Friday, July 22, 2011
Yes, kids, Grandma does drugs
There’s no planning for an event like Grandma’s Big Talk On Drugs, but I’ve been waiting for the opportunity for a while now as my oldest grandchildren close in on the teen years.
The chance came on Monday, while I was driving four of my five grandsons home to the Comox Valley after a couple weeks of Island travel and camping.
The oldest two are 11 and 12, and well familiar with kids not much older than them using alcohol and illegal drugs. I knew there’d be a moment one day soon when I could jump in with a word or two on the subject.
I don’t know how it came up - not at my behest, that’s for sure, because the only hope you’ve got of getting a fledgling adolescent to hear you is if you wait for them to bring something up. At any rate, one of the boys said something about drug use, and all of a sudden the door opened.
As was the case when I was their age, my two oldest grandsons are surrounded by people who drink and use illegal drugs. I was 13 when I smoked my first joint, introduced to it by a school pal whose older brother was a teenage science whiz cranking out acid for eager buyers.
I’d already started drinking to get drunk by that point, which I would continue with great enthusiasm for the next three years. I know my mother will be deeply embarrassed that I’m admitting such a thing, but Mom, it’s not your fault. I just came of age in the ‘70s.
My grandsons’ generation have had the added impact of being completely immersed in cultural references to drug use, from TV shows to movies to Web sites like YouTube. This is the generation that can check out photos of their dopey older cousin with a joint in his mouth just by clicking on his Facebook site. No kid today grows up in a vacuum about drugs.
So I figure the options are to either have a frank conversation to prepare kids for those intense teen years, or assume responsibility for sending the poor little sods into high-risk territory without a lick of sense to fall back on.
I have fairly vivid memories of being that kid, teenage drug use being something that my parents’ generation simply hadn’t considered much. In the end, nothing too bad happened to me. But that was sheer luck.
I always wanted better for my own kids and grandkids - and yours. But I fear that in the 40 years since my generation was being scared with bad-acid movies in guidance class, “just say no” still prevails as the central message to young people. It remains an important message, of course, but hardly the only one.
Years ago a young relative of mine, in Grade 6 at the time, pinned a “Just Say No” poster from a school presentation to his bedroom door, declaring with conviction that he would never use drugs. It hung there for years, through the earnest times and on into irony.
Like me, and maybe you, he has grown into a good and responsible person despite having used drugs as a teen. Most people do. Would it kill us to mention that to our kids once in a while?
My grandsons wanted to know if it was true that crack and crystal meth were addictive after just one use, and whether I agreed that heroin was the worst drug of all. I parsed that first answer carefully, wanting to stress what rotten drugs crack and crystal meth are without portraying them as instant tickets to doom.
Heroin - well, that took a little longer, and gave me the chance to talk about the drug with the most catastrophic potential, alcohol. “Alcohol is a drug?” asked the 11-year-old with much surprise.
As for marijuana, what’s left to say? It’s not a harmless drug, but most B.C. kids over the age of five could probably name that scent what with so many of their parents and grandparents still smoking the stuff. I settled for telling the boys that some studies have found chronic, heavy marijuana use during adolescence is detrimental to brain function.
I doubt they’ll retain much of our talk, but I hope they got my point about making informed choices should it come to that. Kids, just say know.