I recently spent two weeks at a writing residency in the high desert of southeast Oregon. Every night, I walked under a sky spilling with more stars than I can name. Every morning, I awoke to the wind and sparrows tapping against the window. Every day, I wrote, read, hiked in snow-dusted sagebrush, and spent long luxurious hours staring at the lake outside my studio.
Before the residency, I had no idea what to expect. I only knew that I’d be in a remote location (the closest grocery store was an hour away) without Wifi or contact with urban culture. I was nervous about leaving my family for so long. Would they forget me? Would they resent me? Would I forget them? But I was also emboldened by the promise of two weeks to do whatever I wanted. For me, being a writer and being a parent is a constant struggle to integrate radically disparate parts of myself who seem to exist at opposing psychic ends. On one end is the domestic bureaucrat, maker of meals, cheerleader of milestones, sustainer of lives. On the other end is the capricious author, inventor of lies, devourer of texts, killer of darlings.
The residency turned out to be some of the best weeks of the year. The forced separation from daily routines released my creativity, and when I got home, I saw my children in a whole new light. I saw them as these magical, enchanting beings, brimming with imagination and potential. I’d been pardoned of my parental sentence—making sure they were well-fed, well-rested and clean; in other words, the relentless focus on survival that takes all the joy out of parenting—and was free to just have fun.
Later I told a friend about this feeling and she said, “Yeah, that’s just what stoned parenting is like.”
Really? Interesting. I admit I’m a luddite when it comes to marijuana. What’s more my attitude toward pot in many ways reflects my dueling natures. There’s the latent teenager half of me who still sees smoking as an act of rebellion, a middle finger pointed at the eighties and the decade of Just Say No. Then there’s the responsible mom half who’s too much of a rule-follower to even consider it. But maybe my thinking has been too binary—and outdated, with the passage of Proposition 64 in California, where I live. Nowadays, there are so many varieties of pharmaceuticals and newfangled ways to consume them, tailored to your unique body chemistry, mood, and lifestyle. Could pot be the secret to being a laid-back and engaged parent?
“Every day I wrote, read, hiked in snow-dusted sagebrush, and spent long luxurious hours staring at the lake outside my studio.
“…mundanity and repetition are actually an important part of the creative process—whether you’re writing a novel or raising a child.”
At my son’s preschool drop-off the following week, I tried this idea out on some parents. One friend told me about a cannabis-infused lemonade she drinks right before dinner every night to help her get through the “bedtime nightmare.” Another told me about eating pot brownies before coming home from her twelve-hour hospital shifts. One dad, hilariously, told me that he’d once put liquid cannabis in his wine, only he’d read the instructions wrong and squeezed four dropperfuls instead of four drops. He left the table in the middle of family dinner and spent the rest of the meal curled up on the stairs laughing at the cartoon voices below.
Of course there were also parents who said they’d be too nervous to do anything with their kids around. What if my daughter broke her arm and had to go to the hospital? What if I couldn’t control myself and started hallucinating? What if my kids—or other parents—found out? When it came to stoned parenting, they were admittedly a bit Mrs. Grundy about it. But whatever their attitudes, the consensus seemed to be that parenting is full of monotonous mind-numbing drudgery and having some way to alleviate that—without going insane or having to sequester yourself in the desert—would be a great and glorious thing.
I’ve long since come down from my residency high. Still, I doubt I’ll be reaching for the vape pen anytime soon. For starters, the very idea of medical marijuana with its pristine labels and carefully controlled taxonomies has taken all the spontaneity and excitement out of it for me. I’d rather read a book where I don’t know what’s going to happen. More importantly, my experience at the residency reminded me that mundanity and repetition are actually an important part of the creative process—whether you’re writing a novel or raising a child.