that there were worse evils in the world (specifically, in the world of drugs) and that she had tried it but did not like it very much (which was true). She told me I ought not do it, at least not until I'm older, as it affects developing brains much differently (which is mostly true). More importantly, she claimed, it's illegal, and not worth the potential hassle. I thought this was a completely reasonable way of answering, although it certainly didn't discourage me from trying cannabis well before my brain was done developing.

When I was fifteen and enduring one of the many lectures I was to eventually receive about rockin' the ganj, I blurted out "but Dad smokes pot! I found his seeds."

This was a terrible course of action. The old man told me "dude, that's just gonna get us both in trouble. I realize that it's hypocritical to just sit by while your mom rants about this, but that's just how it goes, and you're unlikely to change her mind." At the time, I was pretty furious, especially given that he refused to burn with me until I was no longer a minor even though we both knew the score. The first time I came home from college, he left for the day, and then came back immediately, knowing that my brother and I would likely be blazin' one out back. "You guys are getting high without the Old Man?" he cried. "What gives?"

Much as I was upset that he refused to smoke with me until I was a legal adult but did not extend this same restriction to my younger brother (wah wah wah, older siblings have it so tough, I know), I was stoked to finally bond with him in this way.

The old lady still doesn't like it, and the depths of denial she is willing to engage in are as trippy as any drug I've ever come across, but it has been an important part of the relationship between myself, my Dad and my brother.

12 is probably too young, and I wouldn't ever suggest that someone encourage their kids to get high, but if they're doing it themselves anyway, maybe think about showing them how to be responsible about it? Though we might be heads, everyone in my family leads a pretty happy life, and we all have serious careers that we enjoy.

My apologies if this answer doesn't really address your situation. I know everyone's different, but I just cannot wrap my head around the concept that a modern teenager views pot as an evil substance that destroys lives. Its presence in popular media is so damn ubiquitous, I just don't see how any 12 year old these days could actually buy into crazy propaganda about the ole devil weed and its one step removal from utter junkiedom...
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:41 PM on May 27, 2010

I always thought and still think that parents should be role models even if it means not doing something they want to like a quick toke before the in-laws come over. I have been to 80+ Dead concerts. I have done a lot. Often mixing and matching. But, simply put, as soon as I had kids, I stopped doing it at home and in home town. If I go visit a friend across the country I would consider taking a hit, but otherwise I am waiting until July of 2015.

I strongly suggest you stop smoking (and stop writing in third person) and have a talk with your kids about it and tell them you stopped.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:15 PM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Good information on talking to kids about drugs.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:22 PM on May 27, 2010

I wish you'd posted an anon email, but I wanted to second what pazazygeek said above. Imbibing occasionally is one thing, for any number of substances, but it's scary and weird if you have to guess whether your parent is intoxicated more often than not. You need to take this seriously- smoking pot once in a while is one thing but every day? That's worrying, from an outside perspective and probably from your childrens' perspective.

And honestly, I can't say that this response isn't fueled in part by my experiences with this issue. There's a decent chance (chance, because we don't know the details) that this moment and how you handle it could seriously affect how your children view drugs and more importantly, their relationship with you.
posted by MadamM at 10:43 PM on May 27, 2010

In case you haven't seen it, there's some great advice in this thread.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 11:25 PM on May 27, 2010

My dad smoked pot and I knew about it for years. But my experience was quite different than pazazygeek's. I was strongly swayed by the D.A.R.E. campaign as a grade school student and basically believed the propaganda about all drugs being equally dangerous, addictive and prone to cause the user to wear a leather vest. At the same time, my parents didn't seem at all like the people from the VHS tapes that the officer showed us at school. Looking back, I realize that I was disturbed by the legal/social issues of what my dad was doing. I never noticed him being outwardly baked, even when I knew that he just went behind the house to smoke. Talk about cognitive dissonance. The only disturbing part really was the secrecy and double life. And the Boz Skaggs records.

Then again, that was in 1985 and I can't imagine the pot he was smoking could ring his bell like the stuff going around these days. Which is something to consider.
posted by palacewalls at 12:24 AM on May 28, 2010

What you are effectively doing is forcing your attitude towards recreational drug use on to your children. Sure, marijuana use is mired in politics, both for and against. But it seems that your children have made up their mind on where they stand on the issue.

If your behavior is making your kids worried and upset then why the hell are you still doing it?
posted by TheOtherGuy at 12:44 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Evidently, the kids have discovered their small stash in a dresser drawer, but no one has said anything about it.

What does this mean, exactly? If your kids have not said anything, how can you be sure this is the reason one of them is acting up or even that one or all of them know?

Being a pot-smoker is not necessarily something to be mortified about. Smoking marijuana is not exactly the equivalent of shooting heroin or speeding on meth or even being sloshed.

You say you think maybe your kids have noticed you're high sometimes. Perhaps the best solution would be for you and your husband to restrict your activities to more child-free times (after they're in bed, when they're out, etc.). It is also a good idea for you to start talking to your children frankly about drugs and alcohol. One of them is 15! It's high time (no pun intended) for you to, at the very least, give the "don't drive while intoxicated" talk. It is entirely possible for you to present your views on marijuana -- mom and dad think it's fine as an adult to do certain things in certain places that the government and old laws may disagree with (or whatever your views) -- while still, perhaps, encouraging them to be drug free if that is your wish.

I guess I have a hard time seeing what exactly you're so embarrassed about. You get high. So do a lot of other people. Whatever you do, you'd better practice what you preach. No teenager is going to respect "do what I say, not what I do."
posted by asciident at 2:45 AM on May 28, 2010

Our kids may know we smoke pot, but we don't do it in front of them, and it is never mentioned. No one is "getting baked" while they are around, but we do take a few tokes during the day, just as we might have a glass of wine with dinner. (Albeit in our studio in another building, or down in the basement when they're busy doing other things.) Though I know their other parent "closes the bedroom door to smoke," we both feel that is troubling, especially because it creates an idea of "I am doing something illicit and you aren't allowed to know what it is" and to me it smacks of a sort of too much exclusionary private time. I mean okay, you close your door to have sex, I guess, but closing the bedroom door to smoke pot just seems icky somehow. It's like closing the door during the day and having Loud Sex (they can smell it, yeah, the pot??). Ew.

In our house, we openly discuss our attitudes toward marijuana and other drugs: developing brains and developing personalities are a danger zone for drug use because of both health and psychological (habit-formation) reasons. A child getting into legal trouble for smoking pot out in the community is a big deal, and can really mess with your educational and community life. When one is an adult, one can make choices on whether or not to take those risks because they are better able to deal with the consequences.

We also have educated them since they were small that "drugs" is not a monolithic entity, but a set of illegal and legal substances that may or may not have serious long term consequences on your brain. Alcohol is included in the same sub-set as marijuana, except that pot is illegal (and thus is a bigger risk), while alcohol is more damaging to the body. (Marijuana being bad for your lungs, like cigarettes are.) The one child we have in school opted out of DARE (and went to the library) because we know that DARE is a big load of bullshit that hurts more than it helps children avoid drug abuse. Our kids have never asked us if we smoke currently, though they know that we *have* smoked it in the past. We do not make discussing drugs a big-deal, One Overly Significant Conversation, but have had many conversations as the topic comes up around the dinner table. They have watched several documentaries on drugs and the history of the drug war. (They are age 13 and 15, though we started having these conversations when they were around 9 or 10.)

My vote is talking to them openly about what exactly marijuana is and your attitude toward it. Maybe start the conversation by watching (I like Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way.) It opens the door to a real conversation. If they ask you about whether you smoke it or not, don't lie.
posted by RedEmma at 3:52 AM on May 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, really, don't try to justify pot use to pre-teens. The lesson becomes "when you get caught, justify". I'm sure your kids are great and all, but there will come a moment when they tell one of their friends what happened, and the people those friends tell may not be nice. Local thugs who will try to rip you off, local moralists who will get you in trouble, etc.

One of the things that still messes me up (and pisses me off) to this day is that my parents act differently when they are drunk/high/hungover. The inconsistency of attitudes and reactions is really disconcerting to kids.

Educate them on the differences, and also on the effects. But be the parents and set a better example.
posted by gjc at 5:29 AM on May 28, 2010

What I don't get is how and why your kids know about your drug use. Weren't you capable of keeping it from them? Or were you just ambivalent about them knowing? If the first, what else aren't you capable of? Your children need capable parents. My 17 year old, who now smokes weed, was very anti-drugs just a few years earlier. He (now) likes the fact that I have used various substances but also likes the fact that I'm a parent and not a fellow stoner, even though I don't criticize his drug use. He also knows that there are friends of his that smoke to avoid their problems and can see the dangers of that route. We can discuss these issues as practical ones rather than moral ones. But enough about me.

You need to first answer why you can't or didn't keep your drug use out of your kids' lives. And then you need to do so. They want and need parents who are in control of their own lives and can be relied upon when necessary. Become those parents and the drug issue will recede in importance.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:40 AM on May 28, 2010

These comparisons to a drink or two of alcohol are completely incongruous. While large amounts of alcohol will certainly have a much more significant effect on a persons behavior than probably any amount of pot that can be smoked, one or two drinks is so ineffective that it would be hard, if not impossible, to distinguish from total sobriety. Smoking, however, will remove you from the situation to a varying degree. A little bit if you smoke a little, or a lot if you get totally blazed. It's less like taking a drink or two, and more like putting on headphones with music playing that you can't take off. To me, it comes off as selfish as well as demeaning to any interaction the kids might have with the parents. While I agree with the people who are saying "grow up," putting it in those terms might put the parents on the defensive and cause a knee-jerk dismissal of the advice entirely.

This shouldn't be a way to avoid talking to the kids about drugs and alcohol, though. Still, talk to the kids. Show them that there are people that drink and do not have a problem with it, then show them there are people for whom alcohol is a big problem. Show them that the same can be said for any number of substances, anywhere from pot, a plant that grows naturally, to complicated chemicals like mdma, meth, coke, etc. Show them that certain substances have a higher tendency to be abused and create bigger problems for the abusers. Probably a good idea to work the school angle in there as well, and explain that while school's message is well-meaning, it is a bit ham-fisted in its approach of suggesting "total abstinence of everything ever" rather than bothering to explain the nuance of the different substances.

Also, if there is a free night without having to worry about the kids, that would be a much better time to cut loose. I realize those are probably not very common, but this should be both a matter of taking responsibility as well as being "tuned in" to not only the kid's lives and memories, but what will ultimately be the parent's lives and memories as well.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 6:11 AM on May 28, 2010

Why are you hiding it from them to begin with? If you don't think there's anything wrong with what you're doing/how much you're doing it, then do it out in the open. If you feel you need to hide it...then perhaps you shouldn't be doing it at all.

Whatever else you may be doing with your life, you are always, 24/7, setting an example for your children. And what you've just taught them is that it's ok to be sneaky and dishonest with the people you are closest to; that you shouldn't stand up for what you believe in, you should hide it; and that they can't count on you to be sober if they have an emergency and need you.

As someone else said, it's time to grow up. Children need sober, fully aware, participatory parents. Act like a parent, not a rebellious teenager.

And by the way, they may have just found the stash, but I guarantee you they've known for a long time. The oldest has probably suspected it for at least 3-4 years. Kids aren't stupid.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:51 AM on May 28, 2010

Isn't it also very possible that the kids could tell someone else, i.e. a teacher or other adult in their lives, that you're using drugs? If they did, you could get a visit from social services or law enforcement. Which would be scary and awful for everyone.
posted by ladybird at 7:25 AM on May 28, 2010

I think the obvious answer is "stop smoking around your kids while you figure out how to work this out; if you can't stop smoing around your kids, realize that you might have a problem"

My Dad smoked pot most of the time I was in junior high and high school. He kept his stash in his night stand and his pipe on the night table. We did not live someplace where it was legal. My Mom knew and was pretty annoyed at this [she was one of those "tried it a few times in college, didn't like it" people] but it was really one of the more minor things they fought about. I can remember asking her about it [Dad's use] when I was a kid and remembering that I was most concerned that Dad would go to jail. This was in the 70's so it was definitely pre-DARE. A lot of the drug education people get in school nowadays is very scare-oriented. And, that said, depending on where you live, even having pot around can be a real legal concern.

And I'm pretty okay with casual drug use so my "you may have a problem" statement is more coming from being the kid of a pot smoking drunk than anything else. Having a parent who is more concerned about their intoxication than you is a scary thing for a younger kid to have to deal with. Having a frequently intoxicated parent is also quite problematic. So, this is my own lens, but I think you need to seriously find a way to say "this is more important than you" in a way that's accurate and in a way you can show. Because if I was a kid and was scared because my folks were smoking pot and I wanted, say, some non-stoned time with them and they were fighting with me about it, I'd be really unhappy. So figure out what they want. Do they want answers to questions? Do they want safety? Do they want information? Do they want to smoke up with you? Do they want you to not be hypocritical about other house rules? And figure out a way to meet those expectations or at least talk genuinely with them about your perspective.

Your weird third person account of this sounds detached and strange. My take, again through my own lens, is not that the kids found out that you like to smoke pot, heck I like to smoke pot once in a while, but that you are regular pot smokers. I may be wrong about this, and my apologies if so, but I think you may need to look at your own usage first, think about it and assess it, before you start talking to your kids. Because there's a real difference between just enjoying a sometimes toke and using it as self-medication to deal with other stuff in your life. Only you know which one of those you two are doing.
posted by jessamyn at 7:36 AM on May 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

Ah, another fine line that we as parents need to navigate. One of my best girlfriends and I have had a long-running disagreement on this: Do you tell your kids about your (past/present) drug use, or do you deny? She (a serious partier back in the day) says, "Deny!". I always felt that honesty will get you more in the long run, but it can backfire so badly.

I have had to answer this query from my 11-year old D.A.R.E. graduate. My stock answer was, "Yes, I used pot a few times, but I found it was not for me and am not interested in it anymore". A half-truth, as I smoked pot a lot in college, along with recreational use of mushrooms, acid, mescaline and cocaine. I am a productive member of society and turned out okay. Therein lies the catch: If I tell him that I did it and turned out okay, what is to prevent him from thinking he will also turn out okay if he tries it?

I agree that between the "Just Say No" campaign and D.A.R.E., there is a tendency for kids nowadays to take the alarmist attitude. There are so many shades of gray here, as I don't think pot is bad, but I do think that heroin is. I smoke cigarettes, which my son berates me for constantly. To him, cigarettes are in the same boat as "drugs" (thanks to D.A.R.E.). Honestly, he's right.

I don't have an answer here. Just filling up space with my story. This is another one of those questions that has no right or wrong answer, IMO.
posted by mnb64 at 8:36 AM on May 28, 2010

I guess I should add that both children (of mine) show no interest in either drug use (of any kind) or drinking. (Like at all. And we have told them that they are invited to have a glass of wine with dinner if they like.) Time will tell though.

I trust they will experiment, possibly. But I also expect them to be far smarter than I was. They already are.
posted by RedEmma at 12:32 PM on May 28, 2010

When my kids were around that age I told them that there have never been any scientific studies done on the effects of pot or any other recreational "drug" on children. I.e, we do not know what it might do to a growing body. (I assumed that this was true.)
posted by mareli at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2010

These comparisons to a drink or two of alcohol are completely incongruous.

no they aren't. you can absolutely have a toke or two that feels near exactly like a beer or two as far as brain fog goes - a little looser, a little lighter. a drink or two will probably make you drowsy and a hit or two will probably make you enjoy cartoons more. if i were to have one or two hits off a one hitter and i made sure my clothes didn't smell of smoke, you'd probably have no idea.
posted by nadawi at 1:32 PM on May 28, 2010

My Dad smoked pot all throughout my childhood. At least two joints a day. (If I had ever hypothetically smoked for a first time, I would have been retroactively amazed at his level of functioning at that level of consumption.) This was not especially kept secret, though of course details were age appropriate. (When I was six, it was mostly "don't let your friends see the plants in the back yard.") Obviously it was made clear that if I told anyone my parents could get into a lot of trouble, but it was an openly discussed thing in the house. (To the point that during my teens, when my relationship with my dad hit a major low, my mother would occasionally call on my way home to warn me he was dry.)

Now, do I think my dad's level of use was a great thing? No, not really. I don't know you, but from what you've said it sounds a little on the high side. Do I, especially in retrospect, appreciate his and my mother's treatment of his smoking? Yes. There are many things my dad did growing up that did and do piss me off, but in a lot of ways I really respect his honesty about the pot-smoking.

It's obviously a little late for you to build up that history of full disclosure, but I think something approximating it might be the way to go forward. Be honest, and listen to the kids.
posted by PMdixon at 2:13 PM on May 28, 2010

Have the honest talk with them, as suggested above, and then (without a word about it) quit until you have an empty nest.

This isn't because marijuana is dangerous -- it isn't -- but because the cops are. You don't use much? It doesn't matter. Even living somewhere vaguely near an offender is dangerous to your children's health, and even more so for that of your pets, if you have any. You owe it to them to put them in the least danger possible. It's very unfair, but then, parents are pretty much the standard-bearers of "Life is Unfair," and they have to be.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2010

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