Thursday, August 03, 2006

Madison General's Warning

We have two smokers in our family, really in our lives, my grandmother on my mother's side, who we have always called Namie, and my mother's sister, Diana. They have both smoked for as long as I have known them, so we're talking 40 years worth of cigarettes at this point, with basically no real negative health impacts yet, knock on wood.

As new parents after Madison was born we were always very careful about exposing her to cigarette smoke, for fear that a stray puff or two could permanently compromise her growing lung tissue or induce a case of SIDS. As a newborn, Madison rarely visited Namie's house and when she did I made sure to call at least an hour ahead to make sure my grandmother opened all the windows to provide for proper ventilation and from that moment on conducted any necessary smoking in the backyard until we had arrived, visited and were well clear of the premises.

As I've said on here, Madison notices everything, and within about a half second of noticing something she asks about it. So it was not surprising when a few years ago she wondered aloud about these little white burning things protruding from Namie and Diana's mouths when they ducked out of family functions to stroll the lawn or - during winter months - huddle inexplicably in a frigid garage.

We took our parental responsibilities in this regard very seriously, and from the first inquiry drummed in the idea that cigarettes are terrible things, that they make people sick and that, once people start, it is very, very, very hard to stop. The messages took hold with Madison, who happily has developed a real aversion to smoking and cigarettes that of course we hope will endure. I ducked into a Casa del Habano while on vacation in Aruba earlier this year to buy a couple of cigars for the casino, and when I got back to our hotel Madison was so unnerved by the sight of Fidel's finest sleeping in their little zip-lock bed - "Daddy you're going to smoke?! Like Namie?! Smoke?!" - that I decided they would never rise.

We were talking last night and she mentioned that she'd been in a friend's Mommy's car earlier in the day and saw this strange box that people can use to put their cigarettes in after they are done smoking them. I told her it was called an ashtray and her eyes lit up at the notion that there was actually a word for such an unspeakable thing. She was very specific on the point that there were no cigarettes in the box in her friend's Mommy's car, just some loose change and cracker crumbs, but wanted me to know it was there and that she understood some people used these things for cigarettes.

I explained that a long time ago all cars had these little boxes, and also lighters so people could smoke cigarettes in their cars as they were driving, but that basically no one smoked anymore - just a few older people who hadn't been able to quit - so they really don't put these boxes or lighters in cars today. I told her it was good that people had stopped smoking because it causes bad health effects and can make people very sick.

She asked whether or not Namie or Diana had ever had any "bad health effects" from smoking and I said not really, not yet, but they were very lucky. And then she said this:

"Daddy, we should tell all the stores that sell cigarettes to stop selling them, so there we be no more to get. And we should find out where Namie gets her cigarettes and talk to them, so when the ones she has are gone there won't be any more."

Pure and unassailable poetry... from a five-year-old.


Blogger Sugee Andersyn said...

It's amazing that when she wants to know something, she already has the sense to know she has to "find out"/investigate to get the information needed. That's genious.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's very interesting that your daughter, at such a young age, as such a strong insight to what is right and wrong. Even thought I am only 14, and obviously have no children of my own, I think your blogs about your children are very insightful and moving. They really make you think about the innocence of children and how easily they are influenced.

3:35 PM  

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