The first time I smoked marijuana and tried to function while stoned was on 4/20 my freshman year of high school. It was a school tradition — everyone knew about “The High,” when kids disappeared to get baked and came back to the school’s food festival and jazz concert. It also happened to be my 15th birthday. During the afternoon’s classes, a teacher glared at me when I failed to answer a question. I knew she knew I was stoned, and I froze. I got nauseated. I had to leave the room. I had to leave the school. I spent the rest of the day on the lawn, confused and not at all happy to be high.
Eleven years later, I was home alone with my 1-year-old twins. I was exhausted. One daughter was crying, and I didn’t know why. The other kept laughing, which for some reason made it worse. For the first time since becoming pregnant, for the first time in years, I opened up my stash box and hid in the bathroom to smoke a little pot. Two puffs was all it took, all it had ever taken, to get me as high as I like to be.
When I went back to change my daughters’ diapers, something was different. I was different. I had always found that marijuana increased my ability to empathize, but when interacting with my completely nonjudgmental babies, I found that this empathy helped me. When my daughter whined, I understood implicitly she was uncomfortable in her diaper. I stripped her of her clothes, and she started smiling at once. Normally, I’d have put her back in a new diaper, worrying about pee on the floor. But a bit high, I didn’t care. It was urine. I cleaned urine all the time. So what if she pees? She’s happy! It’s a hardwood floor, and I have a WetJet!
I realized I was actually sort of a better parent stoned.
I avoid relying on marijuana. I get paranoid interacting with other adults if I’ve smoked. I won’t drive. But if I’m alone with the kids for the day, I’ll indulge. With marijuana, I have more patience. I’m slower to get angry or frustrated, because I understand their frustrations. I am able to see the world through their eyes, to remember how hard it is to be a preschooler or toddler, how things that seem obvious to me aren’t yet known to them. We all have a better day.
Marijuana isn’t legal where I live, but it is somewhat decriminalized. Our mayor recently passed an initiative that called for police and courts to dismiss low-level drug charges, so if I’m caught with the limited amount of marijuana it takes to get me high once in a while, I know I’ll be OK. I don’t smoke in front of the kids, and I don’t intend to in the future. When they’re adults, they can make their own choices about marijuana, but I probably won’t smoke with them. There are very few adults I’m comfortable being high around, and I would be surprised if my kids made the list.
Pot is known to be an effective treatment for anxiety. I, like countless other people who find themselves in the role of caregivers for miniature versions of themselves, get stressed out by my kids. Genuine, honest-to-God, parenthood-induced anxiety is a real thing. In my case, marijuana is my anti-anxiety drug of choice. It doesn’t knock me out the way Xanax did. It doesn’t have weird side effects or cause addiction. It’s just something I can turn to on a really hard day. When my kids are bickering for the 15th time in as many minutes, I can disappear for 30 seconds, come back a bit high, and mediate calmly — with a smile, no less.
I say yes to more requests for childhood fun. To baking cookies, craft projects, trips to the park, board games, fashion shows … any of the things that under normal circumstances make my shoulders tense up as I contemplate inevitable messes and tantrums. When I’m a little stoned, there are no fights. My catchphrase goes from, “Thirty-second time out for everyone,” to, “Let’s all take a deep breath and count to four.”
I have three children, and sometimes I smoke marijuana so I can be a better parent to them, because they deserve my best.
And in my book, anything you can do that makes you a better parent is good parenting.
By Lea Grover