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Talking To Your Teen: A Mom's Manifesto

Talking To Your Teen: A Mom's Manifesto
(Illustration by Charlie Herrick)

Because I am the mother of a teenage boy growing up on the streets of Baltimore;

Because I am ambivalent about my son smoking weed;

Because I wonder, sometimes, if weed-smoking helps alleviate the awful anxiety of being a teen in a troubled world;

Because I smoked plenty myself and occasionally still do;

Because most of my friends smoke weed, and how silly is it that we wait for the moment after a dinner party when our teens are way upstairs in the bedroom blasting hip-hop to skulk around on the back porch and sneak a puff?;

Because I don’t like to obfuscate and I think teens smell a lie as swiftly as I detect the scent of weed on a school uniform;

Because saying “don’t ever” to a risk-taking teen is heard as “go for it!”;

Because my clever, contrarian son regularly invokes studies and research and news articles “proving” that weed isn’t as physically addictive as alcohol and so, with a scornful glance at the beer in my hand, regularly insists I’m a hypocrite;

Because my parenting has already degenerated to an “only-on-weekends” mandate and I have already blown my chances for Mother of the Year;

Because one can’t overdose on weed, as my son often points out, which makes me roll my eyes, argue “nevertheless. . .” and then struggle to complete the sentence in an authoritative manner;

Because I have not figured out how to navigate an honest conversation when I suspect he has been smoking, when he denies it, when I insist “don’t lie,” and then handle his truth—“I have smoked. I will smoke. All my friends smoke.”—without degenerating into useless Mother-Knows-Best lines like, “Well, if your friends jumped off a cliff will you just follow?”;

Because I don’t know what else to do;

Because I drop my son off at every weekend party with the same reminder—“Safe sex. Good choices.”—and try to trust him to navigate the rocky shoals of independence while knowing, with absolute certainty, that kids will be smoking weed there;

Because teenagers have a greater right to autonomy than we typically cede them;

Because kids who smoke too much weed simply fall asleep;

Because I once asked my son why he didn’t just have sex as a recreational activity instead of smoking so much weed—and he pointed out my faulty logic: “Doing one doesn’t preclude the other”;

Because I believe in moderation in all things;

Because sometimes we need to abandon moderation to trip the light fantastic;

Because I grew up in a European country where the laws and attitudes toward adolescent drinking and smoking were tolerated; because this country wisely switched the legal driving age to 18; because I see sense in that;

Because I know that mood-altering substances sometimes show us deeper truths (even though my adolescent journal is full of such illegible, undecipherable, sometimes inane “truths”);

Because I first saw Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life as a stoned kid and have not laughed so hard since, running with friends through the streets afterwards singing the anti-masturbation theme song “Every Sperm Is Sacred” and vowing to forever eschew all organized religion as absurd;

Because sometimes life’s absurdities come at you sideways and stoned, but they stick;

Because I smoked and turned out all right;

Because I wasn’t arrested for experimentation, exploration, bad judgment; 

Because they ask about arrest records on college applications today;

Because one of his friends may be dealing and one of his friends has a father who works for the DEA; 

Because one of those friends is standing in my kitchen right now making scrambled eggs and the other one has run out to buy a dozen—we are low—and the two kids are too stupid and sweet to understand how dangerous their friendship is;

Because 235 murders were committed in Baltimore last year, many in connection to the illegal drug trade;

Because I don’t want him or any of his friends to end up that way;

Because I am more afraid of the government’s misguided enforcement than I am of the negative health effects of weed;

Because I am not as brave as reformer Martin Luther, who tacked his manifesto of “Ninety-five Theses” on the church door in 1517, but remain convinced that there are enough like-minded parents out there for a Million Mom (Marijuana) March on Washington;

Because I keep all these thoughts on the down-low with my son;

Because I like the idea of him picking up this issue of City Paper, reading it, and throwing it indignantly on the kitchen table and saying to me, “See! Some moms get it”;

I stand in favor the State of Maryland fully decriminalizing marijuana as expeditiously as possible. 

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