I want my son to learn everything. I want my son to see everything. (I don’t want him to see dead bodies or anything, but you know what I mean.) I want him to be well rounded and educated and intelligent. I want him to travel the world and have those personality-building experiences that you can only have in youth, when fear is absent and passion is the driving force.
And I want him to see it all while he’s having these experiences; the good and the bad. I want him to be confident that he can make a positive decision because he has all the information available — so that when he is an adult and it comes down to making adult choices he has made enough big-boy decisions beforehand to trust himself.
At 2 years old, my son has no questions about serious matters just yet. Right now he is content to have me to color with and kick a ball to — but I know I’m fooling myself when I imagine we won’t have to address life-changing topics for a long, long time. So as he gets older I won’t shy away from candid discussions about marijuana, alcohol, hard drugs, sex, birth control, bullying, abuse and purple people eaters, if that’s what he asks about.
But just because I use marijuana and I am going to be honest with him does not mean I want him to indulge in pot or drink alcohol before he is 21. I spent some of my teen years experimenting with alcohol and drugs and surely wish I had been doing better things with my time. So much wasted youth. True, when you’re young you are testing your limits. But there are healthy ways to do that, and in adulthood especially he will need a full toolbox of ways to deal with stressors to survive.
I am totally aware that boasting that I’m going to help my son choose to not try drugs and alcohol until his 21st birthday is a task far easier said than done. And I’m optimistic.
But I’m also a realist.
I remember what it was like when I tried marijuana for the first time. I’d been through some serious bullying a few years earlier and the lingering feelings of inadequacy and shame were my driving forces. I should have been in counseling. I needed to get my feelings out and have someone who wasn’t my mother tell me that I was worth it and I was not in the wrong. And it wasn’t my parents’ fault; everyone does their best for their children. I just happened to have needed extra attention and that fell through the cracks.
And that’s not even looking at any of the science.
Time and experience make us who we are but so does our brain. The website How Stuff Works has a pretty easy to understand explanation about prefrontal cortex development. As adults we make decisions using our hard-wired and developed brain while adolescents haven’t quite gotten all of the connections they need up there yet. The most developed area in an adolescent brain is the part that seeks rewards and pleasure above all else. How could we, as adults, expect teens to make the same type of thought-out decisions when they aren’t even using the equipment in the same way that we are?
Well, I am just going to do everything I can to make sure my kid doesn’t do all that “bad” stuff, said every parent, ever. But what does that mean?
I’m going to be honest with my son. I’m going to have rules and consequences. I’m going to be there for him if he needs advice and I’m going to do my best not to over-react or judge him. I was afraid to talk to my parents about drinking or smoking because they’d always been so proud of me for not doing those things. Shame upon shame and I just couldn’t bring myself to admit it to them. That fostered a sort of separation, a divide between my parents and myself. I asserted myself as an adult long before I even understood what being an adult meant. I want my son to be wise but more than anything I want him to just enjoy his childhood while he’s in it.
All I can do is help my son make good choices. I’m going to ask him to lay off the ganja and encourage him to not get all potted up on weed until he is of age. I’ll educate him that it’s better for him, mentally and physically, to not use these things before he is old enough. I’ll make sure that he knows I’ll never lie to him, never, and that if he is curious about drugs that he can talk to me absolutely anytime, morning, noon or night.
I definitely won’t calm myself into a false sense of security that all this real talk and open-door policy business is a guarantee that he’s going to hold off on trying booze or weed until he is of legal age. According to the Centers for Disease Control, when it comes to underage drinking, 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States is done by people age 12-20. Geez.
Most important, I will not disown him if he does choose to try alcohol or marijuana. Instead, I will try and get to the bottom of what is going on. What is happening in his life that is making him seek out this type of stress relief? Because you can punish your child for the action (of experimenting) or you can try and get to the root of the issue, what’s really fueling the behavior. Ignoring the catalyst will only allow it to fester and create further problems down the line.