Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mom, Are You Friends With Smokers?

The other day, the wee ones and I were out shopping.  As Mister Man returned the cart to the row of carts, Little Miss and I waited for him in the vestibule between the store and the outdoors.  She turned to me, her nose wrinkling, and said, "It stinks in here, Mommy. I can tell lots of people have been smoking by here.  Are you friends with people who smoke?"

Are you friends with smokers?

I stopped for a minute.  She was right; it did stink.  I personally am not a smoker.  The smell nauseates me, to be perfectly frank.  My dad smoked heavily for years and years, and I used to dream about the day when I owned my own car and house and could tell him he wasn't allowed to smoke there.  Fortunately for all of us, he quit smoking before I graduated college (for good this time), so I never had to have those confrontations.

My goal - for a whole lot of reasons - is for the wee ones to dislike smoking as much as I do and to never have any interest in even trying it.  So far so good, right?  Little Miss hates the smell of smoke.  But this question isn't as straightforward as it seems.

I have this thing about lying to the wee ones.  I just flat out don't like to do it.  It makes me feel wrong, and I don't want them to look at our conversations in three or five years and say "whatever, my mom just tells us what she wants us to think.  She's a hypocrite, and I'm not going to listen."

So I took a deep breath.

Well, Little Miss, I said, not sure how this was going to turn out, I'm going to tell you that I'd give you a very different answer now or when you're in high school or college than I would if you were an adult. When you're in high school and college, the people who smoke there tend to define themselves by the fact that they smoke.  They hang around with other people who smoke, and they want their friends to be like them - helping them justify their own choices and feel good about them - by smoking, too.

When you're an adult, smoking may be something you do, but it typically isn't what defines you.  You have so many more interests and hobbies and facets of your personality. (Why yes, I do use unusual words when talking to the wee ones. It helps build their vocabularies.)  You care less whether the people you're friends with do the same things and think the exact same way you do.  If you're a smoker when you're an adult, it's more something you do rather than something that defines you.

I'll be honest with you that I do have a few friends who smoke.  But I don't hang around them when they're smoking.  They don't ask me if I want to smoke.  I don't like the fact that they smoke, but I'm friends with them because they're good people who care about me, and I care about them.

When you're in high school, if you're friends with smokers... it's far more likely that they're going to try to get you to start smoking, too.  And we both know you don't want to smoke because it's gross.  And it's expensive.  And it makes you sick.  If you have friends in high school or college who smoke, the only times they have to smoke are likely to also be the only times you have to hang out with them, so you're going to be around all that smoke, and you'll smell like you smoke, too.

So no, if I were in high school or college, I wouldn't be friends with someone who smokes.  As an adult, I do have some friends who smoke.  Does that make sense, Peanut?

And with big eyes, she looked up at me and nodded.  Smoking is gross.  I hope none of my friends ever do it.  Because then I wouldn't want to be friends with them anymore.

And internally, I heaved a sigh of relief.  At least for now, Little Miss gets it.  And I'll keep reinforcing this message.  I hate having to give her shades of grey answers, but life is like that way too often.  I just hope by the time she has to figure out where in the land of grey she stands, she's mature enough to get it.

How would you have answered this question had it been your child asking it?


Lisa Hanneman July 25, 2012 at 11:20 AM  

I probably would have just said 'no way!" But that's because I have a 3 year old... His latest question was "Do bad guys say jerk?" My answer? "Probably."

Houseonahillorg July 25, 2012 at 3:39 PM  

I have always been thoughtfully, brutally honest about everything - its just who I am... I even let them know about...ur uh Santa... I think I should, because I am an air-head and I won't remember a fabrication anyhow! Luckily my boys, now teens, don't remember any of it - funny how that works...we could be saying just about anything! All they remember is whether they were safe and loved :-D

Unknown Mami July 25, 2012 at 5:39 PM  

I dislike smoking very much. I grew up and many people that I went to school took up the habit of smoking, but I never did. I think that I'm fortunate because California banned smoking in so many places, that I just feel spoiled. When I go places where smoking is more the norm, I'm astounded.

Sandra July 25, 2012 at 11:23 PM  

I feel the same way about smoking as you do, and I feel the same way about lying as you do. So, I think your answer was BRILLIANT. It was honest, truthful, *and* educational, and said in a way that Little Miss can understand. Kudos to you, Mama!

Amanda@HighImpactMom July 27, 2012 at 4:41 PM  

Oh boy. They're always asking the hard questions aren't they?

Pat July 29, 2012 at 9:58 AM  

I think you gave Little Miss an excellent and truthful answer. I hadn't thought about this before, but I actually don't have any friends who smoke. Off the top of my head, I can't even think of anyone I know who smokes. My dad smoked all my growing up years, and I didn't like it at all. He tried 5 times to quit and finally was successful when he saw a dark spot on an x-ray of his lungs when he was 50-something. Both my m-i-l and f-i-l died of smoking-caused illnesses (lung cancer and deteriorated lung disease), so Jerry never smoked, either.

tiarastantrums July 31, 2012 at 8:15 AM  

my kiddos know the issues you presented to your little gal already. Sadly, my brother smokes, so we visited that issue awhile ago, grrr.

Michelle July 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM  

Lisa - The answers definitely change as your children get older, don't they? I love his question about jerks!

Dwana - I'm with you. I try not to be *brutal* in my honesty, but I probably am anyway. Safe and loved is by FAR the most important.

Unknown Mami - Yes, Illinois has, too. It's so odd to me to sometimes go places that do allow smoking inside. It throws me for a loop. I used to love going to CA before Illinois banned it for just that reason.

Sandra - Aww thanks. I'm hoping it's an effective answer. That's the key.

Amanda - Ummm yes. It doesn't seem to stop. You don't want to know about the conversation we had around slavery a few years ago.

Pat - I have very, very few. In fact, I can only think of one - and it's someone who hides it. My dad was like you, although thankfully it didn't take the spot on his lung.

Teresa - I wonder if it weren't better in a way to have someone around us who does smoke so we can explain more clearly why it's bad. But... then we'd have to really deal with it ;) Here's hoping they don't ever take up smoking.

Nina August 8, 2012 at 9:39 PM  

I probably would have said, "I do know some people who smoke, and while I don't like that they smoke, I like everything else about them. I don't hang around them when they smoke though because it smells and makes me sick and unhealthy."

Brooke August 9, 2012 at 9:14 AM  

I hope that they just keep driving the prices up on those cigarettes so that it becomes something that very few can afford!!!

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog August 10, 2012 at 12:49 PM  

Here's an even worse one: My husband smokes. It drives me insane. It angers the kids. He "says" he doesn't want to do it anymore (he's quit a few times), but still does.

Answering those questions when it's their own father, and they know that it causes cancer and other lung/health issues is difficult.

But I'm honest. And I'm also honest that I USED to smoke. And that I quit. And that ANYONE can quit, but some people have a harder time breaking free from the addiction. All we can do is hope and support him in trying to quit. We can't actually MAKE him do it.

It sucks.

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