Mother's Dilemma

(by anonymous24, 02 July 2009)

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A Mother's Dilemma

Let me tell you all a very true story about my horror when I discovered
that my very young and only daughter was a smoker and how I handled the

I am a 33 year-old single mother of a fourteen year-old girl called Sara. I
have an OK job as a translator at the local airport. Everything is quite
conventional and outwardly normal in our lives except for one thing - my
14-year-old girl smokes cigarettes.  'So what!' I hear you say. Lots of
silly young girls smoke secretly. Well, that is where I am different. Sara
does not smoke secretly. For over two years Sara has openly smoked in front
of me. Now I can hear you thinking, what the hell! But you got that right,
Sara has been smoking cigarettes in front of me since she was

Now this next bit is important. I actually deplore that Sara smokes and I'm
not comfortable that I allow her to smoke. But as you will shortly read, I
didn't catch Sara starting to smoke, I discovered that she was already a
smoker and my eventual conclusion was based on being a smoker too.

First, a little background: I've been a smoker since I was young and I am
aware that smoking isn't accepted like it used to be.  But I enjoy smoking
and purposely continue to smoke.

But, I often wish that I didn't, especially after I gave birth to my
daughter.  I didn't want her to smoke and my grand plan was to make sure
that she wouldn't. The smoking issue raised its head when my daughter was
eight years old. At that time she thought smoking was very cool.  She would
pretend to smoke by picking up a straw or pencil and imitating me. I saw
myself as a competent and capable parent, and I certainly didn't want her
continuing to think it was cool and eventually become a smoker so I always
told her that smoking is a bad thing and mommy wished she'd never started.
During this period my daughter actually asked me several times when she
would be allowed to smoke.  I always said *never*!

I knew it was only a phase she went through and when she lost all interest
in smoking I knew she had got the message about not smoking. I also knew
that she would not be curious to even try it out because I had preached
that only fools try smoking and Sara was no fool. Moreover, she knew very
well that I would be furious and disappointed with her if she was even to
try out smoking until after she had left home.

I hope you can see that although I enjoyed smoking I was emphatic that Sara
wouldn't be a smoker as long as she was living with me and still a growing

Sadly, this all changed two years ago. One afternoon in the summer before
she entered 6th grade and three days after we celebrated her 12th birthday,
my daughter became unusually bitchy. I wondered what was wrong with her.
The only thing different about this day was we had been together the whole
time doing errands, shopping, and then going out to eat. At first she
became sullen, and then her attitude and her mood got worse as the day went
on - especially whenever I enjoyed a cigarette. It was as if she couldn't
bear to be around smoke anymore.

I just attributed it to her age and a heightened sense of the evils of
smoking, which of course are thoroughly communicated these days.  I even
thought that she might have been about to start having her first period.

We had dinner in a nice little café. After our meal I told Sara we were
going to stop at my mom's house on the way home. This led to another fight
because my daughter wanted to go straight back home.

But I insisted and we did go to my mom's house. Sara acted pleasant for
about half an hour until around the same time as my mother and I lit up
cigarettes.  That's when she turned again.  Looking agitated, she said she
was going out for a walk. Because my mother lived in the centre of a busy
town and although it wasn't dark, it was late, so I refused to let her go.
I didn't want her walking the streets unaccompanied. Another argument
ensued and finally I decided to go home and told her she was grounded for
having such a terrible attitude and for being so mean and disrespectful.

On our way home in the car Sara was still fidgeting. I lit up my customary
in-car cigarette although this time it was also to help calm down my
agitation about my daughter.

After taking a few drags from my cigarette I noticed that Sara was becoming
more restless and irritable.

"Do you have to smoke?" she suddenly blurted out after less than a minute
of fidgeting.

"What the hells wrong with you now?" I snapped back, still sore from her
earlier shitty behavior.

"You smoking stresses me out!"

Quickly I realized that I was being unfair forcing Sara to breath my smoke
in the close confines of the car and so I said I was sorry and I'd put it
out.  But just as I was about to extinguish my cigarette Sara said that's
not what she meant or wanted.

Oh! Here comes her first lecture on the evils of smoking, I thought.

"Ok, so if my smoke is stressing you and you don't want me to put it out,
what exactly do you want?"

"Your smoking is stressing me Mom, because it makes me want..." She tailed
off and stopped.

"Makes you want to what, Sara?" I prompted her. "Scream? Be sick?"  

"Makes me want..." she said, in an even quieter voice. She paused, then
blurted out, "I want a cigarette!"

I gasped with surprise. I was sure I had heard her correctly, but...

"I beg your pardon. Did you say my smoking makes you want a cigarette?"

Dropping her voice she self-consciously replied.

"Yes mom!"  Then with a tremor in her voice she added, "Actually mom, I
really, really am gasping for a cigarette."

I was so taken aback I pulled the car over to the side of the road and
stopped.  I just looked at her. I first thought it was impossible that my
little baby could be gasping for a cigarette. She was only twelve. She
didn't smoke. I was in an unanticipated scenario with no pat answers to
hand. With little thought as to what to say I simply laughed.

"Sara, how can a non-smoker like you possibly be gasping for a cigarette?"
I retorted.

Her reply staggered me. She told me that she was not a non-smoker and that
she had been smoking for nearly two years.

I sat still, not knowing what to say, stunned by what she had said.  Sara
was visibly stressed and tearful and then started pleading with me saying

"Oh please mom!  I really, really, really do need a cigarette."

Her eyes were brimming with tears.

My belief that I was a competent and capable parent was taking a battering
but I tried to understand.  The way Sara had been so rude and bad tempered
would make sense if she were a secret smoker. Being a smoker would clearly
explain today's tantrums. After all, she had been with me all day with no
chance to smoke. Sara would be desperate for nicotine.

Now, as I have already stated, I never ever wanted Sara to smoke although I
realized that I couldn't stop her when she was grown up. I certainly never
for one moment thought she might try smoking before then and yet here I was
dealing with the disturbing fact that she was already a smoker

I was confused. What was I supposed to do when my twelve-year-old daughter
says she has been smoking for two years and desperately needs a cigarette?

It was awful yet sad for me. It was awful because as a smoker myself, I
know very well what it's like to crave a cigarette and it was sad that my
own child knew that first hand. I was finding it hard to comprehend that my
little girl was a smoker like me; she was too nice and normal. But if she
was telling the truth then it was even sadder, because if Sara was having a
nicotine fit at the desperately young age of twelve she really must have
been smoking for some time. This totally undermined my notion of me being a
discerning parent because I hadn't even suspected that she smoked.

Furthermore, I'm like most parents, we don't want our kids making the same
mistakes we did.  Clutching at straws I answered that I didn't believe she
smoked; I said she was too young to do it properly!

She shook her head and I continued.  However, if she really did smoke
properly then I understood that she must be feeling a bit crotchety.  But I
told her that I wasn't going to give her a cigarette on principal.

Sara then replied that she didn't want one of my cigarettes because she had
her own cigarettes and could she smoke one, as she was rummaging in her
little bag.  She pulled out a half full packet of B&H king size cigarettes.

I was horrified!  My little girl had her own cigarettes. This caught me
totally unaware.  I was too shocked to remonstrate with her and
unbelievably, I found myself answering.

"I suppose so."

Never in a hundred years would I have imagined that I would be giving my
pre-teen permission to smoke and here I was doing just that.

Watching my twelve-year-old daughter taking a cigarette out of her own
packet of cigarettes and seeing the experienced way she placed it between
her lips was one of the most disturbing moments of my adult life.  The long
cigarette dangled obscenely from her lips while she looked back inside her
bag and pulled out a lighter.  The B & H king size cigarette protruding
from her young lips looked too grown-up. It made Sara look so incorrigibly
corrupt.  I couldn't describe how I felt seeing the grown-up cork tipped
filter nestling between her young lips.  Equally shocking was the way she
fluidly sparked her lighter into life.  I know I looked shocked because
Sara glanced uneasily at me just before she moved her lighter towards her
face.  Holding her hair back she dropped her face down towards her
lighter's flame and drew her cigarette into life.

Moving her face away from her lighter her cigarette continued glowing
brightly as she anxiously pulled smoke into her young mouth. The image of
Sara looking so childlike, young and innocent yet paradoxically pulling
expertly on a lit cigarette is forever etched in my brain.  

After a lengthy drag she removed the cigarette from her lips with a
flourish and opened her mouth and inhaled.  I realized the volume of smoke
she had just pulled into her mouth was the same amount as I take in. Since
she was so young and considering the sheer volume of smoke Sara had drawn
from her cigarette, it should have made her choke or at least have a
coughing fit.

But she didn't. In fact, Sara didn't even blanch. Instead she looked
euphoric.  She held in the smoke for a full five seconds before she pursed
her lips and exhaled. My heart sank when I saw the way the heavy plume of
diffused smoke rushed through her young lips with ease and sank even
further when I saw the look of utter gratification on Sara's face.

Horrified, I watched her draw another equally huge expanse of smoke and
inhale this too.

"Oh mom I so needed this!" she said, interspersed with the smoke, almost
blew me away.

That dancing talk exhale was controlled by Sara into another feathery plume
that lazily spread away from her pursed lips. Her proficiency with
cigarette smoke was obvious and bothered me enormously.

My image of Sara being a sweet, clean and naïve preteen was completely
blown out the water.  Disorientated, I continued driving for home. Sara and
I talked the rest of the way home. It was so strange driving my car with my
twelve-year-old daughter smoking a cigarette right next to me. I could see
that her mood was returning to its usual cheerfulness.  But I couldn't help
feeling concerned I was doing the wrong thing allowing myself to be in this
irregular position and found myself feeling like a bad mother.

But when Sara extinguished her cigarette and promptly lit up another
cigarette explaining she needed to catch up, I was close to tears.  I told
her I really didn't want her smoking and that she must quit and quit
immediately. I offered to do anything she wanted if she was willing to
quit, get her hypnosis, the nicotine patch, etc.

She didn't want to stop because she loved smoking. She said this as she
passed her lit cigarette to me. In my annoyance I took it from her and she
lit another one for herself. Now we were smoking together and this was even
stranger. I was smoking my daughter's cigarette. We continued talking when
we got home and much to my consternation I gave her one of my cigarettes.
Lighting her up I stressed that that she and I both needed to quit
together.  We made a pact that we would both quit on August 1st, which was
7 days away, and I would get the nicotine lozenges for both of us.

For the next few days she smoked openly at home - she was free to smoke up
until our quit date. During those run-up days it was very obvious to me
that she was no novice smoker and furthermore, was as addicted to her
cigarettes as I was.

It was somewhat unreal when I walked into our living room the next day
after work and saw her lying on the floor reading through her girlie comic
just as she normally did, however, there was a huge difference because now
there was packet of cigarettes and an ashtray next to her comic had two
crushed cigarettes in it. As she laid there one hand nonchalantly held
alongside her pretty face was adorned with a smoldering cigarette. As I
stared at her she tilted her head upwards, playfully releasing a plume of
diffused smoke into the air made me feel decidedly uneasy

Sara soon got over her uneasiness of smoking in front of me and we talked
much more than before. We became friends with smoking as our common
denominator. As we talked more, Sara opened up and I found out my Sara and
her friend began sneaking mine and the friend's parent's cigarettes when
they were only ten. I learned that they would take packs from cartons and
hide them and experiment. I had no idea she was doing this - I had been
oblivious to the fact that my daughter was smoking.  Watching her smoking
in front of me, it was clear she had learned well.

I know I should have noticed my cigarette packets going missing and I feel
guilty about not realizing what was going on. I should have noticed my
cigarettes missing or the fact that she always enjoyed taking the dog for
long walks (in order to get her nicotine fix). I should have smelled it on
her and I don't know why I never did.

I also learned with horror that during the week before she told me she was
a smoker, she had run out of cigarettes and was desperate for a smoke.
Because I was with my cousin and due to return in a few hours she couldn't
wait. She had then dolled herself with makeup and mascara to look older and
took my car and drove herself into town to buy cigarettes.  She told me
that she loved smoking as she was driving. After she got the cigarettes she
decided to pick up her friend Saskia, who was a year younger. The two
preteens went for a long drive into the next town some fifty miles away.
This news explained my car's seemingly heavy fuel consumption. My
twelve-year-old daughter illegally driving it was the reason why. I made
her promise never to take my or any car again until she had a license.

When August 1 rolled around I threw out all the cigarettes, the lighters,
and even the ash trays. I was now going to be a non-smoker for the first
time in 23 years.

Sad to say, the journey to quit smoking lasted only 13 days for me and 10
days for my daughter.  Two years later and my daughter and I still both
smoke and I'm ashamed that I am not a better role model to my daughter. As
one of my friend says, quitting is something that everyone does when
they're ready and I guess for now both my daughter and I are not ready.

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