Cover Story: Father, Like Son

Pot smoke wafts across the generation gap

Jan 15, 2003 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

"Here, pass that joint on over here."

"Sure, Dad. Man, you rolled this way too tight. It keeps going out."

"Sorry, son. Next time, let's use the pipe."

"That would be cool — I really get stoned that way."

"Yeah, me too."

And then I woke up in a cold sweat. This was a dream, a nightmare I had a few years ago.

It wasn't real, it wasn't really happening — at least not yet.

I know what sparked the nightmare. I remember a discussion with my son, who said, "I know parents who get high with their kids." I think my reply was, "I won't be one of them."

But the reality is I'm no stranger to pot. Been there — still doing that.

I'm a man in my late 40s, a product of the late 1960s and early '70s. I'm an old hippie who still believes in flower power, peace and love. I've smoked grass for years, and you're not going to change my approach, my attitude or my habits now. I'm just too damn old.

While I never really made a secret of smoking a little and while it's just fine for me to be doing it, please understand that when it came to my son, my feelings were not exactly the same.

His mother and I divorced more than eight years ago, and my son has been living with me for the past four. When he moved in, he was a bit rebellious, pretty headstrong and did things his own way. He was a chip off the old block and sometimes it scared the hell out of me.

I suspected he was smoking pot when he was 16. Sometimes I would walk past his room when the door was closed and smell that distinctive odor. Despite the fact that I also started smoking a little weed when I was that age, suspecting that he was doing the same thing bothered me and I decided we needed to talk about it.

I always made the attempt to keep the discussions on friendly terms, trying not to accuse him of doing something horrible or something that was going to ruin his life. I would, however, talk about it being an illegal substance, the possibility of it leading to harder drugs and the fact that I sometimes did it didn't make it right.

My son always listened to what I had to say, and I don't think we ever fought during any of these discussions. But they also didn't stop that distinctive odor from coming out of his room. Yep, definitely a chip off the old block.

It's now sometime later, and in a few months my son will be 19 years old. Now that he is almost a grown man, it's a bit easier to talk about weed. He says that he's glad I knew about it and, while "every kid is different," he thinks maybe my low-key approach with him was the right one. But — maybe — I also needed to keep things in better perspective.

"Shouldn't you be more concerned about me wanting to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol?" he says. "That's the bad stuff — not pot."

The fact is I was and still am concerned about all of it.

When it comes to raising kids, I think parents just have to pick their battles and do the best they can. With the pot issue, I tried to keep it on a low burner. My thinking was that making a big deal out of it would have made it just that. I don't think he would have stopped; it would just be something to hide from me — and in my view, that's far worse.

I know I'm his father, but I think my son is a good guy. He'll be starting college soon and has a part-time job that he takes seriously. He talks to me about his future, things he wants to be doing. When he goes out with his friends, he always lets me know where he is and what time he'll be home. He respects all the people in his life and is a genuinely friendly young man.

And smoking grass is all he does. He admits that some of his friends have experimented with other drugs. But while he finds the high off weed "enticing," he has no desire to try anything else.

"I don't want to take something that could kill me," he says. "Weed is safe. Some of my friends just aren't thinking."

Weed is not something that consumes his life or mine. It isn't necessary to get high every day, every week or even every month. Our approach is pretty much the same as it would be for "legal" highs like alcohol. We control the habit — it doesn't control us.

Sometimes I think back to that dream I had a few years ago and realize that someday my son and I will probably smoke a joint together. Someday. I'm not nearly ready for it. So often when I look at him, I still see that kid who watched Mr. Rogers on television and who played with his Lincoln Logs for hours on end. How can I possibly light up a joint with him? He's my little boy, and I think he understands how I still sometimes see him that way.

Besides my problem of not wanting him to grow up, I'm going to trust that appearance he has of good values and common sense. I'm going to try to feel good about being honest with him about my feelings but not screaming them in his face. I want to think I did the right thing when it came to dealing with pot and other stuff that has happened in our life together. But how can a parent ever be sure of anything?

The real truth is at this point either I've raised him right or I haven't. I'm thinking — I'm hoping — I did just fine. ©