Sometimes we look back on life with regret, but the day I managed to persuade my son to smoke is a day I will always cherish. A day where I really made a difference in another person’s life.
I have always been immensely proud of my son and watching him grow up has been a source of continual happiness for me. From a very young age he showed great academic ability combined with a charming out-going nature. Despite all his natural flair and ebullience however, I harboured a deep sense of foreboding. How would he get through life without becoming a smoker?
Although my son was bright and cheerful, quick witted and happy go lucky I knew deep down that there was something missing, something he would need to become, something he would need to become to be a fully grown adult. He needed one day to start smoking.
With a growing sense of horror he failed to start smoking at 12 or even 13. Subtle questioning and hints after school revealed his total unawareness of smoking, the poor thing hadn’t even tried one! As time went by I became more convinced that the responsibility lay with me, that one day I would need to have that ‘little chat’ that would mean so much. That it would fall to me to bring him into adulthood, to teach him about smoking.
At the age of 15 my son had still not smoked. He was doing very well at school but his healthy cheery disposition sent shudders through me as it became more and more obvious that he was attempting to become an adult without the use of smoking. Little did he know of the pressures of adult life and the way smoking would enhance nearly every aspect of his working and private life. The idea that my son was attempting to face life as a non smoker filled me with sadness and almost despair.
So on that fateful day I sat my son down and began that discussion that I had rehearsed so many times in my head. I carefully outlined the dangers of life without smoking. How smoking would help him relax, enjoy food and drink, concentrate, give him time to think, increase his creativity, give him a sense of himself as an independent person dealing with life’s issues. I proceeded carefully as not to alarm him, so as not to hint that if he carried on as he was, he was heading for second best, even disaster. As James Joyce put it , “to be an outcast from life’s feast”.
At first my son put up a struggle due to the cultural brainwashing received in his early years from school and from so called ‘genetic disposition’. He tried to argue that he already had all the things that smoking could give him, that he was naturally happy and comfortable without smoking. I held back from giving a knowing smile, the innocence of youth! But I patiently rebutted him and, though holding back great emotion insisted. But you could be so much more if you smoked!
I left my son to think it over leaving him a packet on the arm of the sofa.
The early signs were not good. My son would report that he had tried one but found it pretty disgusting. But I persevered and encouraged him. Most days as he came in from school I would ask in an off-hand way if he had smoked today. It was those days of gentle but firm enquiry and persistence which I am most proud of. And fairly soon came my prize.
I remember that day so clearly. He walked into the kitchen, it was a Friday evening in October and said with a beaming smile, “Dad, I really want to smoke now”. Words could not describe my feelings of pride at that moment. He continued ” I found it difficult to smoke at first but now I really need one. In fact I need one more than ever now.” He beamed. My wife burst into tears.
Smokers get a lot of criticism for not doing enough in the community. When did you last hear of a smoker give an inspiring “start smoking” talk at a school or college. Sometimes the real work is done at home with people you love, quietly and carefully.
The fact that I had acted on my principles, made an effort and actually made a difference in an another person’s life will always give me a deep sense of satisfaction.
And to cap it all, I did all this for my own son.