Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pretzel Sticks Are Too Salty to Be Cigarettes

It's nearly 11 and I'm still in my jammies, which I only put on when I woke up. I was too lazy to deal with a change of clothes last night. Living up to my slackstress title is so trying.

The kids are fighting. Pigtails wants to vacuum. She thinks it's a toy. The Lawyer is playing basketball in the house with a ball that isn't Nerf but not exactly regulation. Cheeks is talking gibberish to himself while taking shots at the small mesh pockets in the tent with a mushy mini-basketball that his sister bit a chunk out of.

Oh well. I'm ignoring everyone and writing. Nothing new there. Adam is outside smoking his weekend wake-up cigarette. Nothing new there either.

... which brings me to the topic of my children knowing their father smokes. For a long time I tried to shield them from it. (Hey, didn't I chain smoke three cloves at the hookah bar last night? I was alone. It was an indulgence. An assertion that I'm still me before being a mom. Still independent enough to make stupid, unhealthful choices. Still cool enough to throw caution to the wind, along with a few fragrant plumes of smoke. Sound the hypocrite alert?)

Without going into to much explanation, eventually I relaxed my rigid rules and stop relegating my husband to the garage when he puffs on his beloved Camels. Now he leaves the garage door open when he smokes and asks the children to go inside until he's done his "break."

The kids aren't stupid, though. They may be young but they know what's going on. When they ask me where dad is and I say, "He's having a break," they know exactly what mommy's referring to.

"Oh, you mean he's outside smoking," The Lawyer clarifies.

"No, he's just having a break," I un-clarify.

"No. He's smoking. Why don't you just tell the truth? That's what you tell me to do."

Point taken.

So, if my children know their daddy is a regular, one pack a day addicted smoker, where do we draw the line with their inclusion in the circle trust (or TMIL - too much information loop)? Should they light his cigarettes for him? (I just threw that in there to incite reaction, to goad you on. Obviously I would never allow that. I'm being dramatic, something I've never, ever done before for attention. Me? Neva'.)

Should I allow them to pretend they're smoking while salty pretzel sticks jut from their pouty mouths like extra long Virginia Slims? Well, when it actually happened, when all three were on the front lawn on a picnic blanket pretending to light each other's pretzel sticks, I promptly, sternly asked them to stop. I was disgusted. My daughter often tells me she's going outside to "have a smoke." It's really gone too far. Way too far.

"Why would you want to pretend to smoke? Smoking hurts people," I said, hoping the neighbors hadn't noticed my pediatric trio of would-be smokers.

"Because Daddy does," Cheeks replied.

"Yeah, because Daddy smokes. Daddy smokes cig-wets," Pigtails confirmed.

How sad. But really, how sad? As the teachers at Cheeks progressive preschool say time and time again, "Life is not a fairy tale." In some cases, children should know the truth, even if it isn't laced with powdered sugar sprinkles and rainbow jimmies. Is this a truth they should know? All signs point to no. But I'm afraid it's too late. At least their father doesn't smoke near them or in the house. We don't want to endanger their health. I even force him to change his shirt when he holds them.

Yes, children, your parents are human. They are real people. They make mistakes. They made choices that aren't always right. They aren't the poster people for perfection.

Just last week I hid outside cloaked in darkness in the front yard with my mom friend. We sneaked cloves in front of the bushes, like a couple of kids hiding from the camp counselors, doing something bad. Something that could get us sent home from camp if we were found out. And you know what? It felt good. Really good. Really freeing. Really adventurous. Again, how sad? Maybe not so sad after all.

It felt good until my daughter peeped through the mail slot and saw me.

-- To my older and only sister: I hope your quitting experiment is a success.

Ps. What ever happened to those fake, pink-tipped candy cigarettes I used to gobble up as a kid? Did the candy industry get a conscience or did Big Tobacco cut off their funding? I wouldn't let my kids "smoke" them anyway. They have enough poor role modeling in their orbit as it is.

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At 11:43 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

I can't even SMELL cloves anymore. I used to be so cool and smoke them in high school, but I must have mixed them with a really bad hangover because there is NO WAY anymore...

I am old.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Em said...

Aside from the fact that you manage to make even your serious posts pretty darn funny, I do see your dilemma. But kids can't be shielded from the real world, no matter how much we wish it could happen. They know about dad, they now know about you, they know all kinds of things we wish they didn't know. But ya know what, knowledge isn't damaging. It just is. And knowledge of good things balances with knowledge of troubling things. And one day they'll make their own decisions about smoking...based on the knowledge that their dad smoked but also knowing that it wasn't something he wanted to share with them cause he knew it could be bad. And that might be reason enough for them to say 'no'

At 5:26 PM, Blogger Stephanie T. said...

Oh, I remember those candy cigarettes!

At 8:19 AM, Blogger BlogWhore said...

this is a good post. a very good post.

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Slackermommy said...

If it makes you feel better, my kids pretend to smoke and they are rarely around smokers. It's a rite of passage. I can remember smoking pretzles as a kid. I even lit them with matches!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Rhonda said...

I remember those, they were Popeye Cigarettes...they've since been rebranded and called 'candy sticks'.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger liv said...

My kids have seen their Dad smoke a cigar and where wholly unimpressed. But, what is it about cigarettes? I asked my son what he thought smoking was. He said, "It's when Gramma goes down the back steps" and -sucks in breath- "goes like that."

Word of caution: When the kids get of the age where they have the Great American Smoke Out festivities at school and start doing anti-smoking programs, I've seen a lot of kids get really scared. They can get easily convinced that a parent will die and it is truly gripping.

Maybe Dad will graduate to pretzel sticks one day?

At 3:07 PM, Blogger ewe are here said...

I do remember candy cigarettes!

Sadly, I have read that the odds of kids taking up smoking is thought to increase if a parent smokes. Maybe your husband could start smoking pretzel sticks instead?

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