This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.
Dear Sydney, I have kids who are almost teens. I smoke pot every now and then and am pretty easy-going as far as drinking and pot smoking goes. It doesn't bother me. What, I'm wondering, is appropriate around the kids? Do I smoke around them eventually? Keep it a secret? When they hit the teen years, do I let them do it around me if they show interest? I would rather they party at home, where they're safe, but I also don't want to be a bad influence. Any ideas?--Cool but Careful Mom
Dear Cool Mom: What a loaded topic! The best thing you can do for your kids is to have no addictions. None. You should exhibit calm, loving, inspired, dedicated, focused and understanding behaviors at all times, and you should not drink or smoke at all, not in front of your kids and not in secret. That would be the best thing, and if I were to say otherwise, I would just be trying to make all of us feel better about ourselves. However, if like the majority of humankind you are a flawed parent with some form of addiction--be it sugar, caffeine, hard liquor, infidelities or pharmaceuticals--then you have a decision to make.
By smoking and drinking in front if your kids (especially once they become teenagers and start paying closer attention to your habits), you are telling them that this is an acceptable way to behave. Maybe to you that means smoking pot once a day, drinking two beers a night, only having wine when friends are over or taking bong hits in the living room during movie time. Look at your habits, and then ask yourself: Would I be content if my kids grow up and end up doing exactly the same thing I'm doing now? Is this the message I want to send them? If it is, then you probably won't bother to hide it, because it won't feel wrong to you. But if you do feel bad about it, then trust your instincts and only engage in your habits when your kids aren't around.
As for allowing them to party at home, I don't think this is a decision you have to make right now. If only childrearing decisions could be so easily pinned down ahead of time! There are too many variables that will only become apparent with time. Write to me in a couple of years, when and if the situation comes up, give me the specifics, and we'll discuss it then.
Dear Sydney, I'm wondering how you feel about the new Humane Society in Sebastopol. It's beautiful and houses bunnies, dogs and cats in homelike environments that are warm and obviously very high dollar. Right across the highway from this amazing refuge for animals is the Joe Rodota bike trail, where many homeless folks sleep in the dirt with make-shift tents of plastic. I heard recently that a homeless man from Sebastopol suffered from frostbite. What do you think this reflects about us as a community?--Just Wonderin'
Dear Wonderin': It would be difficult not to be awed by the splendor that is the Sebastopol Humane Society, and it does seem as if hardly any expense was spared. When walking the resplendent halls, one might be moved to wonder if perhaps the design might be a little extravagant. But this building was made possible in large part by community support. People gave generous quantities of their own money to help build it. And they did this as opposed to building a marble-floored homeless shelter for those people freezing in the bushes, because they love and respect animals with the same sort of compassion and commitment that they love their fellow humans, perhaps even a bit more. There comes a time when your average Homo sapiens begins to gain a certain amount of control over his or her own fate; animals, on the other hand, are completely at our mercy. I suspect that the people involved with creating and maintaining the Humane Society feel as if this animal shelter is the least they can give to creatures that have been thrown by the wayside. Just the same, it is to our great discredit as a species that we can not care for everyone among us with such generosity and vision.
Dear Sydney, it seems like I'm always the one who empties the vacuum cleaner bag, dumps the compost and scrubs the mildew off the shower. How can I get my roommates to notice these things? I've brought this to their attention, but nothing seems to change. If I keep bringing it up, I'm going to seem like Super-Cleaning Bitch. If I leave it, I'm risking the chance of athlete's foot. What should I do?--Love My Roommates, Hate Their Habits
Dear Super-Cleaning Bitch: You cannot force another person to have the same sensibilities as you do in regards to cleaning. Sure, you can start fights or employ passive aggression, but ultimately all you will do is spur a couple of meager and half-hearted attempts at cleaning on your roommate's part, and then there will be a return to the way things were before. The best way to avoid this scenario, be it with roommates or sweethearts, is to discuss your needs in regards to housework before moving in together, compare notes and then see if you are at all compatible. You probably won't be, but at least this way you both know what you're getting into in advance.
And keep in mind, it's very likely that you are not enabling your roommates at all with your cleaning; they probably genuinely don't give a shit either way. If they did, they would feel qualms for not pitching in and would help more. The reality is, some people are OK with living in squalor. Rather than worry about cleaning the tub, when they get athlete's foot, they just buy that stuff that comes in a tube at the drug store and it goes away. Your best angle here is either to treat the housework as a sort of daily challenge that you must transcend with peace in your heart, or insist that everyone pitch in a modest cleaning fee. After all, if they're going to treat your collective space with total disrespect, then they should at lest have the decency to pay you for your labors. Demand your due, and if it you don't get it, then get your own place. It's the only real solution.
No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.