Dad’s Medicine

Interesting article about ‘stoned parenting’ in the NYT today by art dealer Mark Wolfe (see links section). Wolfe adopts a sarcastic tone at times and employs old pot humor tropes in proper acknowledgment of pot’s proud history in the media, but the essence of his article is a straightforward advocation of taking medicine before attending to your children. Marijuana is the class clown political discourse, and, regardless of the scientific and political language that the discussion is often initiated in, the end result is frequently a mental image of someone hitting a bong. Even within marijuana advocacy groups, there seems to be some who wish to dethrone the curls-of-smoke-exhaling disabled man mascot that has used his pathetic entitlement to kindle mainstream sympathies thus far. Wolfe’s article serves to encourage the idea that the drug is beneficial non medical ways. The article becomes awkward when he persists in referring to the drug as medicine. In essence, he seems to be encouraging able-bodied middle class people to medicate themselves before engaging in routine rearing of their children.

The awkward position Lowe finds himself in (“When I’m rolling around the floor with my giggling daughters, clicking into an easy dynamic of goofy happiness and love, I feel it’s just what the doctor ordered”) is a result of the awkwardness of ganja’s suppressed giggle on the pages of the NYT itself. Lacking a term to indicate a pleasant and inoffensive high (such as alcohol’s “buzzed”) in which general capability remains intact, marijuana falls back on ‘stoned’ ‘baked’ ‘blazed’ ‘medicated’ to describe the experience, and the reader pictures the speaker as someone moving sluggishly, intoxicated or perplexed in some manner by an aspect of life. Lowe acknowledges this (“I’m not suggesting that all stressed-out fathers should just get baked”) but does nothing to provide the reader with a term with which to describe the experience he is advocating. “Safe Stoned Parenting” it shall be.

Lowe received his medical card because he was stressed and had some back problems. Prior to his diagnosis, he was “groggy and irritable” due to “work deadlines”. He was inattentive to his children, verbally describing to them how to draw a Q while staring down at his I Pad instead of showing them. After the doctor prescribes a “brownie-based form of the drug to avoid the lung irritation associated with other modes of administration” (resolving the slightly violent pipe-smoking aspect of the embarrassing handicapped mascot/media archetype problem), Lowe finds an increase in his ability to focus on his children (“I’ll hold your hand while you hold the pen and we’ll make one together. There! We made a Q! Isn’t it Fantastic”). This new blazed dad is nevertheless somewhat disturbing. When his middle child asks to watch a video, father suggests that they act out a video instead, and that father will go get the finger puppets. Doesn’t he consider that maybe the middle child knows he’s stoned because he never used to go get the finger puppets before and that the child, even just knowing he’s stoned for one instant becomes suspicious of the ensuing play and distrustful of the father who has emerged out of the back room suddenly enthusiastic for play? Certainly that would have a chance of running through my mind were I stoned as father now is, and who knows what unanticipated modifications of behavior (a laugh that goes on too long, a stilted and unnatural jiggle of a finger puppet) would result? Wolfe does not address the ‘I-know-you-know-I-know’ aspect of the marijuana high, though he does acknowledge it (“deeply embedded voices of authority in my head still do caution me”).

“I swear I am a more loving, attentive and patient father when I take my medication as prescribed.” For the typical busy parent (internalizing the stress generated by the attempt to capitalize ideas as an art dealer perhaps), the benefits of nug outweigh the negative effects. He specifically cites being stoned as “enormously salutary to the parent-toddler relationship”- one in which the linguistics problems that can be complicated by being baked haven’t yet asserted themselves. But he cannot completely endorse stoned parenting without a measure of the personal responsibility that anoints the ideal icon of any interest rebranded within the last however many years. The stoned parent takes their medicine “always in private, never in front of them, never too much” in order to avoid becoming the drug addict parent. Self restrained usage will result in the parent experiencing time spent with their children as ‘qualitatively different’. If used completely optimally, the parent will have the benefit of “Parental Attention Surplus Syndrome”, which to many children past a certain age is not a benefit and an appropriate acronym. That pot helps dads not get so stressed about their jobs that they can hang with their kid I do not argue, it’s a reasonable assertion, likely to be supported by people who have positive experiences with marijuana and disagreed with by others who fear the drug. What’s interesting is the fight to get the drug classified correctly in the legal system. The linguistic transition from drug to medicine spins on the notion of dignity, and in every discussion of marijuana in the mainstream media, dignity is what’s at stake. I’m afraid Wolfe’s article, despite his best attempts to reshape his medicine with the dignity of an educated middle class family of an art dealer and the unspoiled dignity of the child who is concerned more with authentic human interaction than with right and wrong, ends up further muddling the debate. It adheres too closely to the confused, compromised and ultimately doomed discourse (which implies the alteration of consciousness but which never speaks of it directly) that keeps the nug in an awkward sub-legal status that is itself a manifestation of the hazy intentionality with which many users tentatively approach it. A recreational medicine? A soothing parental balm? A taxed and registered work relief brownie? What are we talking about here?

One Comment

  1. Jay Freeman

    There’s another question raised by Wolfe’s article, and that is why does he need any “medication” at all to effectively perform as a parent? This doesn’t seem to occur to him as an issue, other than that if he had a “staff of cooks and nannies” he could give “meditation or yoga” a whirl. His assertion that marijuana is his best option for being the best father he can be buys into a larger societal issue that everything can be medicated away.

    I know that that is not a new insight, but Wolfe’s argument seems particularly backward as he is essentially arguing for using his beloved herb as a “father’s little helper”. I am by no means arguing against the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana, but I am a bit disturbed by the nonchalance with which he regards self-“medicating” as self-improvement. How would Wolfe respond if I claimed that I thought all parents feeling stress and anxiety should get back on valium? Or for that matter, what if polishing off a flask of vodka helps me be more loving and attentive to my kids? Both have worked well in the past, right?

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