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To Grommet and Biscuit: on the Big No-Nos.

2008-03-20 - 4:34 p.m.

My last post of the week is a little early since Iíll be on holidays tomorrow. Iím off Ďtil Wednesday but will try to post again before then.

Todayís post comes to you courtesy of the latest on Sundryís Parent Dish blog, which got me thinking about all the stuff that your kid may do as a teenager that you probably wonít want them to.


Dear Grommet and Biscuit,

Listen up. I donít expect you to be saints. I donít expect you to not be curious about stuff or to never try anything. I donít expect you to never make mistakes. What I do expect is that you learn from mistakes you make. What I hope, but do not necessarily expect, is that youíll use your heads and give some consideration to the ramifications of your actions before doing things. This is a lot to hope for, I know, but Iím hoping youíll turn out to be the kinds of kids that I can expect this from.

This is the minimum I ask of you when you want to try something: ask yourself, why do I want to do this and what are the potential repercussions if I do it?

Not wanting to get in trouble with me or your dad is a fine, fine thing, and a sentiment I wholly support, but ask yourself why we wouldnít want you to do something in the first place. We wonít be making rules without reasons for them. Let me give you some examples:

Smoking will be banned in our house. Not even smokers could disagree with the statement that smoking is stupid. So why do people do it? Well, people continue to do it because itís addictive, but as far as I can tell they start for one of two reasons: to rebel against someone (usually parents or ďsocietyĒ), or to fit in with someone(s) (usually a certain friend or group of people). Both of these, to me, are hallmarks of weakness and Iím really hoping to raise you two to have a stronger sense of self than that. I cannot imagine you will be ignorant of the major risks that smoking poses to your health and the health of those around you; it has an immediate deleterious effect on things like athletic performance; itís very expensive; it makes you smell bad; and it sends a negative message about who you are to many people. Yes, your father smoked for years in his youth, but if heíd been a smoker when we met, neither of you would have been born because I wouldnít have dated him, much less married him.

House rules? Drugs are illegal and itís not only you that could get in trouble if theyíre found in the home. Your dad and I wonít be pleased if we find any. That having been said, this topic is hard to issue blanket statements about, because there are so many different kinds of drugs out there, and there will probably be more by the time youíre teenagers. Do I think all drugs are inherently evil? Not exactly. But I do think they can do grave harm to people who get involved with them. Drugs ruin lives; itís a fact. Sometimes itís not even the drug itself so much as the behaviour that seems to go with using it, like skipping school, using other things like alcohol, lacking respect for authority figures, etc. You need to know that even physically non-addictive drugs can become psychologically addictive, and becoming an addict is a bad thing. So, if you do find yourself contemplating drugs of any sort, for starters, ask yourself what sort of effects this drug has on the body. I donít mean ďit makes me feel goodĒ, I mean ďhow does this make me feel good?Ē If it messes with your brain chemistry, is it a permanent change? What if you decide you like it? Will you do it all the time? What if you get caught with it? Will you face criminal charges which can restrict what you want to do with your life and even what countries will let you in their borders? And where are you thinking of trying this drug? With people you trust in an enclosed environment? Or out at a venue where there will be strangers, some of whom might take advantage of you if youíre in an altered state? How is this drug administered? Because there are extra risks involved beyond just the drug itself if it gets into the body via certain routes like injection. Iím saying right now, donít inject any recreational drug, ever. Thatís just not smart.

Drinking in general is not a huge deal. Most people do it, or at least try it at a relatively young age. Drinking excessively or habitually, well, thatís where you can run into trouble. Your father and I arenít really drinkers. In my case itís because of two things: I get sick from alcohol very easily (Granddad has an allergy and Iíve inherited a bit of that sensitivity), and I donít like the person I become most times I drink too much. It took me a while to really grasp these two things though, so I canít expect you to know how you react to alcohol right off the bat. I donít expect you to not drink if you want to do it. I do expect you to not drink and drive, and I do expect you to never get in the car with a driver who has been drinking. You can call your father and me 24/7 for a lift home Ė take advantage of this. And there may be some discussion around the situation that necessitated the call, but you wonít get in trouble for the call and I promise you we will be proud of you for it. I also expect you not to get so drunk that you put yourself in danger or either alcohol poisoning or by being incapacitated in a dangerous situation. By the way, if you donít know your limit and get drunk enough to get sick from it, you can expect us to make loud noises and perhaps have a bit of a laugh at your expense. If you end up becoming the sort of person who enjoys the occasional glass of wine with dinner or beer with your pizza? Well, thatís fine. Youíll have to bear the extra expense of your tastes, but alcohol in moderation shouldnít adversely affect your life, and could even bring enriching experiences. I sometimes wish I could get enjoyment of being an oenophile and go for wine tours and such.

Sex can get you in trouble. From unwanted pregnancy to sexually transmitted diseases, some of which can kill you, you have to be willing to accept and mitigate the risks if you decide you want to be sexually active. I expect that you will both become sexually active at some point, and that that point will probably be earlier than I would want. I suspect that the household will honour the age-old ďdonít ask, donít tellĒ policy in this area. I do want this aspect of your lives to be healthy and fulfilling, but, again, I want you to be sure youíre doing it for the right reasons: because YOU want to and YOU feel ready. If you are too embarrassed to secure condoms (which you should ALWAYS use for protection from disease, even if youíre using other birth control methods)? Not ready. If you feel like you should ďgive inĒ to keep a partner, or to make one like you? Not ready. If you canít actually talk to your potential partner about it because itís too awkward a subject to broach? Not ready. If you know youíd have no earthly idea how to handle it if a pregnancy resulted? Probably not ready. Trust yourself and do what feels right for you. And never try to pressure or persuade someone else into having sex if they donít feel ready either. Sex should be fun and enjoyable (and safe!) for both partners.

Tattoos and other body modifications
Iím including this one because that itís the original topic that sparked this letter. Your father doesnít have any tattoos, but I have one and I donít regret it. I had the design for over 5 years before I decided to go ahead and have it inked on a relatively discreet spot in my late 20s. You know it Ė itís the turtle above my left hip. Your aunt, however, has at least 8 tattoos, some of which are very obtrusive and some of which are kind of ďrockerĒ style. Many are spiders, but the worst in my opinion is the robed skeleton on the cloud of shrubbery that covers a lot of her abdomen. Iíll be curious to see what happens to that one if she does indeed get pregnant as she plans to in the next couple of years. My point? Get tattoos if you want, but consider them carefully first, from the design and placement and what it says about you, to whether itíll be something you want it to keep on saying for the rest of your life. Donít give in to the ďtrendyĒ, get something thatís meaningful for you. You can bet that if Iíd ever made it to the Olympics Iíd have gotten the Olympic rings tattooed somewhere on my body. Likewise if Iíd ever finished an Ironman triathlon I would have the Ironman symbol permanently inked somewhere. As for other body modifications, well, how carefully you should consider it depends on how permanent they are.

I guess the overarching theme here is ďthink before you actĒ. If you do this, you still might not always get it right, but at least you have a much better chance than if you just go with the flow. If you donít make decisions, I can guarantee someone will be out there to make them for you, and they wonít always care whether those decisions are the right ones for you. And when you make mistakes, your father and I will still love you and do our best to help you sort through the fallout.


Mumma (Mom)

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