(I’m away for 2 weeks in Umbria. But I’ll check in on all the comments from the local internet cafe.)
My daughter went to a boarding school in the country.
One day I got a call from her housemistress.
She said there was nothing to worry about (never a good sign when someone starts off like that) but Jade had spent the night in the sanatorium.
They’d wanted to keep her under observation because they’d found her passed out on the lawn.
Apparently she and some other girls had been drinking vodka.
So I put the phone down and thought it over.
Then I called my solicitor and talked it over with him.
Then I called the school’s headmaster.
I said I’d just talked to my solicitor to find out exactly what my position was.
In what way was the school culpable?
My solicitor told me I must make it absolutely plain to the school what I find acceptable.
Once notified of that, they can be held responsible.
So I called the headmaster and told him that I was notifying him of the boundaries I expected him to enforce.
I said I found it acceptable for my daughter to drink beer and wine and smoke marijuana.
I didn’t find it acceptable for her to take any serious drugs or serious alcohol, i.e. spirits.
The headmaster said he thought that was a strange position as most parents were against any drugs, because they were illegal.
But they generally okay with alcohol because it was legal.
I said I wasn’t really interested in what was legal.
I was interested in what was life threatening.
I didn’t know anyone who’d died from beer, wine, or marijuana.
But I knew several people who’d died from serious drugs and serious alcohol.
I wasn’t saying she should smoke marijuana, just that I found that safer, and therefore more acceptable than vodka.
See it depends on what you see your parental responsibility as.
I thought it was my duty to get my children to 18 in one piece.
After that I hand them back to themselves.
My wife is an art director.
So to allow her to work, the children had a nanny when they were small.
I told every nanny the same thing when they started.
“The rules are very simple:
Rule One: the children must be safe.
Rule Two: they must be happy.
Rule Three: they should be educated.
If you’re ever in any doubt at all, default to Rule One.
Because as long as the children are safe, we can fix anything else.”
That was my attitude to drugs.
Of course they want to experiment.
Of course they want to be a bit naughty.
You don’t want your children to be goody-goodies.
So it’s about damage limitation.
Everything that’s fun is usually harmful in some way or another.
It’s naughty because it’s harmful.
It’s fun because it’s naughty.
You want your children to grow up with a bit of spirit.
But you want them to grow up safely.
So it’s a compromise.
Allow them to do something a bit naughty, but make sure it’s the least harmful of the options.
That way everyone gets some of what they want.
I get the children relatively safe.
They get to join in with their friends and be a bit daring.
And I was always honest with the kids about it.
Because the problem when I was young was that no one was honest.
Everyone’s attitude was exactly that of the parents at my daughter’s school.
All drugs are illegal therefore all drugs are equally wrong, dangerous, and harmful.
So, when I got to be a teenager, I started to experiment with grass.
I found it wasn’t so harmful.
So I figured if they lied about that maybe they lied about all drugs
So my generation ignored all the advice.
They took vast quantities of drugs, and a lot of them died.
I thought it was safer to be honest with my children.
To tell them some drugs are a lot worse than others.
Marijuana is the least harmful (at least it was before skunk).
Sure, like any smoking it can cause respiratory problems.
Also, taken to excess, you lose all ambition.
But I think everything else is more dangerous.
So that’s what I told my children.
It’s exactly the rule for tackling any problem.
In life or in advertising.
If we find out the facts, and present them in the most powerful way, they must work.
If they don’t work, then either the facts aren’t good enough or we’re not presenting them well enough.
So something needs to change.
Someone once said to me, “If you only ever tell the truth you never have to remember what you said.”
That’s true for any argument.