Care and Feeding

My Husband Left His Vape Out. Our Toddler Found It.

Should I throw my husband out with the stupid vape?

Photo illustration of a sad toddler surrounded by smoke.
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? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband bought a vape pen for THC a couple of months ago. He has been very irresponsible with it. I have found it on the kitchen table, between seat cushions, and even on the floor. I have told him over and over about how our children could easily find and use it. Well, it happened. While I was making breakfast, our 2-year-old found it on the counter and inhaled from it. Our toddler was crying, our older child was crying, and I started crying. I am angry with myself for not noticing the pen on the counter; however, I am beyond furious with my husband for being so careless with it. He thinks that I am being too hard on him. I am ready to toss that stupid vape pen into the trash can the next time I see it. Should I toss the husband in there as well?

—How High Is He

Dear How High,

The proposition of a high-on-weed toddler is terrifying. However, it’s very unlikely that a child would have inhaled enough to become intoxicated, and as your letter didn’t include any mention of a hospital visit or otherwise terrifying afternoon following the morning puff, I’m assuming the little one was fine. Why did the kids start crying? Was it your reaction to what happened that scared them?

Be clear: Your husband is responsible for what happened due to his irresponsible approach to casual marijuana use. (No one says THC, my love. In the words of television healer Iyanla Vanzant, let’s call a thing a thing.) However, most children do not burst into tears the moment they commit a behavioral infraction or inadvertently do something dangerous, nor do they do so when they witness their younger sibling doing such a thing. I suspect that either you completely freaked out when you saw what your child had done, or you have described the vape pen to your kids as so dangerous that both of them thought something horrifying was going to happen to your tiny toker. It also seems likely that you and your husband have different attitudes about weed and that some conversations should have taken place before it became a constant in your home.

How do you feel about having pot around? Are you truly OK with it? If so, you and your husband have to talk about how you to talk to your children about it; while you want to drive home the importance of them keeping their hands off the pen and any other drug paraphernalia, you also don’t want to create so much drama and intrigue around it that they are either dying to engage or terrified that that they’ll die on the spot if they do.

As a Pot Mom myself, I’d love for more parents to be honest with their kids about their consumption … even though I didn’t exactly plan to be as frank about it as I am. My 6-year-old learned that I smoke weed thanks to a physician who blurted it out during a visit to an urgent care facility earlier this year. Once the whole cat was out of the bag, I let her know that marijuana is a type of medicine that her parents and other adults get from our doctor, and that much like “Mommy Juice” it is dangerous for someone her age. It’s also a very personal matter and not to be a topic of discussion at school or with anyone aside from her parents. I also had to make the distinction between weed and cigarettes, which has led to a few hilarious moments in which she’s asked which one someone was using, then saying, “Oh, weed is fine because he is a grown-up.”

What type of vape is your husband using? It would be wise for him to buy one that a child cannot use easily; this variety, which requires five clicks of a button to use, is widely available. Also, your husband should invest in a more secure case, such as this one that has a childproof lock. If he’s using pot frequently, let’s say because he suffers from anxiety or chronic pain, you can stash these in a few places around the house—out of the reach of small hands, of course.

If you are truly weed-adverse or if your husband is so hopelessly careless that you cannot rely on him not to leave his stuff around, then you need to communicate that ASAP and come up with a plan that works for you both. Perhaps he has to go out to the patio or use the pen in his car before he comes inside. Hopefully, he can step it up, because a vape pen is so discreet you can puff in an airplane bathroom (I have heard, cough) and it would be sad for a grown man to be so bad at keeping it in his pocket that he has to take it outside like a common cigarette. Best of luck to you, and if you can, you should consider giving the THC a try yourself. It’s great for the nerves, and I have a feeling this isn’t the first time your hubby has worked yours.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I do not have a child. However, I have many friends with small children, most of whom I buy gifts for during the holidays. There are tons of cute toys that sing and dance, but I remember making my toy Pikachu sing for hours, and I’m sure it drove my parents up the wall. There are also a lot of toys that don’t sing but definitely make noise (plastic pianos, squeezy toys, etc.), so I’m not sure where the line is. Is getting a kid a toy that sings basically asking to be murdered? At what noise level does a toy become too noisy? Thanks!

—Trying to Be a Good Friend

Dear TtBaGF,

You know your friends, so you should have some clue as to who already has a house full of singing baby sharks and who might be outraged at the idea. If taking their personalities and household structures into consideration doesn’t make the choice a little simpler, just ask. “Are you cool with Malik getting a drum set?” “I saw an adorable jewelry box for Toni, but it plays a song. Will that drive you nuts?” They will absolutely be honest with you.

Otherwise, parents tend to appreciate toy gifts that are quiet, easy to assemble, and age-appropriate. (Use the age listed on the box!) When in doubt, err on the side of caution—and if it needs batteries, buy the batteries. Happy shopping!

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband John and I are expecting our first child next summer and are very excited, as we tried for years before finding success with IVF. We have agreed on a name for a girl, but if we have a boy, John wants to name him after his grandfather. My sister-in-law recently disclosed to me that this man was (and maybe still is) a huge racist. Like, one who uses the N-word and is hostile toward people of color. I’ve never witnessed him behave that way, mostly because he is homebound and does not interact with the outside world much.

John really reveres his grandfather, whom he routinely describes as the best man he’s ever known, and who paid for him to go to college and law school. His only comment on the issue is “He’s gotten a lot better, I think.” He allegedly cut off a daughter for her liberal political beliefs, so it’s easy to believe that what my sister-in-law says might be true.

I suggested using the grandfather’s last name as a first name because it works pretty well, but John said if we weren’t going all in with the naming, he wouldn’t want to do it at all. I feel like I have room for veto power here, but I’m not sure how to explain it without insulting a man my husband clearly adores. I feel like it is important to mention that my husband was also named after his grandfather, so just saying “Eh, not a huge fan of the name” might hurt my husband’s feelings too. Any ideas?

—What’s in a Name

Dear WiaN,

Use that veto power, baby. Explain that while you are grateful for the love and support that your husband has received from his grandfather over the years, you don’t want your son to bear the name of someone whose values are so different from the ones you both want to instill in him. I feel like the “If we aren’t going to do it for real, let’s not do it” thing gives you some cover, because he basically put the idea of not using the name on the table. Your child deserves a name that reflects the promise of the future, not the prejudice of the past and, well, the present. If your husband is deeply invested in having your son share his name, then that’s one thing. But let him know you aren’t interested in paying tribute to his grandfather and that you’d like to make this decision with that in mind. Best of luck to you.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am an American expat living in a country with a different, and racist, holiday tradition. The holiday takes place earlier in December and its tradition bears a lot of similarities to the American Santa bit: a man with a red suit and white beard visiting your house and leaving gifts for kids who are good. There’s a lot of local popular culture focus on this celebration, which isn’t centered around Jesus’ birth, and has an off-putting racist element involving blackface. My question is twofold. First, is it confusing for our 4-year-old to celebrate both holidays? I don’t feel like we can ignore the local one without him feeling left out and because of the similarities between it and Christmas, our son has them mixed together in his head. (We aren’t religious and haven’t overtly connected Christmas to Jesus for him yet.) And second, what do we say about the holiday’s racist element, of which he is blissfully unaware? Should we take the approach that this local celebration isn’t real so I can criticize the mythology, particularly the racism, while maintaining the Santa myth, which I honestly could take or leave? What are the implications of this for his school friends? Help!

—Not the White Christmas I Had in Mind

Dear NtWCIHiM,

It seems safe to assume you are referring to Sinterklass, the Netherlands’ Santa-esque character and his helper, Zwarte Piet—aka Black Pete—who is typically depicted in blackface. The tradition, which dates back to the 1800s, has been controversial for decades and protests against the racist caricature are also an annual ritual at this point.

I think you should explain to your child that different cultures have different celebrations, and that we should respect them unless they are harmful. Black Pete is harmful. He comes from a time when it was OK to say horrible things about black people in public without apology. It’s always been wrong to say these things but now, there are more people who are willing to stand up and do the right thing. If there are classroom observances or other Sinterklass-related festivities that he can participate in that don’t include Black Pete, then cool. If not, treat it the same way a family would that didn’t celebrate a holiday for religious reasons: Keep him away from it. He still has Christmas. If allowing him to play along with a racist character seems like an appropriate compromise to make in order to keep him happy, then I don’t think there’s much I can offer by way of advice. If he’s the kid who ruins the fun by telling all his chums that Black Pete is bad, oh well, that’s what they (and their parents) get. No one is entitled to be racist in peace.

As far as Santa, dress him up and make him seem so cool that this other holiday loses its luster. Use Santa and Christmas as a way to establish that there are cultural celebrations from his home country that he can delight in while other folks do what they do, which unfortunately includes racism at times. Happy holidays!

—Jamilah

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