When I was sixteen, my mom confessed to me she'd had PREMARITAL SEX. Why I had not assumed she'd had premarital sex when I knew both that she had dated my dad for seven years before they got married and that they still, judging from the Price Club value pack of Trojans underneath the hairdryer in her bathroom, were having sex, basically just speaks to my total cluelessness, and their success in hiding from me the morally degenerative nature of my genes. I had no idea at that point that I would be a drunk, for instance. But I did, upon hearing my mom tell me how, honey, my roommates and I went and got the Pill together... begin to entertain the notion that I might one day be a slut. Remarkably, the thought had never before crossed my mind. Which is all a long way of expressing my opinion on the central question of yesterday's Washington Post Magazine cover story: "If you cop to something, anything, will this give your children tacit permission to try it all? Remarkably few — if any — researchers have explored this topic."
"What I could find on this specific conversation is basically nothing," reported Jennifer Manlove, a senior research associate at Child Trends, a reliable source of data on children and adolescents.
"I was a friggin' dealer in ninth grade!" this woman remembered incredulously. That year, she recalled, she and a friend would buy a nickel bag of marijuana and smuggle it to her friend's bedroom. Under the bed was a shoebox of candy — also forbidden in her friend's household — and beside that was a second shoebox in which they would store the contraband. "We would roll joints and put them in Sucrets boxes and bring them to school and sell them for a dollar," she said. The point wasn't getting high — she doesn't remember doing that much — or even making money, but the crafts project aspect. "What was really fun was that we got really good at rolling them." She also remembered stealing. She and her friends took some costume jewelry from a department store and sorted through it at a table at Friendly's.
And she would be horrified — horrified! — if her kids did any of these things. She regrets any high school experimentation and doesn't want her children following in her footsteps. This surprised her sister, who doesn't have kids and so doesn't understand the radical change of perspective that comes with parenthood. "She thought I was going to be, like, this really cool parent: When you're ready to try [marijuana], I'll get it for you." Not hardly. It is your children who fully reform you.