Eye Witness

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

We had a great Seder at my sister-in- law’s, at least everyone else
thought so at the time. Contrary to the usual fears, even expectations,
everyone got along, perhaps because we’d instituted a “no discussion
of politics in any form” rule and asked everyone of voting age to
pledge to uphold it. The last election year Seder caused a family rift
between democrats and Republicans that took more than a year to
resolve, to no one’s satisfaction.


But here’s the problem: When I was helping move plates from
the table to the kitchen I caught my thirteen-year old niece
(who’d excused herself to “go to the bathroom”) smoking pot outside
the back door. I quickly called her in, said “Go wash up now!!!”
(to kill the smell) and went back to the table. She kept eyeing me to
try and get my attention, I think to get me to commit to keeping my
mouth shut. I have not yet spoken either to her or my brother about
the incident. He was certainly not a drug-free paragon in college,
but thirteen seems incredibly young to me to be experimenting with
drugs. To whom do I owe what when?

Eye Witness

Dear Eye Witness:

You owe your bother, the adult, full disclosure and information about
what you saw. Your niece’s expectation that you would cooperate in
some code of complicit silence is optimistically naïve and silly. Many
people of various ages have experimented with pot, or even more,
even those who claimed they did not inhale. But thirteen is much too
young to be making those kinds of decisions about experimentation.
Her body and brain are still evolving. This is a problem best identified
and headed off as efficiently as possible.

I’d suggest alerting your niece that you’re going to talk to your
brother. And then speaking to him immediately afterwards. Do both of
these conversations in person if possible. She’ll likely plead for you to
keep quiet “just this once” and protest that this was an isolated
incident. But anyone who needs to get loaded to get through a family
gathering is displaying not only poor judgment but potentially early
signs of accelerated use. When you talk to your brother you should say
you wanted to allow the holiday to be enjoyed without argument or
crisis. You should defer to his and your sister-in- law’s parenting
decisions after they talk to your niece. But under no circumstances
should you keep quiet any longer.