Care and Feeding

Should We Tell Our Teen Son About All the Drugs We’ve Done?

We really don’t want him to think it’s a great thing to do.

Teen boy shocked that his mom is holding a joint.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We bought the book High that was recommended in a recent Slate article about connecting with your kids during puberty. It’s great! But it made us wonder: Should we tell our son about our own past and not-so-past drug use? Particularly drug use as teens? Though it’s been years, we’ve both done it all and did quite a lot as teens. Even currently, we occasionally (a few times a year) consume edibles (never when he’s around).

But we don’t really want him to think that’s a great thing to do. When I was his age, I was struggling with rejection by my family for my sexual orientation, and experimenting with drugs helped me cope. Do I just say that? The motto of the book is don’t say “just say no,” instead say “just say KNOW.” But how much should he know about us and drugs, both when we were his age and now?

—The More You Know … ?

Dear TMYK,

I think you can and should find a happy balance that works for you. I would not talk about your current drug use with your child, however responsible and low-level it may be. (In my personal experience as a Canadian, you traditionally save that for the porch after Thanksgiving dinner once they’re out of college, and only if you’re holding.) A depressing number of parents have found themselves opening the door to CPS following a well-intentioned kid’s panicked reaction to a DARE talk at school.

The main idea is to be on the same page with your partner and to answer questions honestly, but sometimes incompletely. Teenage drug use is … not the greatest. Those brains are still developing, and especially if there’s any history of familial mental illness, I’m a lot less blasé about it than I used to be. (Though I’m not naive enough to think your children will avoid it completely.)

You can find a way to answer questions that is somewhere between “Acid will convince you that you’re an orange, and you’ll try to peel yourself and wind up in an institution! It happened to my very real friend Lenny” and my dad’s “I took meth once; it was the best experience of my whole life!” For you, that may be “Yes, I smoked pot in college. It was a rough time for me, and I was looking for a distraction.”

Give your young teen the book. Ask if he has any questions. Talk about the things that concern you most: downing random pills at parties, consuming alcoholic beverages that weren’t poured in front of you. Getting roofied is not something that just happens to girls. Talk about fentanyl. Ask what scares him. Make sure he knows he can text you and get bailed out of a party if he gets uncomfortable for any reason, and that if he’s drunk or high, he will never ever be in trouble for making that call.

Parenthood: not for the weak. I’m glad you’re asking these questions now.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 5-year-old is about to start kindergarten. He happens to be an extremely stubborn picky eater. It’s the exact sort of eating behavior I scoffed at in other children and blamed on bad parenting, before I became an actual parent! Karma, I guess.

We are working hard to convince, cajole, and otherwise persuade him to try new things. It’s sort of working. In the meantime there is a very limited variety of healthy/ish things we can put in his lunchbox and realistically expect to be eaten. One of those, alas, is peanuts. Not peanut butter, but peanuts. (I’m aware that sunflower seeds are an alternative, but he refuses to touch them so far.)

The teacher says the school policy is that children with allergies have their own table which is guaranteed to be free of peanuts, etc., so students are cleared to bring in these foods in their own lunches. She also stated that none of his fellow classmates have a known allergy issue. The various implications of the “special table” policy are maybe ripe for discussion as well, but my main concern is whether it is still just bad form and sort of callous to send my kid to school with a handful of dry-roasted peanuts? I’m leaning toward avoiding them, but he seriously only eats about 10 things.

—Or Am I Overthinking This?

Dear OAIOT,

Peanuts and peanut butter are one of those rarest of gifts: a cheap, shelf-stable protein. Go ahead and send him with a sandwich baggie of dry-roasted peanuts until if and when the school policy tightens up. I wouldn’t feel bad about it at all.

If you missed Sunday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

Thank you for answering my letter regarding our neighbors’ anonymous note that suggested our crying newborn foster son was violating a city ordinance.

While it was tough to see people in Facebook comments calling us selfish to have the audacity to leave windows open in the baby’s room in the summer (and apparently accusing us of putting a baby at risk for SIDS because he doesn’t sleep in the bed with us??), it did afford me the opportunity to speak with a NICU nurse about newborns going through withdrawal, a critical point that I realize I had left out of my original letter.

We are progressing nicely. I did look into AC units; it just wasn’t in the budget for now. We’ve continued to keep the windows open for him on particularly hot nights. We did decide to drop off a note to each of our immediate neighbors “from” the baby, explaining the situation and apologizing for any disrupted sleep. It also had our phone number so that they can call if they feel like they need to discuss it further (no calls yet).

Thank you for your help! If anything, it reassured me that my foster son is not going to prison for violating a noise ordinance.

—It’s a Baby

Dear IaB,

I’m so glad you found our advice useful. I encourage you to pay literally no attention to anything anyone says on Facebook, ever, and to continue doing a marvelous job with your foster baby.

I suspect you have skillfully slain your neighbors with a well-phrased guilt trip, and I salute you for it.

Please enjoy not being sent to a penal colony because your baby cries sometimes.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I don’t have kids or particularly like or understand kids. What single toy should I bring to my sister’s outdoor birthday party for her 2-year-old? Something that will be mildly entertaining for kids ages 1 to 5. Nothing noisy.

—I’m Not Good at This

Dear INGaT,

A million toy developers working for a million years have not yet improved—nor may they ever improve—on the bubble wand. Fisher-Price’s bubble lawnmower is still literal perfection, for under 30 bucks. And a 2-year-old can merrily push it around the grass with ease. You’ll look like you’ve been entertaining children your whole life. Send me pictures!

—Nicole

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