Thursday, July 31, 2008

It might be secondhand smoke but it's firsthand modeling

We recently spent a week at the beach with my parents, two of my cousins, their husbands and children. You might think that a beach house with four kids age four and under would be crazy--and it was--but it was also a ton of fun and very relaxing.

It was a week of new experiences for my son. His first real experience in the ocean (he did get to dip his toes in the Pacific when he was a baby) and with the wonders of digging in the sand. He had fun collecting sea shells and following around his four year old second cousin (or is that first cousin once removed?).

Unfortunately, it was also his first experience with smoking.

I've never taken a puff--or drag or whatever the right terminology is--in my life. My husband smoked casually when we met, which I hated, and he quit just a few months after we started dating. The county we live in banned smoking in public places before we lived here. Now it is banned in the entire state of Maryland and also in D.C.

Now that I think about it, I don't think Lucas had ever been within 20 feet of someone smoking (unless we were walking by--quickly and with me holding my breath--on the sidewalk).

Until, that is, our week at the beach. Where my cousin's husband smoked. A lot.

He always went out onto the deck, and generally, he kept close to the railing, facing out. But, when we were at the house and not at the beach, one or more kids was almost always out on that deck, too. I'll be honest: it bothered me.

But, I didn't say anything. I told myself that he wasn't close enough for the kids to breath any secondhand smoke. The wind was almost always blowing, he stood a few feet away from them, etc. I rationalized to keep the peace. Once we got home I didn't really give it a second thought.

But earlier this week, more than a week after we returned home, Lucas found a little white golf pencil in the grass. He was having fun with it, trying to write on the sidewalk and carrying it around. It was just his size. Then, I saw him do this: take the little white pencil, put it to his mouth, hold it there for a second, take it out and exhale.

Just like a cigarette.

While I still believe that the second hand smoke didn't get to him. Clearly, the behavior did.

And I wish I had said something.

Original post to DC Metro Moms. Read more about Aimee and her family at Smiling Mama.


feener said...

yikes, i just think about the secondhand smoke side of it, NEVER the actual act of it. my dad smokes but he will go outside and not let the grand kids see.
Reply July 31, 2008 at 10:31 AM Caitlin said...
My father and grandfather both smoked when I was young. My grandfather successfully quit around 1984. However, smoking from the late 1930s to 1984 took a toll on his health.

I adored my grandpa. He was the cool grandpa who was learning how to rollerblade with his grandkids at age 73 and kept up with us. Then a few months later, he found out he had late stage lung cancer. Seeing him go from seemingly healthy to dying a few months later was hard enough on his grandkids that none of us smoke and all of us consider smoking to be a deal breaker when it comes to relationships.

Fortunately, my son hasn't been exposed to people he looks up to smoking, but living in a city this size, it's impossible to shield him from it. We have talks about smoking. I don't really go for the DARE scare tactics, but instead I talked about negatives that would be more real to him, like he could choose between buying a pack of a cigarettes or go to the pool at Cub Run. He's also bothered by strong scents, so we talked about how it makes your clothes and house smell. He's 3, so we're a little limited, but it seem to get the point across for now.

It's a very hard line to walk - making something undesirable without turning it into the forbidden fruit that must be tasted.

FishyGirl said...
You might want to talk with your son about smoking and what it is and how bad it is. It's really never too early for those conversations, and he's going to be exposed to it at some point. If you had talked to the smoker, I'm not sure it would have made much difference if he already smokes around his own kids. But this IS a great opportunity to start teaching your own child about smoking and your values related to it.

My kids used to have a babysitter that smoked, and they used to yell at him about it, telling him that he stank, and repeating what we had taught them about how bad it is for your body and health. They were instrumental in him deciding (and then succeeding) to quit. This was back when my oldest two were 2 and 4 years old. It's amazing what kids can understand even very early, and I think it helps them internalize those values if we start teaching them young. Whenever we see someone smoking, no matter where (because we live in Montgomery so it's rare) we are, we use the opportunity to talk to all of our kids about smoking and our values about it.

Just my $.02 that you didn't ask for :-)

Alix said...
Great point, Aimee - My kids see the occasional smoker in a car and they yell out the window at them, "ew, smoking is gross!" I hide my smile by turning away from the driver under scrutiny and try not to move my shoulders too much to give away that I'm laughing, too.

Emily said...
I feel for you, but what about those poor kids of your cousins who must endure this day in, day out? I just don't know how parents can do this, knowing what we know today, especially in regards to SIDS, whether you smoke indoors or out.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

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