Tag Archives: adolescence

An Un-apology

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Sorry we haven’t been posting much for the past few weeks. We are only sorry because we enjoy blogging and the fact we haven’t been able to do it so much lately is something we regret for our own selfish reasons.

Partly we haven’t had time. Both Sophie and myself have been even busier than normal (and normally we are busier than a lot of people)! But also we decided to take a step back and a bit of a time out as a result of some flack we received about a recent post. In a way we were a bit bemused. We are pretty open about sex and sexuality but actually that has seldom caused much controversy here. We don’t hide our spiritual and philosophical beliefs which we know are not to everyone’s tastes, but again that has rarely provoked unpleasant feedback. The thing which did open us up to some abusive and hurtful criticism was a recent post Sophie wrote about the fact that our daughter has started smoking occasionally, and rather than get angry with her and forbid her to smoke we have accepted the fact, with just a few provisos. There were a few responses to that which accused Sophie in particular of being irresponsible, evil and unloving. Obviously none of those replies ever made it onto the blog. Now we are pretty thick skinned when it comes to criticism but to be honest the sheer venom of some of those replies and the fact that Sophie was accused of being an unfit mother did take us back a bit. We don’t mind intelligent criticism at all and are prepared to enter into respectful debate with anyone. We are also willing to change our opinion on any subject if somebody comes up with a well reasoned and convincing argument we have not thought of. But we are not willing to enter into any form of discussion with trolls or righteously arrogant people who just want to abuse and insult us.

Anyway, we will move on and continue blogging putting this little episode behind us. However, before doing so I want to state a few things of my own concerning that recent post. Firstly I totally agree with everything Sophie said in that post. Moreover, Sophie is the most intelligent and devoted mother any child could hope to have. Secondly when I got back to Zurich after a working trip I took my adopted daughter out for a coffee and a chat about everything that had been happening in her life while I was away and during the course of that outing I let her have one of my cigarettes and I’ll admit there was something nice about sitting in a cafe and smoking with my little girl who is beginning to change into an adult. Thirdly yes, she is a little younger than Sophie or I were when we started smoking and probably we would have preferred this step not to happen just yet, but it has and we accept it. Fourthly some cultural context that Americans in particular don’t seem to be aware of. In Europe in general, in Switzerland in particular and especially in Zurich, smoking is still a very much accepted part of the culture even though we are just as aware of the health risks as anyone else. People do start smoking at a young age and in fact Tina is pretty much the last in her peer group to take it up. Nextly in order to preserve her privacy and hide her identy to some degree I have always been a little vague about her exact age and birthdate. It is enough to say she is on the verge of teenagehood. And I hope this doesn’t come as a huge surprise to anybody but her name isn’t really Tina although it always will be in this blog.

And finally “Tina” is the most precious thing in the lives of Sophie and myself. We would give our lives for her at the drop of a hat. And we would and will defend her like vengeful lionesses if we have to. I think I can honestly say that Tina has had a pretty idealic childhood full of innocent fun and games and lots of freedom in the countryside that many would envy. We have certainly not forced her to grow up before her time and she is still charmingly child like in many ways. But she is beginning to make the transition from childhood to adulthood and we want to be as close and supportive as we can be during that process. We are certainly not going to alienate ourselves from her at the start of this phase of her life by being overbearing and hypocritical about this issue. My adopted daughter is a bright, beautiful, funny, clever girl and I love her as much as if I had given birth to her myself, as much as I love her mother and more than I love myself. I am fully convinced she is going to become a stunningly beautiful, intelligent, inspiring and well adjusted young woman and it is a privilege to play some small part in her upbringing.

Our little girl is growing up. One of the manifestations of that is that she has started smoking. We accept that. Anyone who can’t accept that is welcome to discuss with us politely or else fuck off.

And with that rant aired, our blog will return to its normal debauched content!

Smoking with my daughter, death and life.

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Yesterday evening I gave my daughter a cigarette and we sat down and smoked together. She is only 14. Shocking? irresponsible? Bad?

Well even I will admit to being shocked by the unexpected way it happened. Of course it caused me to question the example Cassie and I have been setting her and to think about how strict I should be as a mother. But I really don’t think I am being irresponsible or bad.

We had just cleared away the dishes after dinner, and then we sat down for a chat in the kitchen as we often do. I poured myself some wine and lit a cigarette as  I usually do in the evenings and suddenly she asked if she could have one of my cigarettes. Yes, I was shocked (although I tried not to show it), this is my little girl after all! I could have just said no. I could have gotten angry at the idea that she was smoking and thought it was okay to tell me in such a casual way without getting into trouble… But I didn’t. I gave her a cigarette and we had a chat. She assured me that she didn’t smoke regularly but that she had occasionally smoked cigarettes with friends at parties or just on the way to school, and that she liked it. She said she had never actually bought any cigarettes and they were too expensive to even think of smoking regularly even if she wanted to. But she also said she had no doubt that she would smoke more regularly when she was older and that she didn’t want to sneak behind my back to do so.

As she was speaking I was of course watching her smoke with a strange fascination. I half expected her to cough and choke but she didn’t. This obviously wasn’t the first cigarette she had smoked. Actually she was inhaling in a disturbingly natural way. I couldn’t decide if I felt devastated, angry or rather proud…

Now as some of you may know Cassie and I both smoke and furthermore we feel quite strongly that adults should be allowed to smoke if they want to and we are against all the anti smoking legislation that is common these days. We like smoking. We smoke cigarettes and cigars sometimes and we even have an occasional blog called “Smokers Writes”. So I suppose we have given an impression to my daughter and perhaps to others that it is okay to smoke, despite the health risks. Is that a very bad thing?

Well first I am going to tell you what I said to my daughter and then I will tell you why. And perhaps I should warn that a lot of people may think I am very bad and very wrong.

Firstly I told her that I was pleased she felt she could be open and honest with me about this and that I hoped she would always feel that way. I told her I thought she was too young to be smoking regularly. I admitted that Cassie and I were heavy smokers who speak openly about the positive side of smoking but I also stated that we are undoubtedly addicts and that nicotine is very quick and easy to get addicted to and I didn’t want her to become addicted at such a young age. I said I didn’t want to think of her dying of a horrible disease and I gave her a mini lecture on the health risks of smoking (which of course she knew anyway). I said I was never going to buy her cigarettes or increase her allowance just so that she could afford them. However, I also said that I don’t mind her smoking the occasional cigarette and I don’t think it is a big sin. I said that she shouldn’t expect Cassie or myself to offer her our cigarettes at home or when we go out, but that it might happen from time to time. I said we would have great respect for her if, over the next few years she decided not to smoke at all and that if she decided that, we would completely stop smoking at home in order to make it easier for her. But on the other hand once she was 14, if she still wanted to smoke I would write her a permission to use the smokers area at school and that she could smoke in our smoking areas at home without having to ask about it again.

So why did I say those things?

Well firstly I don’t want my daughter to think I am a hypocrite. She knows that both Cassie and I smoked when we were quite young. I think we were both 15 or 16 before we were smoking regularly but we had smoked off and on for a while before that  and I guess we were about my daughter’s age when we first started experimenting. Secondly I don’t want this to become a point of rebellion between my daughter and myself and I do genuinely respect her for being able to be honest with me about the fact that she has smoked a few cigarettes. I think experimenting with cigarettes is a kind of right of passage a lot of adolescents go through and I think it is important for me to come to terms with the fact that my little girl has reached this stage and it is important for her to know that I respect the fact that she is growing up. And for her to know that I will always love her no matter what happens. And finally the truth is I don’t really think there is much wrong with smoking cigarettes.

I totally accept that there are serious health risks attached to smoking. The idea that myself or Cassie may die a slow, painful death because of our smoking horrifies me. The idea that my own precious daughter could die in such a way is too painful to think about. But it could happen and I take full responsibility that as a smoker and as an advocate for smoking and smokers rights I may have made that fate a little bit more likely for my daughter.

However, I am not going to be a hypocrite or change my strong opinions now just because of this. I don’t think smoking is the social evil that some people believe it to be and nor do I think it’s risks to health are a reason not to smoke. None of us want to die of so called smoking related illnesses, but the fact is none of us really want to die at all. But we can’t change that fact. We will all die one day and not smoking does not guarantee that we will live longer or die painlessly. Cassie and I know of plenty of people who have died of smoking related diseases who actually never smoked at all. And sadly we also know of people who died young in accidents.

Cassie and I think that some sections of society are so afraid of dying that they have actually become afraid to live. Our opinion is that we have no control at all over how and when we die, but we do have some control over how we live. If smoking cigarettes adds something to the quality of life for some of us, then that is a good thing. If it adds to my daughter’s pleasure in life I have no objection to it. I think that quality of life is more important than quantity. Certainly I hope to live to be a hundred or more and of course I wish the same for my daughter. In reality such a long life is doubtful. But I hope that when the end comes, Cassie, Tina and I will all be able to say that we lived filly and squeezed every bit of pleasure out of it.

And finally of course I know that my daughter will probably read this. I have said nothing here that I wouldn’t be happy for her to read. She makes me immensely proud every day. She has been a beautiful and amazing child and she will become equally amazing as an adult and I will continue to love her without any limits.

Sophie

Friday Firsts

I’ve decided to write an occasional series of posts about the first time I did things or the first time things happened to me. It occurred to me this was a good way to write something biographical. Some of the firsts I am thinking about are personal while others are probably universal. Some are probably trivial and some were profound, to me at least. I’m not sure which categories my first, ‘first’ comes into…

I’ll start with my first cigarette, or more generally when I started smoking because, while it may seem politically incorrect to admit it these days, it did make me feel more grown up. More importantly in my mind it symbolized the start of a new relationship with my parents.

Both my parents were occasional smokers although they seldom smoked much in the house. I always thought that I probably would start smoking one day but I wasn’t in much of a hurry about it. There was no taboo about smoking in my family, but my parents always advised that it would be better not to start. The only rule they made concerning it was a kind of age limit. “Once you’re sixteen you can make your own decisions about things like that; but not before…”

It all seemed quite reasonable and I was a fairly reasonable and well behaved daughter. However while I was 15, a lot of my friends started smoking and I felt a bit left out. They often offered me cigarettes and I always said no. It felt boring. The reason was not so much a feeling of obligation to my parents minimal rule, but more to do with vanity. I didn’t want to cough and splutter over my first cigarette in front of my friends. So one day I resolved that by the next time somebody offered me a cigarette I would be a proficient smoker!

One Saturday afternoon when my parents were out I went and bought a packet of Silk Cut (nobody in the shop questioned me as I could easily have passed for a couple of years older), took them home and started smoking. I didn’t cough nearly as much as I thought I might during my first cigarette when I was just taking the smoke into my mouth and blowing it out again. Twenty minutes later I had my second cigarette and this time practiced inhaling the smoke. I did cough a bit that time, but carried on anyway. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and sensation of smoking and the little nicotine kick that came with it. A couple of hours and about four cigarettes later I did begin to feel slightly sick and dizzy, but I didn’t mind. The following afternoon I went out for a walk and smoked a few more cigarettes. There was no sickness or dizziness and I genuinely enjoyed them. I was hooked.

During the next few months I smoked regularly when I was out with my friends. I wanted to tell my parents but felt awkward about bringing it up. I didn’t really want it to be a secret though so I started leaving half empty packets of cigarettes around my room and other places that my parents were likely to find them, hoping that they would bring the subject up. They never did.

Soon it was my sixteenth birthday. In the evening my parents took me out for a nice meal in a posh Italian restaurant. After the meal we ordered some more wine (technically in the UK I was still under age for drinking alcohol but I had been drinking wine with meals since I was about 12 and apparently the waiter didn’t realize I was only 16) and at that point my parents took out a packet of cigarettes and began to light up. This was my opportunity. I started looking in my handbag for my own cigarettes but they weren’t there. I must have looked flustered. Suddenly my Mum leaned across the table offering her pack of cigarettes and said “Do you want one?” as if it were the most normal thing in the world. “Emm…Yes please.” I replied a little nervously.

For the first minute or so I felt very self conscious smoking in front of my parents. But soon I relaxed and it felt normal. They had obviously known about my smoking for some time and had been waiting for me to say something about it. We joked about it. And as we sat there smoking and sipping wine I really felt as if something had changed. I was still their daughter and always would be; but now I was their grown up daughter and could relate to them in a new way. It felt good, and still recalls to me happier family times… Times when it seemed to me we were a happy and unbreakable little family unit. Sadly that unit fell apart a few years later when my father left us for another woman.

As for the smoking it is still a habit I enjoy. I have always said I will give up if and when I am likely to start making babies.  When and if…