Care and Feeding

My Husband Bought Our Teenager Weed for Her Birthday

I am very angry! I am right to be very angry, right?

A gift box, open, full of joints.
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,

We live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. My husband is a frequent user, which I have no problem with. However, I learned today that he bought weed for our 16-year-old daughter for her birthday. Even though I know weed is harmless, and it’s better than her trying to buy from a shady dealer, I am PISSED. She’s 16! Was my husband in the wrong? Or is it OK for my daughter to get high once in a while?

—The Devil’s Lettuce

Dear TDL,

You have every right to be pissed, and yes, your husband was wrong as hell. I don’t have to tell you all the reasons why this is a dangerous and ill-advised approach to trying to discourage her from making an illegal purchase on the street.

What he did wasn’t totally unheard of, of course. There is a type of parent who allows their underage children to experiment with marijuana, alcohol, and other substances/experiences that are intended for adults in hopes of encouraging responsible practices and/or providing a controlled, “safer” environment for such indulgences. However, it’s rather unconscionable for him to have made the decision to make such a radical parenting move without your permission.

Of course, there are countless pot-smoking 16-year-olds across the world who are excelling in school, staying out of trouble, and making their families proud. There’re also the car accidents, the arrests, the suspensions and expulsions, and the incidents caused by impaired judgment that have been connected to marijuana use in teens and adults alike. Cannabis use demands a level of maturity that most kids fall short of, at least on occasion. Furthermore, it’s illegal for your daughter to have it for recreational purposes in any state due to her age.

To answer your other question, is it OK for your daughter to get high once in a while? Yes, but with an asterisk. Should your 16-year-old daughter smoke weed? No. Will your 16-year-old daughter smoke weed, even if you tell her that she is prohibited from doing so? Unless you have an iron grip on her schedule, and she lacks any unsupervised time, she very well may. Does an incident in which she gets caught smoking without having gotten in any other serious trouble merit, say, indefinite grounding or a trip to boarding school? No. Can you look the other way every once in a while if you’ve gotten a whiff of MJ on her coat? That’s a personal call every parent has to make. Should you make it easier for such a thing to happen by providing the weed? NO.

“It’s not a good idea for you to smoke weed, but I won’t kill you if you get caught” is very different than “It’s not a good idea for you to smoke weed, but if you must, just do it once in a while and oh, I bought you some.” And you also have every right to say, “It’s not a good idea to smoke weed and there will be severe consequences if you do,” because it is both illegal and dangerous. Alas, when your daddy gives you permission to chief—going so far as to cop for you—it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll easily accept the idea that it’s something you should wait a few more years to do again.

It’s time for a thoughtful conversation between you and your daughter (one that, hopefully, your husband can participate in without making light of the issue) about responsible marijuana use and why it isn’t in her best interest to become a regular user at this point in her life. Her safety is more urgent than any desire you may have to prevent her from using pot at all, which means you need to ensure that she has a basic understanding of dosage (particularly in regard to edibles—you don’t want her to discover the difference between a 10mg cookie and an 80mg one in the way so many of us learned about 151 proof rum in our youth) and how the drug affects the body.

There’s a serious talk to be had with your husband about any number of things, and I’m sure you’re clearer than I am on what they are. The need for consensus on big parenting moves is something that should ideally be established before a kid is 16. Hopefully, this is a rare departure from the teamwork approach you guys usually take. Good luck, and if your daughter does in fact become a pothead … she can always become a writer.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I recently gave birth to my first child. My mother-in-law is very excited to finally have a grandchild and continually buys him things. Each weekly visit comes with a bag of new items, and it’s getting out-of-hand.

While we are grateful for her generosity, and some of the gifts have been helpful, there seems to be little consideration behind the purchases. My MIL buys things on a whim with the only qualification being how “cute” she thinks they are. Our house is filling up with things like pacifier buddies (our son doesn’t use a pacifier), mobiles (he already has one), novelty outfits (complete with actual buttons and suspenders), and an entire library’s worth of books. We’re at the point where I’m not buying books for him that I want to be able to read to him because the amount of books we already have makes me so uncomfortable.

How can I tell her that what she is bringing that makes her so happy is not helpful? There are things that we genuinely need for him, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful.

—Buried Under Baby Gifts

Dear BUBG,

Be clear and to-the-point with your MIL. You’ve got the language already—you used it here! Explain that you’re so touched by her kindness and generosity, but that she’s giving you more than what you are capable of using and that you don’t want her gifts to go to waste. Let her know what items you can’t use (such as the pacifier buddies) and which ones you’re completely stocked up on (books), as well as those that you could use some help purchasing. You may want to just suck it up when it comes to the novelty outfits, but there’s no harm in mentioning a particular type of clothing you’d like to have for your baby in hopes that she’ll take the hint. Good luck!

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

We have friends who live in our neighborhood: The mom is probably one of my best friends, and they have two daughters the same age as my two. We go on walks together, the girls have play dates a lot, they are in the same Girl Scout troop, etc. My almost 8-year-old “Ashton” and their daughter, “Talia,” also ride the bus to school together, but they have problems getting along on there. It’s to the point where Ashton cries about taking the bus and begs us to drive her to school. Talia likes to be in charge and tells the other girls what to do, but they typically get along in every other situation. In fact, Talia’s mom tells me that Talia considers Ashton to be her best friend.

Ashton’s birthday party is coming up soon, and she doesn’t want Talia there. I want to stick up for my daughter, but I feel like at this age, these girls need to figure out how to be friends and get along. Ashton says that having Talia at her party will ruin the whole day, but I feel like not inviting her is very rude, especially since the families are so close. What should I do?

— Feeling Torn

Dear FT,

Talk to Talia’s mom about what Ashton has shared about their interactions on the ride to and from school. The two girls don’t have to be friends just because their families are close, but they also should be able to exist on the same bus, and attend each other’s birthday parties, without drama. Once the two of you have pieced together what you can about the issue between the girls, the four of you should meet up and talk about what has happened thus far and how there can be peace between Ashton and Talia going forward. If they get along more often than not, it sounds like there’s a dynamic on the school bus route that needs to be addressed—perhaps Talia is showing out in order to impress other kids, or feels some sense of insecurity or jealousy that shows up there that isn’t present in their other interactions.  Hopefully, this transparency will lead Talia to work on her bossy ways and to be on her best behavior at the party, which you should invite her to, but only after this awkward-but-necessary family chat takes place. Rooting for you all, and sending best wishes for an easy solution.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a mother to a 2-year-old son who, through no deliberate guiding, is super into trucks and construction vehicles. But seeing sweet social media posts of young boys who love dresses and nail polish has me wondering if I should be trying to introduce these concepts to him as well (casually, with absolutely no pressure/coercion, of course). The problem is that I am not into these things myself, so it’s not like he will see me painting my nails, for example, and ask me to paint his too.

Should I be working to expose him to these types of things? And if so, how, when they aren’t part of my own daily life? I certainly don’t want to force anything on him. I’ve tried to casually introduce nontypical “boy” toys in his life, such as a pink and purple dump truck that he loves, and a baby doll that he plays with once in a while. Growing up, I was very much a “tomboy” and hated makeup, wearing pink, etc., so it feels weird to introduce things to him that he doesn’t seem interested in and that weren’t an important part of my own childhood. But is his lack of interest just due to lack of exposure, or would he genuinely have no interest in having painted nails even if he saw me getting manicures every week? Am I just overthinking this? It’s OK to tell me I’m overthinking it.

—Gender Norms Suck

Dear GNS,

You are not overthinking here! More parents should think seriously about the importance of not merely allowing, but encouraging, their child to break from the box of gendered expectations and see a world that exists in more than just distinct pink and blue boxes.

That doesn’t mean that you have to begin “traditional” femininity cosplay, but that you ensure that your son is consistently exposed to toys, media, and art that are inclusive of that which is coded feminine—which won’t merely allow him to establish how he’d like to express himself, but will challenge the societal messaging that devalues girls/girlhood and reduces them to something that is less significant than his own identity.

Choose films, TV shows, and books with well-written, diverse female leads. Listen to music by women. Watch news shows anchored by women. Keep supporting his love of trucks but also purchase toys that are gender neutral and those that are marketed toward girls. Be sure to point out sexist and LGBTQ-phobic tropes when they pop up. Talk about the importance of choosing experiences, fashions, and behaviors based on what he naturally desires, as opposed to feeling like there’s a boy code that he has to adhere to. Make sure he knows that many boys and men enjoy manicures and that many girls and women, such as yourself, do not, but that you’d gladly take him to the nail shop if he so desires.

Most importantly, be clear in helping him to understand that there’s no one way to be a boy and that whomever he is and however he experiences the world, you’ll be there to support him along the way.

—Jamilah

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