My 9-Year-Old Saw Me Smoking Pot

by Alyssa McBryant
Originally Published: 
A close-up of a pink-haired woman's mouth, exhaling smoke.

I smoke pot — for a lot of reasons. It helps my chronic mental health conditions by alleviating my anxiety and helping me de-stress. It treats the muscle aches that often accompany that anxiety. Marijuana helps me sleep at night; marijuana helps me be a more fun parent. It also helps me calm down in situations — like crowds — that would normally cause me to freeze. It makes me more talkative and entertaining. Pot also helps me enjoy life more.

Basically, I smoke pot because smoking pot makes me all around better at acting human.

We know this is true. Pot has been proven to help people with mental illnesses, including sleep disturbances, according to Psychiatric Times. It “significantly reduces anxiety and stress” in clinical studies, according to CannaMD. Plenty of mothers smoke pot, and it’s now legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia; another 15 states have decriminalized it. That means that in half of the United States, the possession or ingestion of a small amount of marijuana is no longer more than a traffic ticket — if that.

So when the massive moving dino exhibit came to town, I knew what was going to happen. I hate things like this. They’re dark. They’re full of screaming children. They’re crowded. My kids want to stay forever and bore me with esoteric prehistoric details that — judge me all you want — I couldn’t care less about. Then there’s screaming bouncy houses and a gift shop and bright lights and loud sounds and everything is super overwhelming and stressful and I sort of freak out.

My husband didn’t say, “You should smoke pot before we go.” He didn’t say, “Maybe you should vape.” He just handed me the vape pen of medicinal-grade marijuana. He knew how I was going to react to this thing, and that if I was going to have a decent time, I needed some help.

I shut my bedroom door. I shut my bathroom door. Unfortunately, I forgot to lock it.

Mayara Klingner / EyeEm/Getty

I also had music playing. So while I was taking hits, I didn’t hear my son open the bedroom door, then open the bathroom door. I was in mid-inhale when he busted down the door and demanded to pee.

There was no way to cover this up. I couldn’t disguise the fact that I was holding something, that it was a small cartridge, and that smoke was coming out of my mouth.

Oh. Fuck.

As soon as I exhaled, I started yelling about bathroom privacy. He said he was sorry — the other bathroom was being used. I retorted that I didn’t care if the Lord Jesus told him to come in and get a shard of the True Cross, you knock on the goddamn door when it’s shut.

And now I have no fucking clue what to do.

He’s nine. He knows he saw something he shouldn’t have seen. But I’m not sure he knows exactly what it is.

I have two major options. I can pretend my kid didn’t see me smoke pot. Or I can talk about it.

Pretending it never happened has its advantages. It means I never have to answer any fucking questions about whether or not mama actually does smoke pot. Which happens to be illegal where we live. Let’s face it: I don’t really want my 9-year-old walking around with the knowledge that I toke up. Because we all know how 9-year-olds are. I know what kind of 9-year-old I was. A pot-smoking mom’s the kind of juicy secret you can’t wait to tell your friends. “Dude, I totally saw my mom smoke pot,” would be the first thing I said to my BFF as soon as I got her alone. In fact, I’d tell my friends this story for years.

Moreover, if I don’t discuss it, I don’t have to explain it. “Well, I decided to smoke pot that afternoon because I hate the goddamn dinosaurs and it was the only way I’d get through it without killing all of you” isn’t exactly the kind of thing you want to tell your kids. I also don’t want to explain what a vape pen is, where the vape pen came from, where the pot comes from (since it’s illegal), where we keep it, etc.

Too much information all the way around.

At the same time, am I missing out on an important learning experience?

My son definitely saw something. He knows he saw something. I know he saw something. Ignoring it is nothing short of disingenuous. When I don’t say anything about it, I’m telling him I don’t trust him, that I don’t think he’s old enough to understand certain things, and I’m leaving him to draw his own conclusions. Which — who the hell knows what they are? Does he think I was smoking tobacco? We’ve talk about that, and I’ve said I smoke cigarettes on occasion, but this was clearly not a cigarette.

We’ve also talked about drugs before, and he knows that we think it’s stupid that marijuana is illegal. He knows it can be used to treat illnesses, and that it’s legal in some places. He knows I’ve smoked pot in the past (in the before time — in the long long ago, before children). And there’s the double standard here too — if my son had seen me sipping a glass of wine, it would have been no big deal.

So maybe I ought to open a dialogue about it. Ask him how he feels about seeing me smoke pot. Maybe he’s trying to work it out in his head. Does he have some fears about it? Does he worry that I get high all the time? Does he worry that we’re going to get caught by the police? Does he want to (gulp) try it for himself, and is he going to go looking for it (possibly finding my vibrator and all kinds of other illicit items in the process)? Does he have questions, in general, about why I smoke pot, questions that I could honestly answer that would help him understand things better?

Can I trust a 9 year-old with this sort of thing? If he were 12, the answer would be a no-brainer: I’d open a dialogue. If he were seven, I’d feel like I had the opposite easy answer: definitely pretend it never happened. But nine is tricky. Nine is tough. Nine is halfway between child and teen, when you’re just starting to be independent, just starting to ask hard questions and wonder about the world around you. So I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do with this one.

Right now, I’m putting my fingers in my ears and pretending it never happened. If I keep on doing it long enough, I suppose I will have made the decision without really making it, so I need to step up and do it for real. My husband and I need to have a long conversation, weigh the pros and cons, and maybe sit our son down for a talk. Or maybe not. I don’t know.

But I do know this: I wish that bathroom door didn’t jimmy open so easily.

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