Many people use the expression that their childhood was a blur, but my childhood was literally a blur since I often found myself in a cloud of cigarette smoke. If there is anything worse than living with a chain smoker, it is being raised by two of them. Both my mother and father smoked 3–4 packs of Marlboros a day. That’s an average of one cigarette every 20 minutes. If you factor in time sleeping, it’s more like a cigarette every 14 minutes. Considering it takes about 7 minutes on average to smoke one cigarette, my parents spent half their waking, adult lives smoking. Now add in my two chain-smoking grandmothers who frequently stayed with us, and it should be easy to imagine the literal cloud of smoke in which I spent much of my childhood.
Smoking has always disgusted me and not once in my life have I ever been tempted to try it. In fact, when my peers would ask me if I wanted to try it and used the classic line, “how do you know you don’t like it if you never tried it?” I used the other classic line right back at them, “I never tried eating shit and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t like that.” My rule has always been to try new things only if those new things were in line with my long-term goals. Starting a habit that would cost me a small fortune, make me smell bad, rapidly age my skin, and most likely take away 20–30 years of my life was not conducive to any of my long-term goals. When I was about ten years old, my brother emptied a full ashtray into my cereal bowl in what he claims was an attempt to associate disgust with smoking, but was in all likeness just a typical big brother thing to do. Although my brother takes credit for my aversion to cigarettes, my disgust for smoking began long before that.
Every summer, from the time I could remember until high school, our family would drive to Atlantic City for vacation. The last few years we went my brother and sister’s spots on the trip were filled by both my grandmothers. This meant that my parents were sitting in the front seats, and each of my grandmothers had a window seat in the back, which left me with the middle back seat. If it was a hot day, which it often was in August, the air conditioning would be on, and the windows would remain shut, except for the occasional brief opening of the windows when the thick smoke became a driving hazard.
So how can we keep kids from smoking? Here is one recipe: four chain smokers, four hours, 80 cigarettes, and one enclosed moving vehicle. Works like a charm.
Effectiveness of Selected Ways To Keep Kids from Smoking
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What is a “normal childhood?” Does it include almost being murdered by your sister with an ax? Speeding around town in the back of a station wagon because your mom is chasing an “alien spaceship”? Being busted by the police for intent to light a pond on fire? Tackling your mom to the ground and wrestling a knife out of her hand because she was trying to kill your dad? While my stories may be unique, readers will be able to relate to the broader themes are part of a normal childhood such as sibling rivalry, eccentric parents, doing stupid things, and frequently preventing one’s parents from literally murdering each other.
Although some of the subject matter is not something one would generally laugh at, you have my permission to laugh. Social rules don’t apply here; my rules do. It works for me, and who knows, after reading the stories from my past, you might be inspired to see your own screwed up past in a more humorous light.
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