When Children Parent

It’s not easy being green—I think that is how the Grinch mat have felt when little Cindy-Lou-Who saw him stealing her Christmas tree.

Cindy Lou Who: “Santie Claus, why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why?”
Narrator: But do you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick, that he thought up a lie and he thought it up quick.
Grinch: “Why my sweet little tot…”
Narrator: The fake Santie Claus lied…
Grinch: “…there’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side. So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear. I’ll fix it up there, then I’ll bring it back here.”
Narrator: And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head, he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.

I’ve been a father for eleven years.  I have had heart disease for the last seven.  I was a smoker and stopped three and a half years ago.  My children knew the heart attack was a result of my smoking.  Those who have smoked know have difficult it is to stop.  I started again two months ago—sneaking around, burying the butts, washing clothes, gargling—doing whatever it took not to get caught.

My children had never seen me smoke—never until last night.  I snuck out on one of our decks to have a smoke.  One puff later, out pops my Cindy-Lou-Who.  She’s ten.

“Are you smoking Dad?  Why?”

I am not sure which one of us was more upset.  I stood there for a second wondering what to say, wondering if I had the where-with-all to create a Grinch-like fib—a lie.

A good lie may have made the situation disappear, at least temporarily.

One of our family rules is no lying.  I’ve told the children I will never lie to them, and they should never lie to me.  I had to decide which the greater wrong was, telling her a lie, or telling her that I was doing something she knew could kill me—something which would crush her.

I told her the truth.  Her face was expressionless.  She turned and walked away.

We talked.  It takes more than talking.  My wife told me my daughter told her she was upset and what upset her.

I previously tried hypnosis and acupuncture—both worked right up to the point when I got back in my car.  If anyone has any good ideas about how to attack this, please let me know.

My daughter is very smart, and pretty brave.  Now it is my turn.

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942

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4 thoughts on “When Children Parent

  1. As a fellow stimulant junkie, I totally empathize. Since having my child almost 13 years ago, I have started smoking again…twice. Fortunately, I have also stopped smoking twice in the last 13 years (haven’t smoked since 2005).

    I have struggled with addiction to caffeine and nicotine for about 17 years. The only times I have been able to manage these ‘addictions’ are when I am being treated for ADD/ADHD. When I’m taking stimulant-type medication, I find it much easier to manage my caffeine and nicotine intake.

    Over the years, I’ve been swayed by arguments against taking prescription medications and have stopped taking them. My nicotine and/or caffeine usage *always* increases. One of the times I went back on stimulant-type medications, I decided to give Wellbutrin a try. (This is the same medication as Zyban.) Whattdya know, I quit smoking because cigarettes started tasting absolutely disgusting. I only ended up taking Wellbutrin for a few months. I was ultimately unimpressed with its effects on my daily life, but I do give it credit for absolutely ruining my desire to ever smoke again. The absolutely repelling taste of cigarettes has been permanently (so it seems – 5 years later without even the slightest urge to smoke again) emblazoned onto my brain. This coming from a person who spent a few years of their young adulthood smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

    Obviously, what worked for me will not work for everyone. But I did want to make the case for considering the possiblity that stimulant addiction is a form of self-medication. Sometimes it’s a matter of balancing pros and cons for different ways of proceeding. Sure, there are all kinds of arguments against taking various prescription medications because of unknown long-term side effects. But we *know* about the effects of smoking. They are absolutely terrible.

    Me? I am currently not taking any prescription medications (I am currently uninsured and can’t afford medication or ‘health care’ at the moment), but I drink 6 cups of green tea every morning. :0)


  2. Hi Paul,

    You recent entry tugged at my heart-strings. It is hard to be a parent. Especially so when your children discover you are a fallable human being.
    The best thing is, in order to be honest with your daughter, you are honest enough with yourself to acknowledge your problems backsliding with smoking. It puts you in a strong position to quit again.

    Maybe the method outlined by Cindy above will work for you? Or maybe it will be a different approach.

    But because you were honest with yourself I’m sure you have enough motivation to quit.

    Good luck… We all want you to lead a long and healthy life so you will continue to share your wise thoughts with us all.

    – Bruce from Canberra, Oz


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