When I first told my daughter about marijuana and the role it played in our lives, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. There were nights I couldn’t sleep trying to think it through. If I hadn’t made my living slinging stories about weed I don’t think the subject would have ever come up. I would have happily been doing bongs hits in the bedroom until she was old enough to steal pot from my sock drawer.
But as she got older social media began to entangle everything. The early Internet was good at exposing lies and promoting them in equal measure so the digitized world was fertile ground for cannabis activism and a dark dirty place to raise a kid. From a worried parent’s point of view, in the early aughts the Internet was as frightening as it was unavoidable.
As a public-facing High Times executive my name kept popping up on the Google, and as an accommodating stoner who rarely said no, cell-phone videos of me getting high in the strangest places began to appear with increasing frequency on YouTube. It dawned on me that the same new technology which allowed me to track my daughter on her way home from school was also very anxious to tell her too who her father really was. It was only a matter of time. Probably sooner rather than later.
So starting with a chess game on a snowy evening I began to ease her into the truth from a very young age – around seven – not because I thought it was a good idea, but because I thought I didn’t have a choice. Half-jokingly, I called it “My little social experiment…”
“We’ll see how it works out?”
If you ever want to get your child’s undivided attention, tell them you’re about to say something you’re not supposed to say. Kids know that grown ups keep all kinds of secrets and prizing those secrets from our lips is the collective goal of children all over the planet.
“I’m not supposed to say this,” I said, “but I don’t want to lie to you…”
And I think her ears literally perked up.
When I said those words off the top of my head I saw on her face how seriously she took my meaning. I accidentally stumbled onto one of the best deals I would ever make with my daughter:
“I won’t lie to you, and you won’t lie to me,” I said, and she solemnly nodded her head. “I’ll tell you the truth, but you can’t repeat this in school, okay? I mean it. This isn’t Jamaica, kid. There are people here who don’t like what I do, but I’m proud of it. You gotta do what you think is right, no matter what anyone else says.”
I could tell she liked that answer.
I was so afraid of the marijuana conversation. I’d say it was Catholic Guilt but I had good reason to be frightened. At the time, in New Jersey, they took your kids away for this sort of thing. I would walk on these eggshells until she was eighteen, but it was worth it. The dreaded marijuana conversation, when it finally came about, provided my daughter and me with an extra-layer of honesty between us that we would not have had otherwise. She learned from this example that I wouldn’t lie to her even when it was difficult to tell her the truth. And that made telling me the truth something more special for her. There was a deal between dad and daughter now. Secretly, owing to cannabis, we would clasp hands under the table. It’s a very useful plant.
There’ll be a day, Dylan…” I promised, “but for now it’s a family secret.”