Saturday, August 15, 2009

Top 3 Conversations Dads Dread

I'm not so freaked out about the sex talk. The talk I'm really afraid of having with my daughter is the drug talk. She's just 3 now but I can imagine her as a moody teenager, asking me pointedly, "Dad, have you ever done drugs?"
photo credit: getty images

I've already made up my mind not to lie to her, so I wince a little when a future, older me nods and whispers, "Yes."

But do I stop there? Should I tell her how often I did drugs? Or how many?

Because the answer is scary: All of them.

When it comes to having Big Talks with my daughter, the drug talk tops the list. But there are others that have kept me up at night, pondering what to say.

3. The Sex Talk.

This? I can handle. Think about it. When you have a toddler, you talk about sex all the time. "Why do boys have penises? Why do girls have vaginas? Why does that lady in the check-out line have enormous boobs?" The questions never stop, especially when we're out in public. Fortunately, they start off simply enough and so can the answers. If our current level of openness keeps up, we'll be hosting our own call-in show by the time she reaches puberty. But in all seriousness, I don't want the Sex Talk I have with my kids to be the same uncomfortable one I had with my mom the day before Sex Ed started in elementary school. I do hope we have a home where no question is too awkward. (Have you had the Sex Talk yet? How'd it go?)

2. The Rock and Roll Talk

OK, so maybe this isn't a real talk. Certainly it's not as important as sex and drugs, but for some reason it seems to fit. The rock and roll talk is that awkward little moment when you break out the vinyl records and try to show your child that long, long ago, there existed a delightful brand of music that didn't come with the Disney stamp of approval. My kid is too young for Hannah Montana and the Jonas Borings -- I'm sorry, I meant Brothers -- but I fear that one day soon she'll want to play whatever music is popular with the after school special set, and I'll end up plugging my ears with headphones. How do you expose your child to real music, while at the same time not crushing her own developing taste ... no matter how horrible it is?

1. The Drug Talk

Growing up, I did so many drugs so often that I'm frequently amazed I'm still around. I started drinking at a very young age and progressed to harder substances soon thereafter. It's an area where I feel tremendous conflict when it comes to talking about it with my daughter. On the one hand, I never did anything remarkably stupid and managed, somehow, to survive. On the other hand, I became addicted to alcohol and ended up stopping as an adult. I don't want my daughter to develop the same problems I did, but I don't want to be the over-bearing parent who puts his foot down and ends up sending her running. Teenagers are going to try all sorts of stupid things. I just hope I find a good way to talk about it when the time comes. How will you handle the drug talk?

-- Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out: Memoirs of a stay-at-home dad, National Public Radio, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

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