The questions that make you squirm |

The questions that make you squirm

The other day, Roy popped the question.”Mom,” he said suddenly, “did you ever smoke pot?”I froze. Roy is 9.”You should have lied!” one of my women friends says.”I’d have told them to talk to their dad,” says another.My other son was also in the car, attentive.I said carefully, “Well, Roy, in high school I did try it … But I don’t like it and I don’t smoke it.”I was semi-prepared, though I hadn’t expected the question so soon.He was astonished. “You did?!””Well, yes,” I said, hurriedly, “but I want to tell you guys something.” And then I spoke other words that were prepared, though not by me: “It was a different playing field then.””Today, I think, um, agricultural methods have improved. Marijuana is stronger. … And not much was known about it before. But now studies say it can lead to depression and loss of motivation. Especially in kids.”I waited.Teddy asked, clinically, “Do you believe in use of medical marijuana?”Oh. I hadn’t expected that. So I just told the truth.”Yes. If it can give a dying cancer patient some relief, yes.”I waited.”Mom,” Roy asked, “have you ever smoked crack?”Great, that one was easy. “No,” I said gladly. “I’ve never even seen it. Guys, there’s also a huge difference between drugs. People on meth go out and act crazy, maybe violent. People who smoke pot usually just sit around and” – um, I didn’t want to make it sound too nice – “zone out.””Oh, like hippies,” said Teddy, 12, laughing. “They’d all sit around, and have these dingle-y things hanging from the ceiling, and this light music on, and pass it around.”Then I told a story. A dear friend, Jim, had a bright, beautiful son: Montana had the face of Jim’s ex-wife, a former model, with a wide clear brow and button nose. He was a college student, spoke near-perfect Spanish, had a host of friends. Jim considered Montana his best friend.”I was so much looking forward to seeing what he would be in his life,” Jim says. One night at a party, Montana did some drugs. They were recreational – he wasn’t really a user – but pharmaceutical. Montana may not even have known what all of them were. He came home, lay down on his couch and never woke up.It broke Jim’s heart. A legendary mountaineer himself, he wrote an earnest letter to a climbing magazine, described his son, and said he wanted to tell any kids out there, “It’s a different playing field today.”Jim knew something about drug use: He’d hung out with the renegades in Yosemite’s fabled climbers’ Camp 4. But those drugs were less powerful. Today’s can kill you.Some of the things my kids love – speed sports like ski racing and mountain-bike racing – worry me: of course I don’t want them to get hurt.But what’s scarier is the specter of drinking and driving, or riding with someone under the influence. Teenagers can make terrible choices, the kind I consider myself lucky to have survived.And so we parents drive them to distant places and beggar ourselves on programs and equipment. At ski races my husband, Mike, and I often volunteer on the courses. At a four-day event at Winter Park, each volunteer day earned a generous two lift tickets. I thanked a staffer, explaining that the trip was a big expense for our family, and that the program really helped.She looked at me understandingly. “I have my sons in these sports, too,” she said. “I don’t care what it costs. It keeps them busy, gives them focus.”Having to be at the racers’ lift at 7:20 a.m. has a dampening influence. We hope.And then I tell them tales, and hope for luck. Mike has just lucked out again: when they ask me the questions, they don’t ask him.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at

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