My five-year-old and I are free-building a volcano out Legos. He sits in my lap, helping me choose the right blocks. I snap them into place. It’s a strange and dilapidated looking volcano, but it’s ours, and as we work he starts to tell me a story about the lava monsters, the sky monsters, and the water monsters. I am hanging on every word. We laugh at the funny parts. We discuss conflicts between his characters and he talks about his feelings. This goes on for over an hour. I am engrossed. I am also a little bit high.
I do this sometimes. Call it play therapy. Maybe twice a month, at most, I fence off a few hours I can devote to my kids and then head upstairs to the master bathroom where I take a single hit of marijuana, before descending the stairs to the playroom. I then turn off whatever dumb show my kids might be watching and follow them into the imaginative land of their choosing.
This THC-infused play never fails to be deeply gratifying. For my part, I become keyed-in to my boys’ needs and ideas. I listen to them and respond thoughtfully. I follow them through weird narratives. I dress up. I play along. I say yes.
For their part, my boys have the playmate dad that they’re always asking me to be. The get a happy father who is happy to wrestle until everyone is breathless. They get the guy who has no problem laying in the hammock and figuring out what the birds are trying to say or the guy who will drive Hotwheels cars in circles with them until they are satisfied.
I’m not always that guy. In my day-to-day, I am busy and scattered. I am worried about how to pay the bills and keep the house clean. I am concerned with signing permission slips, completing homework and maybe getting enough time for myself to watch a grown-up show when the kids got to bed.
It’s not that I’m unpleasant and absent, it’s that I’m not regularly devoted to play. Honestly, there simply isn’t time for anything more than a quick game of chase and wrestle, some book reading, or a speedy Lego build. After all, dinner needs to be on the table. Bedtime chores need to be completed. Also, what about the homework? I need to be “Responsible Dad.”
But Responsible Dad is incompatible with serious play. And I mean, serious, lose-yourself-to-the-moment play. Oh, he tries. On the weekends, Responsible Dad leads adventures to local parks, or takes the kids to the beach, or hits a festival or museum. But Responsible Dad is also tired of the daily grind and has difficulty being in the moment because, despite his best efforts, his brain is always somewhere else.
Weed helps. It’s transformative. It helps me escape Responsible Dad and be completely, 100 percent in the moment. And in that moment I can see my boys. Really see them. And really hear them. It places the adult world on hold, and for awhile, I’m chasing Pokemon. Not with some ridiculous phone app, but the old school way … with my imagination. The same way my 7-year-old does it.
I can hear the angry teetotallers now: “It’s a crutch! Why can’t you just play like that without drugs!?” I don’t know actually. But I also don’t know why I can’t fight depression without Prozac. And, what’s the difference between those things, really? Is it that one simply levels me, while the other gives me some sense of pleasure that some find illicit and shocking? What if I were parenting with a beer in my hand? That wouldn’t be a problem. That would be expected, because hey, I’m a dad!
But smoking marijuana isn’t something I can do openly in my state. Not yet, anyway. So, these incredible moments I share with my boys are tinged with fear. The irony is that by smoking weed and devoting real one-on-one time with my children, they could be taken away from me.
I mean, I might understand that if I smoked so much that I rendered myself neglectful. But I’m not on the couch with glazed over eyes and a bong in my hand while my kids fight over the last Oreos I’ve somehow managed not to eat. My personal use of marijuana is both minimal and therapeutic. I get, what I refer to as “conversationally stoned.”
I grew up with pot smoking parents. They weren’t as thoughtful. They drove with a knee while lighting a hash pipe. They invited friends over for parties where I would wander in at seven years old to watch them pass the bong around, blowing great billows of smoke to the strains of the Doobie Brothers on the hifi. They weren’t playing with me, I can assure you.
Me? I’m discreet. My kids don’t see me smoke. If I can help it they probably never will. I was never so careful about a bottle of whiskey on the counter. Strange how that works.
Suffice it to say, I watch eagerly as marijuana is legalized in states across the country. And I hope for broad decriminalization. Because I shouldn’t feel like a criminal for getting a little high and enjoying time with my boys. And neither should any other dad as devoted to their children as I am.