Q&A: in-laws selling funny cigarettes

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians!

Alice writes:

"Fall and the Holiday season are approaching. I've agreed to spend Christmas with my husband's family this year a few states away. We'll be bringing our two-year-old and three-month-old daughters. I've only been to my in-laws once before, two years ago with an infant. You can imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning, as we all sat around in our PJ's, there was a knock at the door and my mother-in-law sold a bag of weed to the visitor.

I knew that my in-laws are frequent smokers (several times a day, every day) but I didn't realize just how much traffic there was in and out of the house for the purpose of acquiring marijuana. My husband (who is ironically in law enforcement) ignores the entire issue. Thankfully asking them not to smoke (cigarettes or pot) in the same room as the babies is not an issue as they at least go outside or to another part of the house.

In preparation of our visit, I've made two requests to my husband. I have asked that we get a hotel room and that there are no transactions while I am in the house with the kids. My husband has agreed to the hotel but I'm quite sure he has not mentioned the embargo to my mother in law.

To me this seems like a no-brainer. However, this is an incredibly sensitive topic in my household. These are my husband's parents and he wants them to share our daughter's lives as much as I want my parents too. I have approached this topic gently in the past and I've also approached it very poorly in anger. I need suggestions on how to set boundaries and how to explain to my husband why I will never feel comfortable leave the children alone with his parents."

This is actually my first pot-related question. (I'm kind of surprised someone hasn't asked me about smoking while nursing, but who knows.) However, this is not my first in-law-related question, and they all seem to fit the same pattern: Why do they do these freaky things, and how can I get them not to do them around my children for the few days we visit them?

Why do they do these freaky things? Well, I guess pot is better that crystal meth, no? Aside from the fact that the smoke is bad for your lungs the pot itself is not unhealthy*. The impaired judgment, illegality, and inertia are the bad things about it. I guess once you get really into that slacker lifestyle, and can make money selling it, it's just hard to give that up to go legit. Even if it means you're spending a lot of time high.

How can you get them not to do it while we're there? It sounds to me like your solutions are perfect. The hotel makes sense to keep your kids safe and you from blowing a gasket, plus then they can continue their business without having to shut down for the entire time you're there. But they certainly shouldn't be dealing pot while your kids are there.

As for convincing your husband that you don't want your kids exposed to pot-smoking, I think you're going to have to emphasize the impairment issue. Basically, would he leave the kids around people who were drunk all day? It's the same thing. Would he want the kids in an house full of strangers coming in and out to buy alcohol? (The strangers in and out creeps me right out and makes my "Danger Will Robinson!" sense go off strongly.)

Whatever compartmentalizing he's doing between knowing what he does about drug houses from his law enforcement work and loving his parents, he needs to really look at this objectively. I'm not sure how you can help him break through the "my parents love us and don't want to hurt us" barrier to see that, regardless of their intentions, they're exposing your kids to real danger, whether from unknown people or just from impaired judgment.

Do you think it would help to ask your husband what he's going to tell your 2-year-old when she asks (and she will ask, if not this year then next year) what her grandparents are doing, who those strange people are, what that funny smell is, and why her grandparents are so loopy and eat so many pretzels? It would also help if you emphasize that you like his parents and want them to know their grandchildren, but you have to protect the kids first, so you can't just leave them with his parents, and his parents need to show some kind of good judgment in ceasing with the dealing for a few hours when they're with their grandchildren.

Any suggestions for Alice? I guess I'm not sure exactly what to say if her husband can't let himself connect with the idea that his parents are endangering his kids.

* Despite what Nancy Reagan told us, they really can't prove that the THC does anything bad to anyone. Negative effects of pot are from the smoke. Having said that, I have no desire to do it anymore, but it was interesting while it lasted.