We Told Our 13-Year-Old Son We Smoke Pot And Here’s What Happened

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My husband and I are pot smokers.

Some people come home and have a glass of wine; we wait until the kids are in bed and the chores are done and share a joint.

When the kids were little we didn’t have to worry about them finding out. They were in bed early and weren’t remotely interested in what went on after they were asleep. But now they’re older, and not as oblivious as they used to be. My son is 13, and has asked us quite directly to be honest with him about our lives and things that have importance to us. Since we want the same treatment from him, especially as he navigates the tricky world of teenagerhood and all of its potential land mines, we have been trying to do what he asked. That’s what got me wondering: should we tell him that we smoke pot?

We’ve had conversations before about drinking and drugs. He asked me a while back if it was wrong that he wanted to try getting drunk one day, and that resulted in a long discussion about brain development, what age was appropriate (separate from legal issues), and the dangers that can come not just from the use of an intoxicant itself but from the setting and situations that often accompany it.

They talk about alcohol in health class at his school, and the message there is uncomplicated: don’t do it. And much like offering abstinence as the only valid method of birth control, the information provided is neither comprehensive nor effective. So we told him that when he’s old enough, we figure he’ll want to see what it’s like to be drunk, and we want to make sure he does it safely. And we’ve continued to have that talk with him, when it comes up, which always includes a promise to come get him, no questions asked, if he finds himself in a situation where he or someone he’s with is intoxicated and needs help. We were especially vehement about never ever driving drunk, or allowing anyone else to do so.

And we talked about pot with him, a little bit. This is also a topic in health class, and like the alcohol discussion, it’s steeped in 1980s “Just Say No” mentality. We covered mostly the same ground as alcohol in this one.

But then I started to realize that he’s really only a few years away—at best—from walking into a party and smelling something awfully familiar, and realizing that amidst our discussions, we’d omitted something significant: that we smoke pot pretty regularly. The last thing we want, after all these honest and open talks, is for him to feel tricked or deceived. If we want him to be open with us, we feel he deserves for us to do the same.

So we discussed it, the two of us, and decided it made sense to fess up. The next question was when. A visit to my doctor made us realize that the answer to when was NOW.

“Do you use drugs?” she asked me as she went through her checklist of questions. I am honest with my doctor because otherwise, what’s the point? I told her I smoked marijuana regularly. “Wait,” she said, “How old is your son now? Hasn’t he figured it out?”

I thought about it. It’s not like we smoke in his room or anything and we do wait until he’s in bed, but she was right … it was absolutely, definitively detectable. I came home and mentioned the conversation to my husband, who agreed that it was time. And then, in keeping with our past history of important conversations with our son, he left it to me.

A few evenings later, my son and I were hanging out watching TV after his little sister had gone up to bed, and I just told him bluntly: his parents like to smoke pot.

I had no path to follow on this one; when you talk about sex, you have the option of referencing an unlimited selection of books and articles, and you can ask your friends for advice. But smoking pot as a parent isn’t something you can post about on mommy forums. I’ve seen what happens when people do it, and it ain’t pretty.

He asked me what it felt like, and I explained that it varies from person to person. Some get paranoid, some are just jittery and unhappy. Some get sleepy, or lazy, or just hungry. Some get creative, and others find creativity in otherwise humdrum things, like doing the dishes. For me, I told him, it’s about taking a shortcut to relaxation at the end of the day – I don’t have time to wind down, so I smoke pot and go straight to a nice, chill state. TV is more fun, snacks (unfortunately) are more fun, and I get to slow down the gears of my ever-churning brain and relax for a few hours.

And I felt it was important to remind him that at 13, his brain is not ready for it. (A quick Google search will fill you in on why, if you’re interested.) And then I explained that this was not something he could discuss with neighbors, other parents, or any of his friends. We live in a small town, and would rather not be run out of it with torches, if possible.

No matter what the topic, my son has a time threshold for these discussions, and I sensed we’d reached it. “Do you have any other questions?” I asked him.

“No. I mean—can I ask you more questions another time?”

“Of course,” I told him. “I hope you don’t think badly of us,” I added.

“Actually, I think I like you a little more,” he said.

“For smoking pot, or for telling you?” I asked him.

“I’m not sure,” he answered. “Maybe both.”

Is that the answer I wanted? Not really. What I want is for him to come to us when he’s in trouble, to tell us when he’s on the threshold of important decisions, and to make good choices for himself because he’s armed with truth and reality. So far, so good.

Photo: Getty