Care and Feeding

I Saw Another Parent Buying Drugs in Front of Our Kids’ School

I’ve already tried alerting the administration, but they’re being unresponsive. What should I do now?

Photo collage of two hands exchanging drugs in front of a school.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by keira01/iStock/Getty Images Plus and iStock/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,

While waiting for carpooling to start at my daughter’s pre-K program, I witnessed a fellow parent buying drugs from a man directly in front of the school. I have seen this man aggressively confronting the same parent over money in the past. On that occasion, I was a little confused about what was happening and put it all together after the fact. I declined to report it to the staff, as I really couldn’t say for sure what I saw and felt it was speculative. But this time, I definitely saw drugs and money changing hands.

After some consideration, I reported this incident to the teacher at the carpool. I was initially reluctant because I assume the child of this parent needs all the stability from school she can get. It was pretty obvious that the carpool person knew about the issue already, and he simply thanked me for speaking up.

I am so unbelievably pissed off at the parent for doing this so close to the school. I’m also afraid to bring too much attention to myself by confronting her. Although, the parent seems pleasant enough despite obvious issues, but her drug dealer? Not so much.

My husband has called the school a few times to find out what its response was and to express our concerns, but we’re playing phone tag with the director. We’re now wondering if we should continue to send our daughter there. We have safety concerns because of this behavior, and also because it doesn’t seem like the staff is taking the issue seriously. On the other hand, we really like the school, and it has been a positive experience otherwise. Plus, the cost of private school is above our means. What to do?

—Do Snitches Get Stitches?

Dear DSGS,

This is definitely a sad situation. I don’t want to make excuses for the parent in question, but it seems quite possible that she is dealing with an addiction issue—I’m assuming that the drug you observed in this transaction was something stronger than marijuana—or was purchasing something for a loved one who is. Either way, she has made choices that are not in the best interest of her child as well as the other families and staff who make up the school community.

Instead of playing phone tag, you need to have a face-to-face conversation with the senior-most administrator in the building, such as the director of operations or the principal. Let them know that you are happy with the experience that your family has had at the school thus far but you were deeply disturbed by what you saw and are concerned about the school grounds being a safe place for your child and others. Many schools have employees, volunteers, and school safety agents (the latter is quite the mixed bag, as they are often members of the local police department and can raise a different danger by being present in a house of learning) who surround the campus during drop-off and dismissal.

School leadership has a responsibility to make the areas surrounding these institutions as safe as possible. In addition to perhaps bringing additional adults on board to protect the a.m. and p.m. arrivals and departures, they should also send home a reminder to parents that certain behaviors will not be tolerated on school grounds and can lead to expulsion for their children and/or arrest for themselves. No more voicemails—you need to have this conversation in person, and you should leave it feeling confident about their being reasonable next steps.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am the lucky mother of a happy, healthy 6-month-old baby and wife to a very supportive and engaged husband. It has been a very challenging—and rewarding—year so far, and I think we have weathered it fairly well: Our daughter is exceptionally healthy, off the charts in weight and height, reaching all milestones in advance.

One persistent issue is my husband’s smoking. I showed him your column addressing the dangers of thirdhand smoke, and our doctor spoke to us about things we can do to protect the baby (short of quitting smoking). He tries his best by washing his hands and using mouthwash after a cigarette, and sometimes changing clothes or taking a shower. However, I don’t think he can appreciate the way smoke clings to sweaters, hair, etc. He gets very defensive when I bring this up. Sometimes it gets better for a while, but we inevitably backslide. I am concerned that this is affecting our daughter in ways we can’t yet see or appreciate. How do I get through to him about this?

—Up in Smoke

Dear UiS,

The issue here isn’t your husband’s inability to mask the scent of his cigarettes; it’s that he’s still smoking them in the first place. It seems that you have been patient and supportive when it comes to this habit, but it would be unconscionable for me to suggest ways for you help him do a better job at keeping the smell at bay when the appropriate thing for you to do is work on getting him to break the habit all together.

The American Cancer Society is one of many organizations that have resources available for folks who want to help a loved one kick the habit. You can also speak to your family doctor one-on-one for guidance on how to begin the conversation.

Your husband knows that quitting is the right thing to do, even if he hasn’t verbalized it. Tobacco is incredibly addictive, of course, and he’s likely been battling with this demon for quite some time. Be sure to approach the topic lovingly and without judgment, making it clear that you only wish to see him live a long, full enough life so that he will see your little one grow up. Best of luck to you all!

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I mentioned to my 7-year-old daughter that I was going to vote soon, and she asked a lot of questions that have sparked a periodically recurring conversation about politics. She’s interested in going with me to the polls and mad that she can’t vote until she’s 18. It’s clear that she understands this stuff is important, but obviously, the details and nuances require a lot of explanation. She has always had strong feelings about what is and isn’t fair, and she’s applying that to this new area of exploration, leading her to jump to a lot of strong conclusions. (“It’s bad to put kids in jail, so anyone who votes for Donald Trump is bad.”) I really don’t want to stifle her interest in all of this, but we live in a purple state, and I also don’t want her to alienate teachers, caregivers, or family with her brand-new strongly held beliefs. I also want to allow her to explore in this area independent of my spouse and me since I don’t want her worldview to be an unexamined carbon copy of ours. I’ve found a few books at the library aimed at her age and reading level but nothing that seems to incorporate the current political climate. (Describing Republicans as small-government fiscal conservatives, for example, does nothing to help explain post-2016 reality.) How do I encourage this interest without having her drink from the fire hose of daily news or letting her wander unprotected into the minefield of political partisanship?

—Middle of the Road

Dear MotR,

One of my all-time favorite sitcoms, Family Ties, centered around two aging hippies who found themselves raising four very unique children who were, perhaps, best unified by their lack of interest in their PBS-loving parents’ peace and patchouli worldview. The eldest son, Alex P. Keaton (played brilliantly by a young Michael J. Fox) took things a step further; instead of merely thumbing a nose at the leftist values that were at the heart of his household, he was a staunch Republican who rhapsodized over President Ronald Reagan the way most kids his age would their favorite pop star.

While the Keatons aren’t a real family, their experiences as they relate to politics ring familiar for parents across the country who find themselves stunned when their progeny develop worldviews that could not be any more different than their own. Regardless of what you do or don’t share with your daughter about government and culture, she is exposed to a world that is even bigger than the 1980s pre-smartphone era that was the backdrop to Alex’s embrace of Reaganomics.

What is critical is that we share values and ethics with our children. As you said, the GOP of today cannot simply be differentiated from the Democratic Party by a simple discussion of fiscal conservatism. You are hinting that you may be a liberal voter yourself; you don’t think that your child should have some understanding of today’s burning issues related to gender, race, class, immigration, etc.?

While I understand your fear that she will simply become a mirror into her parents’ political leanings if you expose her to them, what is certainly more likely is that your failure to go in depth with her about these issues will leave her open to the influence of peers as well as adults (other relatives, friends’ parents, teachers, radio and TV hosts, YouTube stars) who may present a very compelling case for some ideas that you find to be absolutely devastating.

Instead of being mum about your political views, explain them to her while also being clear that it is OK to be friends with people whom you can respectfully disagree with. (That means not isolating herself from the girl who disagrees with the city’s plan to erect new stoplights at dangerous intersections; HOWEVER, the kid who thinks “the Mexicans” should “give us our country back” needs to be corrected and left alone, pronto.) Best of luck with the first of many long, long conversations!

Dear Care and Feeding,

We have four kids: an 11-year-old, 9-year-old twins, and a 7-year-old. As is often the case, we meticulously kept a record of every moment of our eldest child’s infancy, along with a detailed scrapbook and tons of pictures. By the time we got through our twins, we had given up on the perfect record-keeping; while we do have lots of pictures, there was no time to appreciate and document every moment with four kids under 5!

Unfortunately, the 7-year-old, who has long since believed we favor her siblings, has come to realize that we don’t have the same sort of record of her life and is pissed that we don’t “love her as much” as her older siblings. How can I get her to understand that older siblings sometimes have different experiences without breeding more resentment?

—No More Baby Books

Dear NMBB,

Explain to your youngest that it was more important for you to spend time with her than it was to make time to document her milestones—something that is a lot easier to do with one child than it is with four. As I’m certain that you do have a good number of photos, at least electronically, documenting her life to date. Purchase a photo album or baby book (be sure not to get one that asks for specific submissions that may be impossible for you to locate or obtain, such as a lock of her hair or her hospital bracelet) and fill it up together as a family activity.

—Jamilah

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