Why I’m Talking To My Eight-Year-Old Son About Smoking Pot
By Annette McLeod
Jan 17, 2018
By all accounts, I was a “good” kid.
I didn’t smoke, drink or carouse when I was in school. And I never caused my parents a moment’s concern. That is, until later.
My Experiences With Pot
At 18, I had just finished high school, and I was working at a newspaper and dating a 33-year-old. I also discovered marijuana. What I remember most vividly about my first pot-smoking experience is standing at the counter of a fast-food restaurant, laughing hysterically with my friend over the prospect of someone paying for a large drink when the restaurant offered free refills. Hilarious!
I quickly discovered that a lot of people smoke pot, and it's not just who you might think. I’ve toked with the accounts manager of a major communications company and the carpet installers working in my house.
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By my mid-20s, rolling a joint at the end of the day had become a habit, and so it would remain for the next 20 years. You might say I’ve had a few crutches in my life, including but not limited to peanut butter cups and overspending on shoes. That's because sometimes getting out of your own head is the only way to get through a day, or a moment. And pot has been the most enduring, and by far the least harmful.
Occasionally, I’ve deliberately used it as a tool. I’ve had days with three deadlines to meet, and by the time I was nearing the third one, my brain was barely functioning. I just couldn’t get into the right head space to finish, so yeah, I’ve smoked a joint and let it carry me far enough out of myself to accomplish what otherwise felt impossible.
And I’ve never felt ashamed about my pot use, nor have I ever hidden it from anyone. Until Callum, my now-eight-year-old son.
Pot and Tot
I’ve hidden my drug use from Callum because I don’t think he’s capable of understanding what I think are the basics of pot smoking. For example, yeah, it’s a bit of a cop out, but life is hard sometimes and it’s better to get through it with a toke and a laugh than a nervous breakdown. I also believe it's less harmful in every way — clinically, socially and psychologically — than alcohol, which we consume openly.
Weed has also been used medicinally — for some people, it helps with with pain and appetite loss, and countless other conditions (although, like any medicine, it is best to know the side effects as well). It can even be, in moderation, an enjoyable break from the sometimes-crushing responsibilities of adulthood. Like profanity, you need to fully understand its potential power before you decide to embrace it.
And how could I forbid it, anyway? “Do as I say, not as I do” is not how I raise my kid.
Pot smokers may be portrayed in movies and on TV as aimless ne’er-do-wells in need of a haircut, but that hasn’t been my experience. They’re accountants and artists and teachers and sure, a few ne’er-do-wells, but some of my best friends are ne’er-do-wells. It shouldn’t be used by anyone whose brain isn’t fully developed yet, and you should read about its connection to psychosis so you know what you’re dealing with. But I do not think it is akin to cocaine or heroin, and find these parallels a little suspect. It isn’t a gateway drug unless you were headed for that gate anyway. So how do I approach this subject with my kid?
I planned to wait until he was at least into his teens before having any kind of discussion, because I imagined that it would be the time when pot would actually be on his radar. But as we approach ever-closer to legal weed in Canada, it seems the issue may be forced. In my mind, the talk requires a lot more than, “Don’t do it.” It’s not by forbidding anything that we prepare our children for life, but by giving them the capacity for rational thought and the ability to examine consequences and weigh risks. And how could I forbid it, anyway? “Do as I say, not as I do” is not how I raise my kid.
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It would be wonderful if his life were such that he never felt drawn to drugs of any kind, whether it's pot, alcohol or natural adrenaline. (Never mind pot — what if he decides he likes speeding and sky diving? Eek!) Chances are, though, he’ll want to try something, sometime, that will make things a little easier or just more fun. I’d rather steer him towards pot myself, than let him wander into opiates or excessive booze.
Talking the talk
Talking to my son about getting stoned is a lot to lay on a boy who still believes in the tooth fairy. So, what do you say to an eight-year-old about something you'd rather he not know about for another decade? The finer points of my personal philosopher’s stone (haha) may have to wait until he’s 10 or 11, but for now I’ll tell him this:
When people want to tweak their car’s engine output, they tune it or run high-octane fuel through it. When they want to tweak their brains, there are a variety of options and one of them is marijuana. It, like every other option, is for adults only, and I hope and trust that you will stay away from it until you’re old enough to understand it fully and make an informed decision.
If you do try it, I hope you’ll tell me, secure in the knowledge that I am not here to censure you and I will never browbeat you for doing things I’ve done.
Legalization will not compel me to smoke pot in front of him...
In addition to its more positive possibilities, pot use can make you lazy, devoid of ambition and complacent, and those are not good things to be, especially as a young person with the world ahead of you. Do everything else first — backpack across Europe, swim with dolphins, enter a slam poetry contest, kiss a girl (or a boy) whose freckles make you short of breath. Get an education, and an inkling of who you are. Then, when you’re grown, if you feel the desire to dabble, talk to me again. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, surround yourself with positive people who care about you, and only then try it. As with anything else intimate — and pot use is, by its brain-candy nature, an intimate experience — share it only with people you trust. As frivolous as it is, take it seriously.
Legalization will not compel me to smoke pot in front of him — not even outside at a bonfire, where the possibility of a contact high is low. It won’t compel me to leave my stash or my rolling papers lying on the sideboard, not even if drinkers think it’s OK to leave their fancy decanters and bottles of wine on display. It won’t compel me to stop at the dispensary on the way home from school as I would at the convenience store for milk.
What it will compel me to do is communicate sooner than anticipated the entirely subjective truth about pot.
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