It’s a beautiful afternoon. Our friends came to see our new chickens, and we delayed doing homework. We said goodbye and walked back toward the house.
Declan picked a handful of tall grass. He put it in his mouth.
“Don’t put plants in your mouth” I said.
“Vegetables are plants, are you saying not to eat vegetables?” I wish he wanted to be a negotiator not a paleontologist. There’s more money in that.
Most of us have edible lawns–full of things like purslane, lamb’s quarters, amaranth, dandelions, wood sorrel–all sorts of tasty greens I eat from the garden when they pop up but avoid in the lawn where they come with a side dish of fertilizer or dog pee. I try to teach the boy plant safety.
“Just don’t eat it.” I don’t have to give a reason. I’m the mom. I can make up any rule I want.
“I’m not eating it, Mom. I’m smoking weed.” He began to sing what I thought was Snoop Dogg–something about smoking weed every day. Or was it Wiz Khalifa? I remember I fell in love with “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” and “Like a Virgin” when I was young. They didn’t seem as shocking. Cher had cool hair and Madonna ruled the world.
“What?” I don’t smoke. We once had a neighbor who did. Declan thought he was on fire. Where was this song and concept coming from?
“I’m smoking weed.”
These are critical moments in parenting. If a kid suspects something’s a big deal, that’s the monster you’ll be fighting the next ten years. This is true for toddlers, teens or tweens. Reaction time is everything–kids have a built-in radar for parental blood pressure.
The trick is to act unamused leaning toward slightly apathetic or bored. He’ll move on to something more benign.
“Where’d’ya hear that?” I asked. Surely not on the school bus playlist?
He put the grass back in his mouth. “YouTube.”
This is all my fault. Parental supervision error, loophole in safety mode–like when he was curious about the parts of the body and learned them by googling “penes.” Time for a readjustment in permissions. Gone are the good old days when we sent kids out to play for twenty hours and they came back safely with a frog. Now they’re learning to smoke weed and googling “p-e-n-e-s.” twenty feet from our faces. Always the helpful companion, Google asked, “Did you mean penis?” I used to be Google’s friend. Now it’s my arch-parenting-nemesis.
“Get that out of your mouth. It’s grass.” I tossed it to the ground.
“Then I’m smoking grass…Why can’t I smoke weed?” he asked.
The conversation was going downhill fast. Sometimes a parent has to pull out the big guns–honesty.
“Smoking isn’t nice. It gives you black lungs and makes you cough and die. You could burn down the forest and you put chemicals in your lungs.” Since Google and YouTube got me into this mess it’s their responsibility to get me out. I googled “black lung” and played a lung cancer video on YouTube.
I wonder if Snoop would make a kids’ record? Something catchy, and slightly educational with a spin on “Make your bed,” “Don’t grow up to be a G,” “Be respectful to ladies.” Something I can get behind…There’s still time. Most really bad behavior doesn’t start until middle school.
After medical YouTube, we took a walk through the garden. “You like grass?” I asked. “Here. Try this.” We grew a big bucket of wheatgrass.
He tried a piece and spit it out. “The other grass was better.” That’s what I was afraid of.
“Try this lettuce.” There are many more green things to enjoy.
“That’s disgusting, too.”
“Want to try some more vegetables, or are you ready to go in and do your math?” Math being a better alternative than eating homegrown healthy food, we walked back to the house, Snoop silenced by the chatter of a seven-year old changing the subject to bugs.