Playmate's mom is a smoker

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  November 4, 2011 06:00 AM

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Hi Barbara,

I'm the mom of a 4-year-old preschooler who has been very happy at preschool. He's very social and well-liked and gets many playdate invitations. Here's my problem: Today he came home from playing at a classmate's -- the mom offered to drop him off at home because she had an errand. Maybe that should have been my red flag. Anyway, he was already out of the car when I went out to greet him/them. I bent down to hug him and he smelled from cigarette smoke. His clothes smelled, his hair smelled. It was awful! I was very upset, although the mom was already back in the car and waving as she pulled away. I tried not to show my upset to him, but I made an excuse why he needed to change clothes and I popped him in the tub as soon as I could come up with an excuse.

So the problem is: how do I tell him I don't want him to play at that house anymore? He likes the boy. And what do I tell the mom when/if another invitation comes. The boy is nice; I don't mind if plays here. But I don't want my son exposed to all that second hand smoke!!

From: In a daze, er, haze, Detroit

Dear In a d/haze,

I vote for telling everyone the truth.

When the mom calls again, tell her you're sorry, but your son came home smelling from cigarette smoke. You're happy to have her son come to your house but you don't want your son exposed to second-hand smoke in her house. You hope she understands. Sooner or later, she will discover that you aren't the only mom to feel this way, but you may be among only a few to be honest with her. Hopefully, she will appreciate that. Maybe it will even be a wake-up call for her.

When your son wants to play there again, ask him, "Did you notice that J's mom smokes cigarettes? In our family, we think cigarettes are not healthy, so I don't want you to play there anymore. But J can play here whenever you want." I would word it that way -- "in our family" -- because it's the least judgmental way to say it. Plus, anything else ("His mom smokes and it's not good to breath air with cigarette smoke.") is apt to make him worry about his friend breathing bad air. This way, you are just establishing that families do things differently.

Readers, I'd love to hear what suggestions you might have.


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23 comments so far...
  1. I think you should say nothing to the mother and just have the play dates at your house.

    Keep in mind that your son will be exposed to auto exhaust, chemicals, and germs in his lifetime - every day. I understand wanting to keep him safe, though.

    It's hard for kids to make friends, don't jeopardize this one by putting the mom on the defensive.

    Posted by just cause November 4, 11 11:08 AM
  1. In this case, I wouldn't say anything unless the boys become fast friends. For all you know the boys won't even be in the same school next year. This won't be the first time that you'll need to put the brakes on playdates. Wait a bit to return the playdate, and if she asks again to come to her house stall a bit and see if the request dies out on its own. If the boys do become close, then say something about the smoking to the mom only. There's no need to say anything to your son outside of "XXX's mom and I need to figure that out."

    At this age, you should be scoping out the playdates very carefully. I would try to get to know the mom/dads first by chatting them up at birthday partys and preschool pick-up. You should also hang around for at least a small part of the first visit. Most parents completely understand the need for "inspection."


    Posted by PatD November 4, 11 11:40 AM
  1. I would first determine if she actually smokes in her house. Many smokers do not. If she doesn't smoke in her home or in front of her children, he may just have smelled from the fact that the car smells, in which case, you would always pick him up and drop him off without having to cut off going there altogether. Maybe the LW already knows the answer to those questions but if not, it's something to look into.

    Posted by Linney November 4, 11 11:45 AM
  1. Yes, "inspect" all you want...but be prepared for another kid's mom not to let her kid over to your house because you let them watch TV for half an hour, or let them eat an unauthorized Pop-Tart, or let them play "unattended" for five minutes when you went to the bathroom without crating the dog, or Dad has a hunting rifle unloaded and locked in a safe but that's not good enough.

    Are you really concerned that a brief second hand smoke exposure once in a blue moon is that dreadfully harmful, or are you worked up about it because it's one of the things on the Good Mommy check-off list?

    Posted by di November 4, 11 01:44 PM
  1. Linney,

    The car is an even more enclosed spot and the risks of second-hand smoke are even higher there! If the smell came from the car, the LW is even more justified in moving the playdates to her home instead.

    Posted by Issybelle November 5, 11 10:31 AM
  1. I would just find excuses for declining for now. Maybe meet at parks as a group to get to know her better. I only have a 2 yr old, but I can't imagine letting my child go to someone's house without me if I didn't know them well enough to know if they smoke. Like another poster said, maybe this is a temporary friendship anyway, so don't worry about it yet. I find it odd that some of the other commenters don't think it is a big deal to let a child go to a house where they smell smokey when they come home. Totally gross and inappropriate.

    Posted by Rachel November 5, 11 09:15 PM
  1. If you didn't know the mom well enough to know that she smokes, what else don't you know about her? Did you get to know her at all before you let your child go over there? It seems strange that you're all worked up about an hour or two of secondhand smoke but you basically let your child hang out at a stranger's house.

    Posted by supermom23 November 6, 11 08:41 AM
  1. Our society is hysterical about cigarette smoke.

    I was once standing on the corner of Mass Ave and Boylston, with 8 lanes of heavy truck-and-bus traffic swirling around me, with another 8 lanes of heavy traffic and two diesel train tracks below me on the Pike, when I winced when a Berklee student blew smoke in my direction.

    16 lanes of traffic plus diesel locomotives, and I noticed the cigarette smoke?

    Unless your kid is asthmatic, or takes up a second residence at this kid's house, don't worry about it.

    Posted by AP November 6, 11 10:22 AM
  1. Wow, I can't believe all the responses are defending the smoking mom. I mean, she can do what she wants but not around my child. I would do exactly as Barbara suggested. I would have no problem telling my kid that I'm sorry, but he couldn't go to someone's house if they were smoking. I'd probably not tell the parent that, but if it was unavoidable, I'd say it in as nice a way as possible. If she was offended, oh well, she should know better and she's not someone I'd want my kid hanging around anyway.

    Posted by mom2boys November 6, 11 10:32 AM
  1. And really...she dropped a four year old off (hope she had an extra carseat) and drove away without even talking to the mother at all? Doesn't sound like someone I'd want to associate with anyway.

    Posted by mom2boys November 6, 11 10:36 AM
  1. I would even say as long as she is not smoking in the car or in the house, or other enclosed area where the children are playing or have access to. Then if she wants to smoke outside then that is her right. As the first commenter stated, you and your children are exposed to all sorts of chemicals and known and unknown carcinogens EVERY DAY. You don't have to stop your child from seeing this friend based on this. YOu could simply voice your concerns to this mother (certainly not in a patronizing or condescending manner). Or drop off your child or pick up his friend yourself. I would voice my thoughts kindly.

    Posted by jd November 6, 11 10:43 AM
  1. Issybelle, I meant she might smoke in the car with no one else around but it would make the car smell. Last I checked, second hand smoke is harmful but second hand smoke smell is not.

    Posted by Linney November 6, 11 05:27 PM
  1. di, I'm not the mom who wrote this letter, but I can honestly say I would never let my children play in a home where someone smokes. Period. And no, it isn't because it's "one of the things on the Good Mommy check-off list." It's because smoking is just plain bad for everyone. If someone else wants to poison her own body and that of her child with cigarette smoke, that's her choice. But I don't have to expose my child to that, even for a few hours every once in a while.

    Oh, and it's completely ridiculous to compare smoking a cigarette with watching television or eating an occasional pop-tart. There are more than 30 known carcinogens in cigarette smoke, and according to the US Surgeon General, "Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to your health." With that in mind, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would ever knowingly expose their children to cigarette smoke, and I certainly can't fathom why anyone would deride others for wanting to protect their children from something so obviously dangerous and unhealthy.

    Posted by Robin November 6, 11 06:42 PM
  1. Oh my goodness, calm down. If she wanted your son to sleep over for a week, or if your son has a medical condition (like asthma) that makes it dangerous for him to be around smoke, you could express your concern then. Otherwise, continue to do exactly what you did - let him play over there, then change his clothes and throw them in the wash when you get home. Think about it, in a 2 hour playdate, she probably smoked 2 cigarettes, 4 tops. I'd hazard a guess you smoked that many on some nights in college, and even if you didn't, you were around folks who did. I'm all for risk mitigation, but let's be realistic here. Being around rare second-hand smoke has no long term health implications AT ALL. Yes, I think it's reasonable to discuss with your son how you don't smoke cigarettes in your family because smoking is bad for you, but honestly, even in the safest carseat, your son is in far more danger getting in and out of the car everyday than he is having a friend whose mother smokes.

    Posted by jane November 6, 11 10:23 PM
  1. Unless your son is asthmatic, occasional exposure to 2nd hand smoke should not be a health problem. As a PP mentioned, oftentimes we go about blissfully unaware of breathing in many harmful pollutants, (which we should all be out there advocating against, so that children don't have to breathe them, but that's a different issue.

    It's chronic exposure that's an issue. If your sons end up being good buds, that is the time to have a conversation.

    Posted by Judy November 6, 11 11:03 PM
  1. I am a smoker, but I don't smoke inside my home in deference to the fact that we have a small child. That being said, why don't you just ASK THE MOTHER? Maybe she doesn't smoke. Maybe _her_ mum was over and _she_ smokes! Maybe she dropped someone else who smokes off along the way.

    Honestly, of all of the things that can happen to you or your child, this is such a non-issue to me. Maybe because I'm tired of being vilified myself in spite of the fact that we don't smoke inside and we don't allow it. But the LW reaction to this one would have believed that her precious snowflake emerged from the vehicle with crack and heroin in his pockets.

    So, by all means, treat the friend's mum like a criminal; pillory her publicly if it makes you feel superior and good about your hyper-vigilance...but don't let any common sense parenting get hold here because Lord knows, we wouldn't want your child having long term friends due to the capital crime of smoking.

    Sorry. I'm just so tired of parents like this. Mums like this LW make me want to keep my child away from hers and others like her. The judgemental lifestyle they live is far more toxic than any occasional exposure to second-hand smoke could ever be.


    Posted by phe November 7, 11 01:27 PM
  1. Judy wrote: "...occasional exposure to 2nd hand smoke should not be a health problem."
    Wrong! I reiterate what the US Surgeon General has stated:
    "Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to your health."

    Posted by Robin November 7, 11 02:15 PM
  1. Phe, sensitive much? I reread the letter three times and I don't see anything in there that is the least bit judgemental and I see no calls for criminal prosecution. Just a mom who doesn't want her child to smell like smoke and wants to protect the feelings of others, for which you have made quite a number of unflattering snap judgements that reveal more about you than anyone else in this story.

    Posted by geocool November 8, 11 02:04 PM
  1. Phe, I used to smoke myself. I quit when I found out I was having a child. I never went back to it. I feel for smokers. They are treated like lepers. It is ridiculous. Most smokers I have known are quite courteous to those who don't smoke. Some are not. Everything in life can be harmful.
    Robin, While the US Surgeon General is correct,the same can be said for the everyday chemicals you and everyone use on a daily basis. If a non smoker gets lung cancer, you cannot contribute it to the 2 hours that person may have spent with a smoker who may have smoked 2 or 4 cigarrettes around him/her. Unless of course said person lives in a bubble.

    Posted by Anonymous November 8, 11 02:24 PM
  1. "...the same can be said for the everyday chemicals you and everyone use on a daily basis."

    People say this, but I have yet to see any actual evidence of it.
    If there are, indeed, chemicals in my environment that have been proven to be just as dangerous as cigarette smoke, I'm certainly unaware of them. Cigarette smoking is something I *am* aware of. I avoid the dangerous things I know about and have some control over. How could it possibly make sense to do otherwise?

    Posted by Robin November 8, 11 07:33 PM
  1. Robin, yes, agreed but what about the car you drive? There are hazards there. chemicals going into the lotions and shampoos the world uses on our children. The list goes on and on. There are some known contaminants in those products,yet we either choose to stay away from them or use them. There are risks in life. There always will be. No one is saying you shouldn't avoid the things that you know are dangerous. But be real. that one occurence isn't going to be what ruins the child's health. (assuming the child has no health problems). It is quite acceptable to simply voice a concern and just be nice and ask that she keep the smoking outside away from her child. It isn't a lot to ask

    Posted by jd November 9, 11 02:19 PM
  1. Jd wrote:
    "that one occurence isn't going to be what ruins the child's health"

    You don't know that, jd. No one does. Scientists cannot pinpoint the moment when the DNA in a lung cell mutates, nor can they tell when the cell reaches a tipping point of mutations that actually causes cancer. Maybe that whiff of smoke was the thing that pushed it over the edge. Maybe not. I can't prove it is. You can't prove it isn't.

    You're correct that we take risks every day. Those risks involve cost-benefit analyses, and if we choose to accept a risk, we do so because the anticipated reward outweighs the potential harm. I guess I just don't feel that the reward my child might get from playing in a smoker's home every now and then would justify the health risks of exposing her to second-hand smoking, especially when there are plenty of other kids she could play with whose homes *don't* have those risks associated with them.

    I do feel sorry for the kids of smokers. I suspect they miss out on a lot of things because their parents can't or won't give up this dangerous behavior. But ultimately, my job as a parent is to protect my own child as best I can from obvious harm.

    Smokers can whine all they want about non-smokers treating them like pariahs, but that isn't going to make me or anyone else feel guilty about protecting myself or my kids. Like it or not, that's just the way it is.

    Posted by Robin November 10, 11 03:28 PM
  1. "You don't know that, jd. No one does. Scientists cannot pinpoint the moment when the DNA in a lung cell mutates, nor can they tell when the cell reaches a tipping point of mutations that actually causes cancer. Maybe that whiff of smoke was the thing that pushed it over the edge. Maybe not. I can't prove it is. You can't prove it isn't. "

    Exactly-- we don't know that. And yes it could have been the whiff that sent him over the edge of getting cancer. LIke you said we can't prove either way. We could drive ourselves crazy worrying about everything in life. I do agree with most of your points...I am just saying we can't avoid all risks. And for the short amount of time this child was there...I could see if this child was exposed a lot. We just do our best to protect them the best we know how. I Would I want someone to smoke around my children? No I wouldn't. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want someone smoking in a house/car with my kids in it either. But, if mom is outside away from the kids then how can I worry about that especially for such a short time. Is it possible the mom smoked while the child was in the vehicle? Yes, then by all means, avoid the situation or confront the mom. That is why my answer is simple. TALK to this mom and let her know how you feel and if this LW and this mom can come to common ground. I used to smoke but quit when I found outI was pregnant and never turned back because, like you, I want what is best for my children.

    As far as smokers whining, If they choose to smoke that is their right,,,,they know the risks. It is all about just having the common sense not to expose our children/other people to it. I have seen non smokers go out of their way to sit next to someone who is smoking when they are outside and are plenty of open seating elsewhere for the sole purpose of complaining to them. But that is a different story for another day.

    Posted by jd November 14, 11 12:15 PM
 
23 comments so far...
  1. I think you should say nothing to the mother and just have the play dates at your house.

    Keep in mind that your son will be exposed to auto exhaust, chemicals, and germs in his lifetime - every day. I understand wanting to keep him safe, though.

    It's hard for kids to make friends, don't jeopardize this one by putting the mom on the defensive.

    Posted by just cause November 4, 11 11:08 AM
  1. In this case, I wouldn't say anything unless the boys become fast friends. For all you know the boys won't even be in the same school next year. This won't be the first time that you'll need to put the brakes on playdates. Wait a bit to return the playdate, and if she asks again to come to her house stall a bit and see if the request dies out on its own. If the boys do become close, then say something about the smoking to the mom only. There's no need to say anything to your son outside of "XXX's mom and I need to figure that out."

    At this age, you should be scoping out the playdates very carefully. I would try to get to know the mom/dads first by chatting them up at birthday partys and preschool pick-up. You should also hang around for at least a small part of the first visit. Most parents completely understand the need for "inspection."


    Posted by PatD November 4, 11 11:40 AM
  1. I would first determine if she actually smokes in her house. Many smokers do not. If she doesn't smoke in her home or in front of her children, he may just have smelled from the fact that the car smells, in which case, you would always pick him up and drop him off without having to cut off going there altogether. Maybe the LW already knows the answer to those questions but if not, it's something to look into.

    Posted by Linney November 4, 11 11:45 AM
  1. Yes, "inspect" all you want...but be prepared for another kid's mom not to let her kid over to your house because you let them watch TV for half an hour, or let them eat an unauthorized Pop-Tart, or let them play "unattended" for five minutes when you went to the bathroom without crating the dog, or Dad has a hunting rifle unloaded and locked in a safe but that's not good enough.

    Are you really concerned that a brief second hand smoke exposure once in a blue moon is that dreadfully harmful, or are you worked up about it because it's one of the things on the Good Mommy check-off list?

    Posted by di November 4, 11 01:44 PM
  1. Linney,

    The car is an even more enclosed spot and the risks of second-hand smoke are even higher there! If the smell came from the car, the LW is even more justified in moving the playdates to her home instead.

    Posted by Issybelle November 5, 11 10:31 AM
  1. I would just find excuses for declining for now. Maybe meet at parks as a group to get to know her better. I only have a 2 yr old, but I can't imagine letting my child go to someone's house without me if I didn't know them well enough to know if they smoke. Like another poster said, maybe this is a temporary friendship anyway, so don't worry about it yet. I find it odd that some of the other commenters don't think it is a big deal to let a child go to a house where they smell smokey when they come home. Totally gross and inappropriate.

    Posted by Rachel November 5, 11 09:15 PM
  1. If you didn't know the mom well enough to know that she smokes, what else don't you know about her? Did you get to know her at all before you let your child go over there? It seems strange that you're all worked up about an hour or two of secondhand smoke but you basically let your child hang out at a stranger's house.

    Posted by supermom23 November 6, 11 08:41 AM
  1. Our society is hysterical about cigarette smoke.

    I was once standing on the corner of Mass Ave and Boylston, with 8 lanes of heavy truck-and-bus traffic swirling around me, with another 8 lanes of heavy traffic and two diesel train tracks below me on the Pike, when I winced when a Berklee student blew smoke in my direction.

    16 lanes of traffic plus diesel locomotives, and I noticed the cigarette smoke?

    Unless your kid is asthmatic, or takes up a second residence at this kid's house, don't worry about it.

    Posted by AP November 6, 11 10:22 AM
  1. Wow, I can't believe all the responses are defending the smoking mom. I mean, she can do what she wants but not around my child. I would do exactly as Barbara suggested. I would have no problem telling my kid that I'm sorry, but he couldn't go to someone's house if they were smoking. I'd probably not tell the parent that, but if it was unavoidable, I'd say it in as nice a way as possible. If she was offended, oh well, she should know better and she's not someone I'd want my kid hanging around anyway.

    Posted by mom2boys November 6, 11 10:32 AM
  1. And really...she dropped a four year old off (hope she had an extra carseat) and drove away without even talking to the mother at all? Doesn't sound like someone I'd want to associate with anyway.

    Posted by mom2boys November 6, 11 10:36 AM
  1. I would even say as long as she is not smoking in the car or in the house, or other enclosed area where the children are playing or have access to. Then if she wants to smoke outside then that is her right. As the first commenter stated, you and your children are exposed to all sorts of chemicals and known and unknown carcinogens EVERY DAY. You don't have to stop your child from seeing this friend based on this. YOu could simply voice your concerns to this mother (certainly not in a patronizing or condescending manner). Or drop off your child or pick up his friend yourself. I would voice my thoughts kindly.

    Posted by jd November 6, 11 10:43 AM
  1. Issybelle, I meant she might smoke in the car with no one else around but it would make the car smell. Last I checked, second hand smoke is harmful but second hand smoke smell is not.

    Posted by Linney November 6, 11 05:27 PM
  1. di, I'm not the mom who wrote this letter, but I can honestly say I would never let my children play in a home where someone smokes. Period. And no, it isn't because it's "one of the things on the Good Mommy check-off list." It's because smoking is just plain bad for everyone. If someone else wants to poison her own body and that of her child with cigarette smoke, that's her choice. But I don't have to expose my child to that, even for a few hours every once in a while.

    Oh, and it's completely ridiculous to compare smoking a cigarette with watching television or eating an occasional pop-tart. There are more than 30 known carcinogens in cigarette smoke, and according to the US Surgeon General, "Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to your health." With that in mind, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would ever knowingly expose their children to cigarette smoke, and I certainly can't fathom why anyone would deride others for wanting to protect their children from something so obviously dangerous and unhealthy.

    Posted by Robin November 6, 11 06:42 PM
  1. Oh my goodness, calm down. If she wanted your son to sleep over for a week, or if your son has a medical condition (like asthma) that makes it dangerous for him to be around smoke, you could express your concern then. Otherwise, continue to do exactly what you did - let him play over there, then change his clothes and throw them in the wash when you get home. Think about it, in a 2 hour playdate, she probably smoked 2 cigarettes, 4 tops. I'd hazard a guess you smoked that many on some nights in college, and even if you didn't, you were around folks who did. I'm all for risk mitigation, but let's be realistic here. Being around rare second-hand smoke has no long term health implications AT ALL. Yes, I think it's reasonable to discuss with your son how you don't smoke cigarettes in your family because smoking is bad for you, but honestly, even in the safest carseat, your son is in far more danger getting in and out of the car everyday than he is having a friend whose mother smokes.

    Posted by jane November 6, 11 10:23 PM
  1. Unless your son is asthmatic, occasional exposure to 2nd hand smoke should not be a health problem. As a PP mentioned, oftentimes we go about blissfully unaware of breathing in many harmful pollutants, (which we should all be out there advocating against, so that children don't have to breathe them, but that's a different issue.

    It's chronic exposure that's an issue. If your sons end up being good buds, that is the time to have a conversation.

    Posted by Judy November 6, 11 11:03 PM
  1. I am a smoker, but I don't smoke inside my home in deference to the fact that we have a small child. That being said, why don't you just ASK THE MOTHER? Maybe she doesn't smoke. Maybe _her_ mum was over and _she_ smokes! Maybe she dropped someone else who smokes off along the way.

    Honestly, of all of the things that can happen to you or your child, this is such a non-issue to me. Maybe because I'm tired of being vilified myself in spite of the fact that we don't smoke inside and we don't allow it. But the LW reaction to this one would have believed that her precious snowflake emerged from the vehicle with crack and heroin in his pockets.

    So, by all means, treat the friend's mum like a criminal; pillory her publicly if it makes you feel superior and good about your hyper-vigilance...but don't let any common sense parenting get hold here because Lord knows, we wouldn't want your child having long term friends due to the capital crime of smoking.

    Sorry. I'm just so tired of parents like this. Mums like this LW make me want to keep my child away from hers and others like her. The judgemental lifestyle they live is far more toxic than any occasional exposure to second-hand smoke could ever be.


    Posted by phe November 7, 11 01:27 PM
  1. Judy wrote: "...occasional exposure to 2nd hand smoke should not be a health problem."
    Wrong! I reiterate what the US Surgeon General has stated:
    "Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to your health."

    Posted by Robin November 7, 11 02:15 PM
  1. Phe, sensitive much? I reread the letter three times and I don't see anything in there that is the least bit judgemental and I see no calls for criminal prosecution. Just a mom who doesn't want her child to smell like smoke and wants to protect the feelings of others, for which you have made quite a number of unflattering snap judgements that reveal more about you than anyone else in this story.

    Posted by geocool November 8, 11 02:04 PM
  1. Phe, I used to smoke myself. I quit when I found out I was having a child. I never went back to it. I feel for smokers. They are treated like lepers. It is ridiculous. Most smokers I have known are quite courteous to those who don't smoke. Some are not. Everything in life can be harmful.
    Robin, While the US Surgeon General is correct,the same can be said for the everyday chemicals you and everyone use on a daily basis. If a non smoker gets lung cancer, you cannot contribute it to the 2 hours that person may have spent with a smoker who may have smoked 2 or 4 cigarrettes around him/her. Unless of course said person lives in a bubble.

    Posted by Anonymous November 8, 11 02:24 PM
  1. "...the same can be said for the everyday chemicals you and everyone use on a daily basis."

    People say this, but I have yet to see any actual evidence of it.
    If there are, indeed, chemicals in my environment that have been proven to be just as dangerous as cigarette smoke, I'm certainly unaware of them. Cigarette smoking is something I *am* aware of. I avoid the dangerous things I know about and have some control over. How could it possibly make sense to do otherwise?

    Posted by Robin November 8, 11 07:33 PM
  1. Robin, yes, agreed but what about the car you drive? There are hazards there. chemicals going into the lotions and shampoos the world uses on our children. The list goes on and on. There are some known contaminants in those products,yet we either choose to stay away from them or use them. There are risks in life. There always will be. No one is saying you shouldn't avoid the things that you know are dangerous. But be real. that one occurence isn't going to be what ruins the child's health. (assuming the child has no health problems). It is quite acceptable to simply voice a concern and just be nice and ask that she keep the smoking outside away from her child. It isn't a lot to ask

    Posted by jd November 9, 11 02:19 PM
  1. Jd wrote:
    "that one occurence isn't going to be what ruins the child's health"

    You don't know that, jd. No one does. Scientists cannot pinpoint the moment when the DNA in a lung cell mutates, nor can they tell when the cell reaches a tipping point of mutations that actually causes cancer. Maybe that whiff of smoke was the thing that pushed it over the edge. Maybe not. I can't prove it is. You can't prove it isn't.

    You're correct that we take risks every day. Those risks involve cost-benefit analyses, and if we choose to accept a risk, we do so because the anticipated reward outweighs the potential harm. I guess I just don't feel that the reward my child might get from playing in a smoker's home every now and then would justify the health risks of exposing her to second-hand smoking, especially when there are plenty of other kids she could play with whose homes *don't* have those risks associated with them.

    I do feel sorry for the kids of smokers. I suspect they miss out on a lot of things because their parents can't or won't give up this dangerous behavior. But ultimately, my job as a parent is to protect my own child as best I can from obvious harm.

    Smokers can whine all they want about non-smokers treating them like pariahs, but that isn't going to make me or anyone else feel guilty about protecting myself or my kids. Like it or not, that's just the way it is.

    Posted by Robin November 10, 11 03:28 PM
  1. "You don't know that, jd. No one does. Scientists cannot pinpoint the moment when the DNA in a lung cell mutates, nor can they tell when the cell reaches a tipping point of mutations that actually causes cancer. Maybe that whiff of smoke was the thing that pushed it over the edge. Maybe not. I can't prove it is. You can't prove it isn't. "

    Exactly-- we don't know that. And yes it could have been the whiff that sent him over the edge of getting cancer. LIke you said we can't prove either way. We could drive ourselves crazy worrying about everything in life. I do agree with most of your points...I am just saying we can't avoid all risks. And for the short amount of time this child was there...I could see if this child was exposed a lot. We just do our best to protect them the best we know how. I Would I want someone to smoke around my children? No I wouldn't. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want someone smoking in a house/car with my kids in it either. But, if mom is outside away from the kids then how can I worry about that especially for such a short time. Is it possible the mom smoked while the child was in the vehicle? Yes, then by all means, avoid the situation or confront the mom. That is why my answer is simple. TALK to this mom and let her know how you feel and if this LW and this mom can come to common ground. I used to smoke but quit when I found outI was pregnant and never turned back because, like you, I want what is best for my children.

    As far as smokers whining, If they choose to smoke that is their right,,,,they know the risks. It is all about just having the common sense not to expose our children/other people to it. I have seen non smokers go out of their way to sit next to someone who is smoking when they are outside and are plenty of open seating elsewhere for the sole purpose of complaining to them. But that is a different story for another day.

    Posted by jd November 14, 11 12:15 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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