My son smokes weed, a development I’m learning I have very little control over. As far as I can tell it started last year in 8th grade. Although kids in elementary school will typically maintain that drugs are lame, drugs are for losers—just say no! Come middle school that attitude is like a fault line waiting to crack wide open. Gradually the fear diminishes. Movies, music and social media bring it into the mainstream. Maybe they stumble upon an older sibling ripping a bong hit, or their parents’ secret stash. Bottom line, tweens get curious.
As much as I hoped my offspring would’ve acquired some wise-beyond-their-years sense of self, I’m a realist. And as a mom my main goal above all else has been to cultivate an open line of communication where subjects like sex and drugs are concerned. So when I first learned my son got high at a sleepover with three other boys, the mom who was hosting and I wasted no time sitting them down for some consciously unhysterical straight-talk.
When no one fessed to being the supplier (what fool would?) we downshifted. We discussed, in general terms, the pitfalls of marijuana on their still doughy impressionable brains. How it might feel fun in the moment, but the residual side-effects can zap all motivation like a well-aimed taser (to which my son continues to argue, “But Mom, I’m already unmotivated”—yay, one less thing to worry about!). We pointed out how it can negatively affect schoolwork, sports performance, their reputation and ultimately their future. Plus the perilous portal weed can create, far-reaching as it may seem, to harder more devastating drugs like meth and heroine.
We asked questions: what sort of people do you want to attract? And wrapped with a scenario: how would it feel to watch all your peers head off to college and start careers from your parents’ couch, surrounded by donut crumbs and nothing more than an empty bag of Hot Cheetos and 100,000 hours of Call of Duty Black Ops under your belt? The exchange of expressions was clear—it said, not us. It was the talk you never want to have, yet mentally prepare for anyway like a plane crash landing. And we nailed it!
Later when he asked, “Mom, why aren’t you freaking out?” In all honesty I told him, I know you’re curious. I was too at your age. Lucky for me pot made me paranoid so it never became habit. I assured him this wasn’t a trap waiting to snap. Just keep what we discussed in mind and make smarter choices next time. And since we were already on the subject, I milked it with a few questions of my own. Maybe it was the residual THC acting as a truth serum, but without so much as having to raise an eyebrow I got the inside scoop. Who was selling, for how much, the ease of tracking it down through phone apps like Snapchat. It was all I ever hoped for, an open line of communication. Which made me…Mom of the year.
But rather than improve, the situation worsened. He didn’t quite spiral into a Spicoli, but with only minimal attempts to conceal it, it was becoming clear that getting high was increasingly part of his social exploits. When he joined us at the dinner table noticeably baked, that’s when my hand met my forehead—since when has a no-bullshit request for common sense and zero consequences worked on a teen? So I called an intervention.
While the primary band of stoners assembled, we parents yanked the daisies from our hair. The time had come for tough love. That meant random drug testing. If they tested positive, smartphones would be confiscated for a week. Second fail, we’d put the kibosh on sleepovers. What we hoped as a unified front was to relieve any peer pressure among themselves, simultaneously showing them there’d be no pulling the wool over our eyes. And if they needed reason for opting out, our strict policy was the perfect excuse. They could just blame us.
But staying unified involves more factors than any of us anticipated. And whole sentences can get lost in translation when navigating through a teen’s disorganized language center. I started hearing complaints like, “But so-and-so didn’t get his phone taken away for a week! His mom’s ok with it.” One dad called to confront me about something his son had said. Was it true I told my own kid that it was okay to get high at their friends’ birthday bonfire, seeing as it was a special occasion? We shared a hearty chortle over that one, but not really how I’d prefer to bond with another parent.
In a moment of heated debate over the smartphone I finally blurted, “Look, if you can pull off straight A’s I’ll stop testing you.” As a result now he’s got A’s, which I tell myself is sort of like winning. Until a friend put it in perspective.
“Isn’t that like rewarding your kid with weed?”
Yup. Like I said, Mom of the year.
(Editor’s note: FYI home test kits for drug use are available on Amazon! Huh, who knew? (pulls out credit card and cackles mysteriously at my teen child))
About the author: KTM is a writer and survivalist of teens.When not making mistakes, she’s recovering from them.