Lately I have been having a little bit of a problem with the lies we tell to our children—not all of the lies, mind you: just the bad ones. Don’t get me wrong: nine times out of ten I am all about lying to my children. For instance, I’ve told them that closet monsters prefer living in rooms with unmade beds, that I couldn’t possibly bring them back any candy from the grocery store because there was a worldwide candy shortage, and that the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie was, unfortunately, never released in Flagstaff. (No, not even on DVD.) I’ve also told them that wearing hand me downs makes them look like cool hipsters, and that it was perfectly normal for mothers to pack their children a sack lunch consisting of a stale hot dog bun, an uncooked package of ramen noodles, and a ziploc baggie full of tap water—especially when the mother in question forgot all about their upcoming field trip until the last moment.
But even with all of those lies, there are still some things I don’t feel good lying to my kids about. Big Things. Things like sex, war, and poverty. Of all of the Big Things things, however, I think the lies we tell about drugs are the worst, if for no other reason than that we might be the only source of honest information our kids have on the subject. Because from what I’ve seen they certainly won’t be getting any straight answers from anywhere else.
Let me give you an example. Last year at my daughter’s school several college students spent an afternoon teaching a workshop on the perils of illegal drug use. It wasn’t the DARE program, but it was something similar. At one point, in what was obviously a test, one of her friends asked the college students to explain how big the bowl was when people said, “let’s go smoke a bowl.” The instructor, clearly unprepared for any such questions, held up her hands to form a bowl approximately the size and shape of a cereal bowl, and said, “About this big.”
As you can imagine, half the kids there fell about the place laughing. And the other half were clued in to the fact that these particular “drug counselors” not only knew next to nothing about drugs, but were willing to lie to cover up their ignorance. The saddest part of this story for me isn’t that all of the kids there lost all of their faith (whatever they may have had) in these two particular counselors, but rather that at least some of the kids there probably lost all of their faith in any drug counselors at all. Even the ones who have something really important and timely to say.
Look, I totally understand the urge and the desire to keep our kids away from illegal drugs. I can honestly say that I don’t know a single person for whom abusing drugs was or is the best part of their life. But I also know plenty of people for whom using drugs was most definitely not the worst part, either. The truth is, drug use, like anything else, is complicated. And things that are complicated tend to lead to complicated questions—with even more complicated answers to follow.
It’s funny that even Facebook acknowledges that things aren’t always as simple as “yes” or “no.” That’s why it gives you the option to choose “it’s complicated” for your relationship status. Because it is complicated, and we should acknowledge that—in everything, really, but most especially when our children ask us the Big Questions. It’s only when we acknowledge that something is complicated that we have the chance to do something that even Facebook doesn’t offer, but should: we can Explain.