Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn! I am a 19-year-old college student away from home, and I’ve recently had reason to believe my father is smoking weed. I don’t disapprove, as it’s about to become legal anyway and I do it as well, but I am disappointed he hasn’t told me. I know most family secrets at this point, and I believe they trust me. So I’m kind of confused as to why they (or he alone — I’m not even sure my mother knows!) haven’t told me about this while I’ve figured it out myself, which leads me to believe they think I’m naive. I do want my dad to be an adult about this and come forth in his own time, but I’m also concerned there might be underlying problems if he hasn’t told my mom.
I’ve read this several times now, and still my only thought is, this is your dad’s business — and any underlying problems are, for the moment at least, your mom and dad’s business.
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There is a difference between your parents’ not reporting to you everything they do and keeping secrets from you. This sure sounds like the former.
So here’s my advice: Live your own life!
And here’s your brain’s advice to you: Go easy on the weed. Its increasing legality notwithstanding, your being only 19 means you’re close to, if not within, the highest-risk class of users (Google “marijuana and adolescent brain development”). Perhaps your parents know this, too, and are trying not to give you the message that smoking is OK just because Dad does it.
Re: Secret Smoking This could have been me, only Dad was smoking cigarettes. It can be harder to just dismiss than Carolyn suggests. It also annoyed me that I was almost complicit in the lies, since I wasn’t sure if my mom knew. Like after dinner when Dad would suddenly need to go run some random errand, are we all just pretending he’s not taking a smoke break, or do some of us actually believe it?
I tried to call my dad out on it (by writing him a card) and he never even responded. So we still just pretend it isn’t happening, and I feel like it IS my business because it’s right in my face.
Thanks for this perspective.
When the smell (and therefore the lie) is indeed “right in my face,” it’s fine to say, privately, “Dad, can we dispense with the ‘going on an errand’ dance? You smell like smoke. It’s your business — until you ask me to play dumb. Then it becomes mine.”
Hi, Carolyn: My parents secretly provide financial support and gifts to my siblings. I typically find out about it later through a slip or a third party. The secrecy bothers me more than the gifts.
Do I tell my parents that I know and that it is affecting my relationships with them and with my siblings, or should I accept this and come to terms with it?
Again — is this secrecy, or are these just transactions between adults that don’t involve you? If my dad gives my sister cash to help her out, why am I supposed to know?
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.