Where There’s Smoke | Broccoli War 2012 | The Number Game


Where There’s Smoke…

Dear Micah,
I have recently discovered that my daughter is smoking.  She is 15 years old and this is not all right with me.  I have grounded her.  I have taken things away from her.  I have done all I know to do but she still manages to get cigarettes and smokes them.  I am afraid that she is becoming addicted.  I blame the tobacco companies for marketing to our kids.  I don’t know what to do to get her to stop.  Can you help me with this?
Sign me, Out of Options
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Dear Out of Options,
First, let me say that you haven’t exhausted all of your options, you have just exhausted all of your threats and punishments.  Talking to her in a calm and adult manner is still an option.  You may have done this already, but from the tone of your note, it sounds like you are still caught up in the shock and disappointment of catching her, and I doubt that you’ve cooled off yet enough to have a non-threatening or judgmental conversation with her.
Let me say some things here that you might find helpful and others going through this same situation might need to hear.  You’re acting like your daughter just became a terrible person because she started smoking.  It’s not like she’s also shooting heroin and killing and maiming people.  She’s still the same person she was before, she has just developed a habit that is harmful to her health and is generally frowned upon by society.
You will never convince her to stop or make her want to see things your way if you are alienating her in the process. Grounding her or taking her phone from her might have been a deterrent if she had just been experimenting with a cigarette or two–but this sounds like your daughter has become a full-on smoker, or at least is in the beginning stages of it.  That means she’s been smoking for a while and you are not going to scold her out of it.  You are going to have to use a little reason, maybe a little manipulation, and a whole lot of reestablishing trust and open communication between you.
Before the smoking started did you and she have a good relationship?   If so, then you stand a good chance of reaching her if you can reconnect on that positive level.  If you two have always been combative, then you really don’t stand a chance at all, because she doesn’t respect your opinion.
As for the cigarette companies’ role in this–I’m in the minority, I realize–but I’m tired of the cigarette companies taking all of the flack.  They deserve some of it, but not all. I am an ex-smoker.  I loved smoking.  The only reason I stopped was because I wanted to be a father and I didn’t want my child smelling like cigarettes at school.  I grew up in a smoking household at the time when it was starting to become unpopular.  I remember what it feels like to have teachers, relatives, and parents tell you, “You stink.  You smell like cigarettes!”  I wasn’t going to have my child grow up hearing that, so I quit.
Little did I know just how much I would LOVE not smoking!  I don’t miss it really at all, and I smoked for 18 years. But in all of those 18 years, I did not ever, nor do I now, blame cigarette companies for my smoking.  I chose to smoke.  No one convinced me with advertising.  In fact, I haven’t even seen a cigarette advertisement in years and years.  I disagree with the argument that companies are marketing to children.  To my knowledge, they are no longer allowed to market anywhere.  Magazines rarely have a cigarette company in their ad pages.  I don’t encounter any billboards around with advertisements.  I haven’t seen any TV commercials since the early 1980’s.  I really don’t think much advertising  is happening anymore in the U.S.
And if you stop and think about it, that’s not really fair.  Cigarettes are not illegal, yet they are the only product in America that is taboo to advertise.  You can advertise alcohol.  You can advertise condoms.  You can even advertise STD medications, but cigarettes are a no-no.  I don’t get it.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting smoking.  In fact, now that I am smoke-free and have been for a few years, I don’t want to smell it either!  But I also don’t think that it’s exactly fair to vilify smokers as long as they are considerate enough to do their smoking in a separate place where they are not blowing their toxic air on the rest of us.
Now to solving your problem… you have to first stop chastising your daughter and become her friend again. Because everyone in the country is in such an anti-smoking uproar, it has made smoking the number one way to rebel.  I admit that even as an adult, I was ready to quit smoking years before I actually quit, but I was stubbornly determined not to give in to all of the hoopla.  The more the world vilified smokers, the more I refused to stop smoking, because they were so obnoxious about it.  I was a grown man acting like an immature child, digging my heels in and refusing to budge.  I was an idiot about it, and I know that now, but back then I felt like I was standing against oppression and that empowered me to continue smoking a few years longer than I probably would have.
So cut out the pious crap, Mom, and start talking to her as an equal and not like you feel superior to her.  Next, find out where the cigs are coming from.  Someone is buying them for her.  Who is that person?  Find out if you can and keep her away from that person.
Also, cigarettes are the most expensive they have ever been.  I doubt very seriously that anyone is keeping her in stock with packs of smokes.  Does she get an allowance?  If so, cut it out.  Tell her politely, but firmly, that you don’t want her to smoke and that you aren’t going to supply her with the cash to buy them.  Tell her that when the smoking has ceased for two months that she’ll get her allowance back.  Two months is a good, safe enough time for the habit of smoking to be broken.
You are going to have to be firm with attempts to stop the smoking, but you can still be firm without chastising her or talking down to her.  Like I said before, you have to reestablish a connection to her, but that doesn’t mean that you must pretend to be okay with smoking.  There is nothing wrong with saying, “I love you too much to see you compromise your future health like this so until you are off the cigarettes, I am withholding your allowance.  If you want or need something that falls within the budget of your allowance, I’ll go buy it for you, but as your mom, I feel like I need to take this temporary action to keep you safe.”  You might even want to add in that you understand this is an addiction issue and that if she’d like to go to the doctor to discuss some methods for quitting, you’ll be happy to take her and pay for it.
Then, just try to carry on with her as you would have before.  Be fun.  Take her to dinner or the movies.  Get your nails done together or have a spa day.  Spend some fun girl-time together.  She probably started smoking because she was hanging around with friends who smoked.  So if she is hanging around with you more, that will help break the smoking cycle–but she has to want to hang around with you.  You have to engage her in activities that she’ll enjoy doing with you and you can’t harp on her shortcomings or failings during that time.  Lift her up and make her feel good about herself, and maybe she will start respecting what you think again.
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Broccoli War 2012

Dear Micah,

I can’t get my son to eat anything healthy.  He’s a four year old that won’t eat “green stuff.”  I am at a loss as to what to do.  I read that you have a little boy too.  How do you get him to eat properly?
Paula
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Dear Paula,

I hope you are a real reader and not a friend or relative poking fun at me!  I say this because I don’t get him to eat properly at all.  I am just as terrible a parent as you are when it comes to food.  My son just eats what he eats, and I don’t worry too much about it.  The one thing I always try to do is to cook every night so I am eliminating fast food from the table most nights.  We may have a drive-thru meal once a week.  I always try to put a green veggie on his plate, and sometimes he eats it, and sometimes he leaves it alone.  I do not force the issue because I myself am a green veggie hater.
I blame my mother and the Broccoli War of 1982.  I sat at that table, refusing to eat that broccoli until almost 11pm. Finally, she admitted defeat and let me get up from the table.  I don’t blame her for that part because if she hadn’t, I’d still be sitting at that table right now; I am stubborn that way.  Her mistake was making an issue of the broccoli in the first place.  I may have one day eaten it had it just shown up on my plate from time to time without issue.  But the moment the line was drawn and the ultimatum issued, I wasn’t backing down.
So, do not force vegetables on your son.  I am a meat and potatoes man and I am perfectly healthy.  I have good bones, high energy and a strong immune system.  A lack of vegetables hasn’t hurt me any so far, and I am almost forty.  When it comes to my son, I just load his plate with everything I want him to eat and let him decide what that will be.  I also try to not force him to eat more if he says he’s done.  In this world of overweight people (myself included), I don’t want to instill the “clean your plate” expectation.
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The Number Game

Micah,
My boyfriend asked me how many men I’ve been with.  I didn’t want to answer because it was none of his business, but he’s pressing me.  I’m 28 and I’ve been with like 30 guys.  What do I say to him.  Do I tell him the truth or lie?  I don’t want him to think I just did it with anybody but I realize that number might scare him off and I think we could have a great life together.
S
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Dear S,
Does S stand for slut?  Just kidding,  I’m sure there’s someone out there you haven’t done it with.  I’m kidding again. Seriously, 30 guys is a lot; but at the same time, for today’s standard 30 guys isn’t all that high of a number when you think about the fact that most people have sex with those they date.
You’re 28 years old, so if you started dating at 18, that makes your average of about 3 sexual partners a year.  It’s not that bad, but still I think you should totally lie.  A guy may have 100 sexual partners and think nothing’s wrong with that but be furious to discover his girl has been with 5.  It’s the double standard, I know, but it’s still true.  No man wants to walk into the party with everybody’s favorite bootie-call on his arm.
So figure out what number is safe to tell him and go with that.  How many of these men is he likely to encounter?  If the answer is three to eight, give that number.  Higher than eight, lie and say 6.  Do not go lower than 4 unless you have had a really long term boyfriend in your past.  This has to be believable and unless you’re an ex-nun, it’ll be hard to believe that you’ve just had 4 people in all that time.  Unless you’re really ugly and then it’s totally okay to say 4.
Got a question to ask Micah? Don’t be shy! Email him at MicahCargo@hotmail.net

One Response to “Where There’s Smoke | Broccoli War 2012 | The Number Game”

  1. Justin says:

    Thank you for not being a moron, Micah, and calling out the first questioner’s statement about tobacco advertising. I’ve smoked one cigar in my life and never felt the need again. I can’t stand the smell of smoke. But adults don’t blame their problems, or their children’s problems, on other people – especially when those other people aren’t even doing what you blame them for. It’s an attempt to shift responsibility – if it isn’t my daughter’s fault that she is smoking, it isn’t my fault that I didn’t teach her better.

    It was different when tobacco companies were promoting cigarettes or actively attempting to suppress evidence that cigarettes are harmful. Now, you can’t help but know that when you pick up a cigarette.

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