How cannabis helps parenting

Source: nytimes
By: Mark Wolfe

The youngest of my three daughters was born around the same time I became a card-carrying medical cannabis patient. Even though I was only 44, I’d been suffering from occasional back pain. I also suffered bouts of stress, compounded by anxiety. The causes were unknown, but there seemed to be a correlation with work deadlines and flying coach with three children under the age of 5. Sometimes it got so bad I had trouble falling asleep at night, leaving me groggy and irritable.

So, in 2010, I resolved to seek medical help. I received a thorough physical examination from my CannaMed doctor, who checked not only my pulse but my blood pressure as well.

Examining the results, he concluded that I would benefit enormously from a cannabis-based treatment regimen and recommended that I use a brownie-based form of the drug to avoid the lung irritation associated with other modes of dose administration. I soon had in my possession a shiny, state-sanctioned medical marijuana ID card, gaining me free access to the city’s expanding array of quasi-legal cannabis dispensaries.

After two years of treatment, I can state unequivocally that I feel much better about pretty much everything. Sure, my back still hurts, but I’m cool with it.

But the best part is an amazing off-label benefit I call Parental Attention Surplus Syndrome.

Before beginning treatment, I was a dutiful if not particularly enthusiastic father. Workaday parental obligations were a necessary, unfortunate chore. I was so stressed out by the end of the day that bedtime, with its interminable pleas for more stories, songs, sips of water and potty breaks, felt like a labor to be endured and dispatched as quickly as possible.

Here is what a typical weekday evening exchange between me and my oldest daughter once looked like:

    Child: Daddy, can you show me how to make a Q?
    Father: (sipping bourbon and soda, not looking up from iPad) Just make a circle and put a little squiggle at the bottom.
    Child: No, show me!
    Father: Sweetie, not now, O.K.? Daddy’s tired.
    It’s different now:
    Child: Daddy, can you show me how to make a Q?
    Father: (getting down on the floor) Here, I’ll hold your hand while you hold the pen and we’ll make one together. There! We made a Q! Isn’t it fantastic?
    Child: Thanks, Daddy!
    Father: Don’t you just love the shape of this pen?

    It’s the same with my middle child:
    Before:
    Child: Can I watch a video?
    Father: Of course!
    After:
    Child: Can I watch a video?
    Father: Why don’t we read a story and then pretend we’re in our own video! Go pick out a book, and I’ll go get the finger puppets.

I swear I am a more loving, attentive and patient father when I take my medication as prescribed. Perhaps this isn’t surprising. As anyone who inhaled during college can attest, cannabis enhances the ability to perceive beauty, complexity and novelty in otherwise mundane things (grout patterns in your bathroom floor, the Grateful Dead, Doritos), while simultaneously locking you into a prolonged state of rapt attention. You not only notice the subtle color variations in your cat’s fur, you stare at them in loving awe for 20 solid minutes.

I submit that this can be enormously salutary to the parent-toddler relationship. Beyond food, shelter and clothing, what do small children need most from their parents? Sustained, loving, participatory attention. Thank you, Doctor.

No doubt some of you are tut-tutting that I should use meditation or yoga or Zen mindfulness to achieve this. Point taken, and if I had a full-time staff of cooks and nannies, I’m sure I’d give all that a whirl. But the reality is that my wife and I are raising multiple tots on modest incomes in a small space in a very expensive city. No time for Tantra.

And I’m not suggesting that all stressed-out fathers should just get baked. You might even get a ticket for it in some states. And let’s not forget the health risks, which are rumored to possibly exist. I’ve heard that even a small amount of marijuana can impair short-term memory function. It might also affect short-term memory function.

But for me, at least, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. I find the time I spend with my children to be qualitatively different and simply more fun when I take my medicine (always in private, never in front of them, never too much). I am able to become a kid again, to see things through my daughters’ eyes and experience, if I’m lucky, the wonder of each new game, each new object and sound, as they do.

Deeply embedded voices of authority in my head do still caution that I may be hurting my kids in ways I can’t see. But I just can’t imagine how it could possibly be worse for them than the consequences of their father’s former stress-fueled frustration and withdrawal. When I’m rolling around the floor with my giggling daughters, clicking into an easy dynamic of goofy happiness and love, I feel it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Mark Wolfe is an art dealer.

3 thoughts on “How cannabis helps parenting

  1. same here but i have to buy it im more relaxed with my daughter plus im not popping pain pills but i dont have a med card to get it it may sound bad but im more focus it seems like my brain gets a boost

    Like

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