Friday, September 2, 2011

Nancy Reagan vs. Me

The topic of drug use has recently come up in our home. I'm wondering if I missed the Chicago Public School's (CPS) robocall from Michael Jordan telling me I should talk to my kids about drugs.  Perhaps it was accidentally deleted somewhere between the heartfelt automated pleas from AJ Piezynski and Ozzie Guillen encouraging me to get the kids to Day One of school.

(Sidenote: why is it that nobody on these robocalls - including Rahm Emanuel and Jennifer Hudson - makes mention of Day Two of school and beyond? Are they handing out golden tickets on Day One? I guess I'm off the hook for the rest of the year then? To the beach, boys!)

Sorry.  Back to drugs. When it comes to talking to my kids about drugs, I have opted for the time-honored tactic of the "cautionary tale."  While I certainly understand that not every homeless and schizophrenic person on the streets is an addict, I still make that exact case whenever our urban environment creates an opportunity:

Danny:  Mommy, why is that man standing on the corner asking for money?

Me:  He did drugs, never finished school, and now has no money for even a piece of bread.

Jack:  Mommy, how come that lady is hitting her own face and talking to herself?

Me:  She started doing drugs when she was in high school and now she thinks there are mosquitos biting her nose.

Joey:  Mommy!  Dat man doesn't have any wegs (legs)!

Me:  He did drugs and they plum fell off.

I'm sure the experts would tell me I'm misguided in my approach to instilling such extreme fear and aversion to drugs.  To each his own.  And my own are too important to leave to any expert instead of my own gut feelings on the subject. 

Now before everyone jumps down my throat, I would like to point out that most anti-drug messages have their own individual flaws.  For example, let's examine the Cook County Sheriff's campaign.  Daniel and Jack recently stepped into the minivan after summer camp toting plastic bags quoting the Nancy Reagan-era motto of "just say no":

Not nearly as scary as my bag of tricks
The outside of the bag was incorrect as Michael F. Sheahan hasn't been Cook County Sheriff in like 5 years.  The inside of the bag was even more disturbing - it was filled with some cheap plastic toys and a bunch of candy that I am really hoping wasn't 5 years old as well.  Most of the candy didn't survive the ride home as I later found empty wrappers strewn about.  But here's a sample of what remained:

The sheriff's office would have received one seriously angry phone call had that Fun Dip been opened in my car.  While they're off banning assault weapons, they really ought consider Fun Dip.  The stuff is pure evil.

So if I am to understand this correctly, we are telling children to avoid certain vices by offering replacement vices as an incentive?  Candy is the equivalent to crack to the 2nd grade sect.  Talk about your mixed messages.

As someone who is extremely prone to vices herself (chocolate, coffee, slot machines, etc.), I don't find the Sheriff's campaign particularly impactful. I give them a lot of credit for trying to get the conversation started, but a bunch of jaw breakers does little to reinforce the diminished life many drug users lead.   That's where I feel the scare tactics need to come in.

When I was growing up, I heard many horror stories involving drugs: tales of dead teenagers and murdered participants in the drug trade.  Detailed physical descriptions and personal histories of regular kids who made one terrible mistake which lead them down a path of addiction and misery. Whether it was all real or made up, it didn't matter.  It worked.

Which is why I will continue to point to the angry, swearing homeless guy at the 111th street exit. Every time we see him, he aggressively bangs on the minivan window demanding money, terrorizing the kids until they cry.

"You see that guy, kids?  If you ever do drugs, he's going to be looking for you."

It ain't perfect, but it's got to be better than a bag of Sweet Tarts.


  1. "Nancy Reagan vs Me" belongs on the front page of the Tribune rather than the crap that has been appearing lately on the front page of this icon newspaper. Your tongue in cheek humor is welcomed relief to the country's undermining drug problem. There is nothing wrong in your parental approach which will reap you great rewards when the younsters evolve into teenagers. Your sm*rt.

  2. Fun Dip IS evil!
    What a stupid mixed message, I agree with your approach.
    As a side note, I love it when 3 year olds drop the 'l's in exchange for 'w's

  3. Anonymous - here's hoping!

    Gweenbrick - My last baby is quickly adjusting his speech now that he's in pre-school. Can you hear my heart breaking?

  4. A really great blog on Motherhood written by a Mother who lost her 17 year old son last year to drugs...

    The quote from her blog that struck me to the core...
    "My first and biggest mistake - and one that I implore other parents reading this not to make themselves - was to minimize and rationalize my child's earliest drug use as the kind of "experimentation" that "lots of kids" try when they are adolescents."

    You'd enjoy her blog Mar. She's smrt, like you.



  5. Meg - I'm balling my eyes out: