Monday, June 7, 2010

Marijuana in Moderation -- Parents, Do You Agree?

I picked up a copy of Family Circle Magazine at the grocery store the other day looking for some new recipes to make. As I was flipping through the magazine, an article caught my eye: High Season, by Michael Winerip. I began to read with interest, having a college student and 5 others in their teens and younger. What are they going to be faced with? How can we be more proactive in helping them to avoid the circumstances that may lead to disaster? Those were some of the questions I had as I began to read.

To my surprise and dismay, what I found in the article was a lesson on dismissal of dangerous behaviors and acceptance of abuse in moderation. In showcasing one family's struggle with a child's marijuana abuse, the father, a medical doctor, states, "I thought she [his wife, also a medical doctor] was overreacting...After all, kids experiment." This family didn't even wage a battle against the secular issues involved here -- like teaching the child right from wrong, respect for the law, respect for themselves, etc. It seems they abdicated their responsibilities as parents long before marijuana ever became a problem.

When fathers and mothers begin their parenting from the perspective that "kids are going to do what kids are going to do", they've summarily given up. They have admitted defeat before the enemy is even in the camp, and have handed over their prisoners before there is even an engagement. They have denied their children one of the most fundamental needs in their lives -- parents who will protect them from harm.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this with regard to family relationships according to the 4th Commandment:
The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task. (CCC, 2205)
Parents, in living out their duty to love, nurture and educate their children, are a reflection of God's work of creation. That is no small comparison. Parents have a responsibility to their children, just as children have a right to be parented. They are not little adults who need to experiment to find and make their way in the world. They are given living, breathing, thinking parents who are supposed to be the voice of wisdom and reason to help them learn and grow to be good people -- not just happy people, but GOOD people.

The Commandments are the foundation upon which we develop a life of virtue (society would have us call them values). Without a strong grounding in what is right and wrong that is clearly defined by parents/guardians and in keeping with the common good of society, children live in a state of entropy. The chaos they encompass and often create as a result of having to make their own way without appropriate guidance can be catastrophic to their futures, and to their families.

It is important to recognize that some children, no matter the level of nurturing and involvement, will balk against obedience to their parents, but they are the exception not the norm. Most children desire, even crave, boundaries. Children need those boundaries to help them navigate the pitfalls that relativistic society presents. They need us to be wise, experienced parents who can help them be good by means of our own personal example. We may have made mistakes, but we can't rationalize our mistake by expecting the same of our children. We are supposed to learn from those mistakes and teach our children how NOT to make them.

Winerip goes on to say:
Trying to teach moderation to my kids has been the toughest challenge I've faced as a parent. If I'd had my way with the boys, there would have been absolutely no pot while they were in high school. I didn't start until college and smoked my last joint well before they were born.
If parents are complacent, even permissive, with regard to illegal and dangerous behaviors, children will learn that their parents don't care. Of course a child will experiment if the parents don't teach them that "sense gratification" on any level is not to be lauded. "If it makes you feel good, just do it" is a very frightening mantra for parents to espouse in this day and age, even in moderation.

Children are precious gifts from God, this we must never forget. Parenting is the hardest and most rewarding job on the face of the planet -- another thing that is critical to remember. Our children deserve better than a complacent attitude from their parents. They need us to be role models of virtue, as well as good citizens. They need us to teach them, love them and provide for their needs, not necessarily all their sensory wants.

The book of Sirach sums up pretty well the family dynamic that will lead to life:
Children, pay heed to a father's right; do so that you may live. For the LORD sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons. (Sir 3: 1-2)
Our children deserve better than a "marijuana in moderation" attitude from their parents.


Peony Moss said...

I'm just sitting here with my mouth open. All I can think of is blogger Katie Allison Granju's essay from last month, in which she tells the story of her son's admitting to smoking pot at the age of 14. She concludes:

Four years later, with my child fighting for his life in the hospital after a drug related brain injury, what would I have done differently after that first admission that he was smoking pot? In the most general sense, I would have taken it a hell of a lot more seriously. I would have assumed that any time a 14 year old is experimenting with drugs, we are looking at a potentially serious problem that needs proactive, immediate and ongoing intervention. I am not saying that every 14 year old smoking pot is a drug addict or will become a drug addict, but NO 14 year old needs to be using drugs. Period.

Katie's son's experimentation with marijuana led to harder drugs. He couldn't kick his habit even after an eight-month inpatient rehab program.

About two months ago, he was savagely beaten in what was probably a drug deal gone wrong. He was able to make it to the home of some "friends", where he overdosed. His "friends" didn't bother to call for help until several hours had gone by. By that time his brain had suffered a severe anoxic injury. After two months of struggle, he succumbed to his devastating injuries last week. He was buried on Saturday. He was barely 18 years old.

On a side note, I wonder if the parents in the Family Circle article would have been so complacent if their kid had been experimenting with cigarettes instead of pot?

Kathy said...


Thanks for the comment. How horrible for Katie's son and for her family. The Family Circle Article touches upon talking to your child and applying age appropriate disciplines, but in the very next breath, you have the author talking about how those disciplines don't work. So...

It really was a "what's the big deal" piece, in my opinion. I was disappointed.

Darby said...

Wow. I think you (or Peony) should submit a letter to the editor of Family Circle pointing out Katie Allison Granju's tragic story. It is terribly heartbreaking and certainly delivers the answer to 'what's the big deal' with a striking blow!

I know parents who feel the same way about their children engaging in sex outside of marriage. One woman I know used to put condoms in her teenage boys' Christmas stockings. She knew they were 'doing it' and she wanted to make sure they were 'safe'.

Someone else I know allowed her teenage son's girlfriend to sleep with him in his bedroom in their home. He was going to do it anyway so, at least this way she knew where he was at night.

Imagine intentionally placing your child's soul in jeopardy. Not to mention your own.

Kathy said...


I have been present at any number of conversations where moms express their desire to get their teen daughters contraceptives the moment they start their cycles. What does that say about their relationships with their daughters; what does it say about their ability to parent? No one is perfect and our children will all make mistakes. You can be the best parent in the world and have a child that resists all you hope to teach. But, that doesn't mean we are not responsible for planting those seeds and attempting to parent with our children's souls in mind. God help us if we are the ones making it possible for them to sin.

Inappropriately Mad Dad 48 said...

I have used marijuana for 30 years, am a God fearing man, husband of 19 years, father for 14. When my daughter was 11 she used marijuana and alcohol with friends (I had quit 2 years prior, and she never knew we did it when she was young, it was not out lives, just something for certain evenings instead of wine).
I took the Parent Project, which is designed to help parents deal with adolescents who mis-behave like this.... The Parent Project is co-designed and modified each year by the 10,000 or so parents who participate and tell what works and what doesn't. So, it's a good course that evolves along the lines of what works, not along moral considerations.
My daughter is very clear that she is not allowed to use marijuana until she is older (I've told her her brain is still developing and she should wait until she is 23, but she's taken hold of the 12-step communitiy, and even tho she's never been an addict, if she doesn't use until she's older, that's fine with me! 12-step away!)
Parents, regardless of their use history, must insure their children are loved and safe. We decided no use is acceptable while she is a minor (wife and I decided), and our daughter understands we love her, and if she breaks this rule, everything she cares about will be taken away for no longer than 7 days (only reading and drawing allowed). We've levied TSPOT's for other rules being broken, but she hasn't gone back to pot, and that is important to me.

Kathy said...

IMD48 -- I salute you for trying to be proactive with your daughter. Please remember that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit that deserve respect. We also have the ability to reason and understand right and wrong. If marijuana is illegal, which it still is in this country, then anyone who grows it, sells it or uses it is in violation of the law. That is another behavior your daughter may learn from you.

Anonymous said...

I was raised Catholic but after being humiliated and ridiculed for the last 18 years for keeping drugs away from my own kids by the parishoners of that same church I have had enough. When it becomes WRONG to teach your kids right from wrong then the Catholic church is the problem. Every priest I have spoken with about this subject has told me that I am being judgemental for keeping my kids away from the influence of drugs, the people who use them, the people who promote them and the places that have them. Good luck trying to keep you kids from marijuana when the church has changed stance one what was once considered a grave sin but is now completely acceptable.