It would have been the perfect opportunity to have an age-appropriate, honest conversation. If only I knew what to say.
“Yeah,” I said, instead. “I do smell, huh?”
“Yeah,” she answered. “It’s gross.”
We ended up talking about other things until she fell asleep, but her comment haunted me all night.
This kid is no dummy. As my friend says, “She won’t suffer fools easily.” And it’s true. When she was two years old, I told her the “golf ball monster” took her hot pink golf ball away, and she just looked at me and asked, “Are you the golf ball monster, mommy?”
I didn’t know how to respond then, and three years later, little has changed. Kids have a precocious way of catching you completely-the-fuck off guard.
I also find it especially difficult to not know what to say. Because I usually do. I work in communications, and the first rule of the field is to be the bearer of your own bad PR.
But how do I broach this topic? How do I get ahead of inevitable, difficult conversations? How do I explain that sometimes adults do things that are unhealthy?
Maybe honesty is the best policy. That was my approach, anyway.
A few nights later I tried it.
“Remember how I smelled like smoke the other night,” I asked.
“Yeah. How come you smelled like that?”
“Well… I actually did smoke.”
“That’s so gross. Why?”
“It’s kinda hard to explain. But sometimes grown ups need to relax after a long day. And sometimes we relax in ways that are good for our body, like going for a run, and sometimes we relax in ways that aren’t very good for our body but can be good–in very small amounts–for our mind. That’s kind of what smoking does for mommy and daddy. And the important thing to remember is the ‘small amount’ part. Do you know what I mean when I say ‘amount’?”
“Yes. Like how much of something.”
“Exactly! So… we always want the amount of the bad stuff we put into our body to be small. That’s the trick to the bad stuff…figuring out just how much.”
“Yeah, but why do you put any of the bad stuff in? Why does your brain need it?”
“Well, sometimes your brain is just tired from a long day,” I said as the Little A wailed obnoxiously in the background. “And your sister is driving me nuts. And I’m kinda mad at my boss. And I still have a sink full of dirty dishes to deal with. And smoking makes me feel less stressed about some that.”
“I want to go to Neverland so I never have to grow up,” she said.
Mr. D and I both cracked up.
“It’s not so bad,” I said. “We get to do some fun stuff too.”