Yesterday EM and I went shopping at our local little mercantile. I had a hearty, nutritious meal of frozen pizza and popcorn planned, and I needed, well, everything for it. So off we went.
Afterwards, back in the car as we were strapping on our seatbelts to go, EM pointed out the window and asked, “Why is that teenager smoking?” I looked in the direction of her accusing finger, and there indeed, huddled in the corner, attempting to gain some shelter from the cold, autumn rain under the store's scant eaves was a lank blond puffing away like she was all that and a bag of chips.
“Uff, hard to say EM. I um. I really don’t know.”
“But cigarettes are bad for you, right?”
“Yes. Bad, bad. Very bad.” Ever the smooth-tongued weaver of words, I.
“Then why do some people smoke?”
Knowing that ‘because it’s not healthy’ is one of the few explanations EM will accept without further debate, I said, “I guess some people just don’t care enough about their bodies to stay away from such unhealthy things.”
“Mmm,” she murmured thoughtfully, “But how old do I have to be to smoke?”
“I sincerely hope you never will smoke, EM.”
“Oh I won’t. I’ll never smoke. I never will. But why do some kids think it’s good to smoke?”
So we talked a bit about peer pressure. About how some kids think it’s cool to smoke, and how kids want to be like their friends so they smoke just because they want to fit in. Then she asked didn’t they know smoking is bad for them, and why didn’t they just stop if everyone knows it’s bad? So we talked about addiction. I explained that there’s something in the cigarettes that makes your body want more and more, and it’s very hard to teach your body not to want them anymore after it’s hooked on them, so it’s best never to start smoking in the first place.
After absorbing all this, EM, ever the problem solver said, “Well, I think they should just stop making cigarettes if they’re so bad for everyone.”
Ah, yes. Excellent point darling, however…..
So then we talked a bit about evil corporate greed, and the lying liars who peddle their tainted goods to weak-willed consumers the world over. I think it’s safe to say she absorbed significantly less of this part of our discussion, but in the end we both agreed that lobbyists and special interest groups were a bad thing and immediate steps should be taken to limit their power and influence at the federal level.
We had long since pulled out of the parking lot, and were well on our way to the daycare to pick up Boy and Little Miss. After several minutes of silence, I figured we had put the matter to rest, and my thoughts drifted to dinner and whether or not I could sneak some peppers or tomatoes or anything even remotely crisp and fresh onto the menu.
“What if one of my friends smokes?”
“Well, it’s very likely that as you get older some of your friends will start to make some bad choices like that. I hope you’re smart enough to stay away from it.”
“I SAID! I’LL NEVER SMOKE!”
“I know. I know. I’m just saying….”
Now, because I’m such a good mother and all, and because I wisely recognized this as one of those seminal moments during which I’m supposed to take the time to drill further instruction into her, I decided to push the matter a bit further.
“What do you think you might say if one of your friends offered you a cigarette?”
“Mah-ommmmm! I SAID! I NEVER WILL!”
“I’m just asking. It’s good to be prepared, you see. To practice what you might say in these situations. So what would you say if someone offered you a cigarette?”
“Ummmm…….I just don’t know.”
“Well, it’s probably best to keep it simple. Just say something like ‘NO THANK YOU!’ and walk away.”
After a thoughtful moment, EM asked, “Why do I have to say thank you?”
Yeah, she's got it. I think she's going to be just fine.