Care and Feeding

We Want to Raise Our Kids in a Weed-Positive Household

What are the best practices for responsible stoner parents?

A hand holds a marijuana joint.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by eskymaks/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My partner and I are planning on starting a family soon. We are also both stoners, and we don’t know how we should approach this with our future child. We want to raise them in a weed-positive environment, but we know that some people don’t think kids should be around weed. Do we really have to hide our lifestyle from them? Is there a best time for introducing our child to the subject of weed? When should we allow our child to start experimenting with weed, and if there’s a time when they’re too young, how do we explain that to them in a way that doesn’t put down weed-usage?

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— Future Mary J. Mother

Dear Mary J. Mother,

Fellow Pot Mom here. There’s a complicated line between what we stoners find to be acceptable and what the rest of the world does, one that can cost us custody of our children under the wrong circumstances. It’s important to remain cognizant that even in a legal-use state, there are many people who see a joint as drastically different from a cocktail or glass of wine.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you not to smoke or vape in the same area as your child, and I’d add that unlike the cup of “mommy juice” that you may drink in front of them at a cookout or at dinner, there’s no good reason for them to see you using weed. Be discreet. Secure storage is critical; hide your stash like you’re guarding your life, because you are. A kid bringing weed to school or elsewhere, smelling like it, or surreptitiously using it could have devastating consequences for a family. There must always be a clear line. As far as your own use, responsibility is so very critical. If you get stoned and get behind the wheel with your kids (or without!), you’re no different than someone who drove drunk. You can’t be so giggly high at home that you can’t effectively parent either. Know your limits and dose responsibly.

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What you disclose and when will likely have to do with how often you toke. If you’re only smoking socially on weekends when they’re at a sitter, there’s less of a rush to figure this out than if you and your partner light up every day (I’m assuming you’re more likely in this category since you referred to yourself as a stoner). But even if that’s the case, a 4-year-old doesn’t need to understand his parent’s weed use—she needs to be thought of so that said use doesn’t impact her in any negative way.

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When the time feels right, maybe around age 8, It’s Just a Plant is a great kids book that explains the complicated life of marijuana in our society. You will know your child’s capacity for processing information, what makes them curious, and how much truth they can handle; let that guide you in deciding when to have the big talk. However you choose to introduce the topic, it is important that you make it very clear that just like booze, bills, and big responsibilities, weed is adult territory, and using it as an underaged person can come with many consequences. You don’t want your embrace of marijuana to look like an endorsement of juvenile consumption.

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As far as the idea of allowing them to experiment before the age of 18, the answer is no. You can empower them with information to keep them safe so that if they do choose to use weed against your wishes, they’ll have an idea what they are getting into. But letting a kid dabble in adult stuff “because I’d rather you do it at home than in the street” (as so many parents badly reason with alcohol) doesn’t mean that they won’t make terrible decisions when they get out of your sight, and it doesn’t make them mature enough to handle it either. You needn’t disown your kid for experimenting, of course, and they should feel safe admitting to you if they have—but you should not encourage or condone it.

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I like to think that just as I was able to enjoy a legal drink at a restaurant with my mom when I turned 21, my daughter and I will get to share a nice spliff when she turns 18. It may not be the first time she will have tried weed, but it will be the first time she’ll get my permission to have it. Just because we’re stoners doesn’t mean our kids need to be stoners; they get to make that choice when they’re old enough to smoke.

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From this week’s letter, I’m Still Traumatized by What a Teacher Did to Me: “I’m pretty sure he thinks he did nothing wrong, but these memories still bring tears to my eyes, 30 years later.”

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m a 13-year-old girl who is “friends” with “Stella.” Stella is crazy. Everything she does is for attention, and she will go far extremes to get it. I am in a small school with one class per grade, and everyone in our class hates her and is open about it. I understand because I hate her personality too. I’m vegetarian but she’ll say things to me like “Why don’t you eat meat?” or tell me my food has chicken in it just to get a reaction out of me. She also once told me to go away because she was talking bad about me with another kid. She has no privacy boundaries. She even went through my bag and into my pencil case without my permission, openly bragging about it to everyone in art class including me. I have asked her to stop, and she says she will, but nothing changes. She always needs to be the center of attention and she doesn’t shut up.

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Because she has this need for attention and is very insecure, she is mean. My best friend told me Stella makes her feel bad about herself, saying things like “You dress like an old lady,” or “You have more acne than I realized.” She also got one of my friends deodorant for her birthday, which is a little weird. No one likes Stella, but she still sees herself as the victim. The problem is she went through a hard time last year, telling us she was anorexic, suicidal, and developed OCD. Stella is clearly in a bad place right now as well. She also told us she steals because it’s her only outlet for her emotions, although she may have just been saying this for attention. She’s constantly claiming no one notices her or listens to her in school.

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I went to my teacher and the school counselor a few weeks ago because I was worried about Stella (I didn’t mention my dislike for her) and nothing has changed. Now, she tells us our friendship with her is the only thing keeping her from being depressed. I’m worried about her, and I’m scared to unfriend her. What should I do? I only have the rest of the year until we leave the school, but I don’t think I can tolerate her for that long.

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— Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I’m disappointed to hear that you didn’t get more support from the adults at your school when you first raised the issue. I think you should get one of your parents involved, and they should take this matter to school leadership—you have some very serious reasons to be concerned about Stella’s well-being. Furthermore, she’s trapped in a terrible cycle: Her behavior makes people dislike her, and while being disliked is hard to handle for most kids, for one who may be dealing with some mental health challenges, the stakes are even higher. This is more than you can, or should be expected to, handle on your own.

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As far as your own interactions with Stella, set boundaries for how you expect to be treated by her (or any other friend) and maintain them. Tell her how her comments and actions make you feel, and that you can’t be friends with her if they continue. You can be kind and sympathetic to her without letting her treat you poorly. Ultimately, you aren’t responsible for Stella. It’s great that you care—as you totally should—and that you want to see her having an easier time. But you also have to enjoy yourself and be comfortable at school.

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Hopefully, parental involvement will force school staff to take this matter seriously, and you’ll get some relief soon. No matter what you do, resist any urge to just be a jerk to Stella; she may need a little kindness more than you can imagine. It sounds like she may be dealing with some serious stuff within, and feeling bad can be a gateway to treating others poorly without the proper support. Anorexia, OCD, and suicidal thoughts are a lot for a kid her age to handle, and it’s not surprising that someone who’s up against all that might not have the best grasp of her behavior. Continue to keep that in mind, love. Best of luck to you, and to Stella.

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· If you missed Thursday’s column, read it here.
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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband’s mom and stepdad, “Darla and Daniel,” have a history of saying racist and homophobic things. We’ve tried calling out and “calling in,” and it seemed to help (especially after a serious conversation about the racism when BLM came up a few years ago). Part of what has helped, although it makes me feel guilty, is that after these conversations, we limit their contact with our daughter to supervised visits—no sleepovers or days spent at Nana and Papa’s.

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We thought they were working to do better, but at Easter, Daniel said some really homophobic things. My husband talked to them afterwards, at a less heated time. Things seemed better until last week when we were visiting, and Daniel used homophobic slurs that are unacceptable. I didn’t say anything in the moment because Daniel was drunk and is a volatile personality. I regret not saying anything in the moment because now my husband is avoiding having to have another talk with them.

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Our daughter is almost 4, and I don’t want her to grow up hearing these things. I know no one is perfect and we’ve had to do some learning ourselves, but I’m tired of having to be the “bad guy” when they say racist, sexist, and homophobic things. They are related to some legit White supremacists, so they compare themselves to them and think because what they say “isn’t as bad as that,” they don’t have to change. What do you think we should do? I feel like we’re just spinning our wheels. I know they love our daughter, and she loves them but every couple of months we’re having the same conversations.

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— Tired of Being the Slur Police

Dear Slur Police,

These people are racist and homophobic and do not feel a need to change, so they won’t. They may have reigned it in a little for you guys in the past, but they believe what they believe and they’re going to let that be known on a regular basis, it seems. I think you should talk to your husband about cutting them off all together. Perhaps if more people faced such serious consequences for their bigotry, it wouldn’t be so commonplace. Furthermore, your daughter is getting older, and she’s going to be confused by the “Do as I say, not as your grandparents do” approach to bigotry. Cut these losers off and let them wallow in the pain of not getting to spend time with their grandbaby, maybe that will inspire some soul searching.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My oldest son, “Michael” (26), recently sent an e-mail to both me and my husband that said he no longer wished to have any contact with me. His principal complaint is that I “don’t respect him” because I “never remember his name.” I have severe Prosopagnosia. I can’t even reliably recognize my own face in the mirror, and have a lot of trouble recognizing people without intense study. So, while I can remember that Michael is the oldest of my three children, when I came down the stairs and looked in the living room, I often couldn’t tell if the person sitting in the chair was Michael or one of his siblings. And yes, I would guess wrong on numerous occasions. And I always apologize when I get it wrong and am generally ashamed of how I can’t manage something that seems so simple to everyone else. I want to fix this. I do love my son, and I want to tell him that I care for him and do respect him. But my last few attempts to do so before this e-mail just made things worse, and now he doesn’t want to hear from me at all. How can I fix this?

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— Wanting to Reconnect

Dear Wanting,

I am so sorry that you’re having to deal with both your condition and your son’s lack of compassion for how it impacts you. If you haven’t already, consider sitting down with your children, your husband, and your doctor, who can best explain to your loved ones how Prosopagnosia impacts you and can answer any questions they may have. Once the reality of your symptoms is made clear to your son, how he reacts to them is a reflection on him—not on you, how you raised him, or your feelings for him. I can imagine that it is devastating not to be recognized by someone as close to you as your own mother. However, for him to frame that as a lack of respect is confounding, cruel even, especially since we are talking about a grown man, not a child. In fact, it is so mean-spirited that it makes me wonder if his issues with you run deeper than you let on in your letter—perhaps something for you to reflect upon. That said, if your disability really is the root of his behavior, you certainly don’t deserve to be treated that way, and if he cannot summon enough empathy and compassion for you to treat you with kindness, it may be best that you don’t communicate regularly until he rectifies that. I hope that your husband has been a champion of yours and will help your son to understand the grave error of his ways. Sending you lots of love.

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— Jamilah

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