I am in a quandary. My sister is coming to town for the weekend with her husband and we are all going to a great football game. We always have a great time together and I especially love spending time with my sister because she is just like me! We really understand each other and can be honest with each other. So, what’s the problem you ask?
My sister smokes. This is not a problem itself. Lord knows I have all my own bad habits to worry about and certainly don’t judge her decision to smoke. That is a personal decision and I respect that. I just don’t want her to smoke at our house around the kids. She is always very respectful and smokes outside but my boys are at an age when they notice EVERYTHING. What’s that saying? “Your kids don’t listen to you because they are too busy watching what you do?”
The boys admire their aunt for her smarts and good looks and don’t understand why she smokes. They ask about it and I’m kind of at a loss. How do I tell them my sister shouldn’t smoke at our house while I am holding a gin and tonic in my hand? I mean, really, what’s the difference? I’m stuck. I don’t want to be a hypocrite but don’t know how to bring this up with her. I love her very much and don’t want to harm our relationship. What do I do?
Sleepless in Seattle
Dear Sleepless in Seattle:
Thank you for your letter. I apologize for not getting to it sooner but I was in Seattle for a football game this weekend. Staying at my brother’s house. Hmmmmm.
YOUR HOUSE: YOUR RULES
In the end, you can agree or disagree with everything you are about to read, but this is your house and you get to decide what type of activity takes place on your property. I have a strict “no crack” rule at my house which happily I don’t need to crack down on too often.
“Crack down,” get it? Ooh, I’m a hoot!
Since I am in Los Angeles pursuing a movie deal about my meteoric rise to fame from loser corporate lawyer to world-renowned advice blogger, I don’t have time to wax poetic as I usually do. I’ve got a meeting at 11 and the gym is calling (Angelina said she’d consider the role but not until I lose 40 pounds). We look so much alike, right?
Therefore, I am going to break it down by the numbers in the order in which you presented issues in your email. This will enable me to write faster, and will also provide you with a more simple framework to digest my pearls of wisdom. I get the feeling you might be a by-the-numbers guy.
1. Your sister sounds awesome. It’s a wonderful thing to enjoy a close relationship with anyone, but especially a sibling because of your shared family history, DNA and the cruel fact that you are pretty much stuck with each other. Until one of you dies of lung cancer, I should add…
2. I am making a mental note to tell your sister to buy you a mirror for Christmas, because you may have a wee bit o’ the narcissism thing going on. Being a DesCamp, I can identify joviality when I see it, but buried beneath your joke about liking her because she’s just like you is a hint of the truth, right? Perhaps you are not fond of her because she is just like you. Perhaps you like yourself because you are just like her!
3. You say she always smokes outside, but your issue is that she smokes in front of your kids and this bothers you. This is (ostensibly, but maybe not) the heart of the matter: you don’t want her smoking in front of your children. This issue is too big for one paragraph, so I will now have to use letters too. *sigh*
a. I know your sister visits you on average twice a year usually for two nights. Therefore, your children witness this amazing, intelligent beautiful creature smoking for 4 out of 365 days per year. For 361 days per year, you have the ability to drill into those kids how awful smoking is and that even though their aunt smokes, they never should. I like those odds; they would seem to be in your favor.
b. You sound like a pretty accomplished and together person, so I have to assume your wife is as well. Therefore, I am surprised that you both apparently raised such delicate and impressionable children. Perhaps I am misreading your letter, but I assume you don’t want your sister smoking around your children because you are afraid they will think smoking is OK. With the constant inundation of anti-smoking messages our kids get these days (excepting Mad Men), I am doubtful that witnessing one woman smoking four times per year, incredible though she may be, will have any impact on their choice when Curren brings a pack of Marlboro Lights to school and offers them up to your boys.
c. If you are worried that your boys may think smoking is OK, perhaps seeing their aunt smoke is actually an opportunity for you to create a learning moment for them. For example, if she coughs a lot in the morning, you can tell them it’s because she smokes. You can point to the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth and suggest that if she didn’t smoke, she might look younger. Then again, I’ve seen your photo, and I’m not sure that’s a good argument. Also, she does work out every day, and as you mentioned, she’s really good looking. I can see why this may be a hard sell.
d. You’ve got a good point about hypocrisy. Although smoking kills far more people than does alcohol on an annual basis, they both get a good share of people who are too young to die. But,
e. Life is too long to go through it without good wine.
f. Didn’t you recently purchase Grand Theft Auto 5 for your boys? I’m just going to leave this right here: http://parenting.kidspot.com.au/buying-grand-theft-auto-5-kids-make-bad-parent/#.UlwMIue9KSM
Back to the numbers:
4. What I didn’t see in your letter is any concern for your sister’s health or well-being. Have you ever thought about trying to help her quit?
5. Is it possible that you really just don’t like her smoking at your house, regardless of whether the kids are around? If so, be honest with her and with yourself and don’t use your precious and impressionable boys as an excuse. If this is the case, or even if it isn’t, I am still going to close with the following:
YOUR HOUSE, YOUR RULES.
But if you really feel this way, don’t expect her not to smoke at her own home when you come to visit. Which means that maybe you will need to stay with other family on those rare occasions you travel back to your hometown. Wherever that may be; I have no idea of course.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with this:
I love my brother. He’s so cool, and very understanding that we all make different choices in life. You should try to be more like him.