Our oldest son has health class in elementary school. Each year the topic of drugs is included in the agenda for a week. You know, the rah rah “just say no” and “drugs are bad” bit. They even have a spirit week built around it where each day they wear something that reinforces the anti-drugs messaging – like wearing sweatpants for “It’s no sweat to be drug-free” day and wearing crazy socks for “sock it to drugs” day. Fun stuff all around.
Don’t get me wrong… I am all for the anti-drug messages and I agree that they need to be integrated into the elementary school health classrooms.
But guess what was included in the list last year…
Yep… some things you would expect, like heroin and cigarettes… These are definitely the easier messages. Easy to reinforce. Things that are clearly avoided in our household Not a problem. Alcohol? While it was on the list and I have the occasional glass of wine with dinner, it isn’t a constant thing, so it didn’t raise any eyebrows from my fourth grader.
Of course, with this generation, they’ve included prescription drug abuse. This is a less easy item around which to demonstrate support, since we do have prescription drugs in the house and some are taken on continuous schedules. You can imagine the discussions…
“Mom, you take that every day. That means you are addicted. My brother takes his meds every morning, so he is a drug addict too.”
“Son, the doctor prescribes this for me so I can take care of my body. It is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that I am a drug addict. Your brother’s doctor prescribes that med for him because it helps his body deal with some specific issues. We take these for the right reasons.”
“Are you sure? My teacher says…” and on it goes. In fourth grade the world is black and white. Shades of gray are tough to explain. This drug abuse dialogue is particularly fun when my son starts it in the grocery store and strangers hear me trying to defend my drug use to my son. Eyebrows raise. Fun all around.
But guess what else is on the list?
Caffeine! Coffee!!! My beloved morning beverage has made the fourth grade health class black list! Can you imagine the dialogue heard in our household?
“Mom, you drink that every day. That means you are addicted.”
“Son, I am not addicted to coffee. I enjoy coffee in the morning. That’s why I drink it.”
“That’s what my teacher says. People abuse drugs because they enjoy them so much they can’t stop.”
“Son, I can stop when I want to.” I shudder as I recognize this oft used phrase. It sounds hollow even to me, the caffeine user. Wait. Now I am thinking of myself as a user?!? Then he tosses out the stinger.
“My teacher says that’s what drug addicts say when they are really addicted and don’t want to admit it.”
“What is your teacher’s email address again?”
Luckily my other son screamd for bathroom assistance at that moment (not in those words of course but I will spare you that Autism dialogue altogether). It gave me some time to figure out how to resolve my fourh grader’s inquiries in a way that supported the anti-drug messages yet protected my precious beverage of choice.
Oh yeah… and get another cup of coffee.