Our family was outside today throwing around a Frisbee. The trailer next to ours was demolished this past week, so there were splinters and other leavings to dodge as we played. Amongst the debris I picked up as we played were a couple of cigarettes, left behind by the construction workers that had been working there. Wyatt, our five year old, asked us what they were. We soon found ourselves in the middle of a conversation on what smoking is and why it's not good for our bodies. Not really expecting this, I found myself thinking fast as my husband and I explained both our own stance on smoking and why people do it.
This was not a topic Oliver and I had ever discussed previously, so I was happy to see that our impromptu explanations meshed. Jointly, we made the point to him that smoking was enjoyable to people, and that's why they do it, even though they know it's bad for them. Because sometimes what feels good is not the right thing.
Our explanation was very different from the one I received as a child. My parents, when teaching such things as abstinence or Word of Wisdom rules like not smoking, never addressed why people would choose to do these things. Instead, they filled my head with all the evils of it, why it's terrible/unhealthy/wrong/would send me down the wrong path.
I have always felt as if this didn't exactly prepare me for the real world. When I met people who loved to smoke, or didn't think sex needed to stay in the bounds of marriage, or even did something as common as drink coffee, I would have to puzzle past the dire warnings of my childhood as I considered my friends' decisions and how I wanted to live my own life. It always seemed strange that these great evils seemed to be enjoyed so much by others.
I'd prefer not to leave my own children so unprepared to deal with these issues. Yes, we have strong standards and draw lines much tighter than many in the world. However, it doesn't mean the world is full of miserable people simply because they have chosen something we have not. There's a reason why coffee is a must-have in the morning. It's not because people wake up every morning dreading the taste. And sex, well, if it was miserable, do you think so many of us Mormons would have popped out so many kids?
I think my parents had good intentions. Looking back, I believe their dire warnings were partly borne of a fear that if they told me the truth, I wouldn't make the right choices. I don't believe that following this path will help my own sons. There are two sides to every story. I believe they will have the best chance of making the right choice if we seize the opportunity to teach them the truth. I also think our own points will be made much clearer if we don't force them to learn these things from others who will not be sensitive to the values we hope they absorb and follow for themselves.
Ana is a restless soul who would love to keep moving around the world the rest of her life. This is probably why she married a submariner in the U.S Navy seven years ago. They have two energetic little boys, and currently live in the Bahamas. She blogs about life in paradise at Sunrise on the Water.
Pic from Flikr.