What should I do about my pot-smoking teenage son?

The Week

Starshine Roshell weighs in with advice on this and other quandaries

Dear Starshine,

What do you do when you find out your 16-year-old son is smoking pot?

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Marijuana is on its way to being legalized in this country. (It's taking a long time and if you've ever watched a pothead try to accomplish something, even open a new bag of Cheetos, you'll understand why). But it still won't be legal for 16-year-olds, and that's a good thing.

Like alcohol, pot poses some legitimate dangers for teens. So address it the way you would anything else that's both fun and potentially scary: Arm him with the information he needs to make intelligent choices. Sit your son down and make sure he understands that:

1. Marijuana is still illegal and if he's busted, there's nothing a loving parent can do to unbust him. 

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2. Recent studies show that teens who smoke scads o' skunk lose mental function — memory, concentration, IQ points — as they age.

3. Driving while stoned is as stupid, irresponsible, and utterly unacceptable as driving drunk. 

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4. And tell him the cautionary tale of your high-school buddy who fell down the doobage hole and never climbed back out, spending entire weekends toking in his parents' basement, where he still lives because he never went to college and couldn't get a girlfriend if his bong depended on it.

If your son doesn't need a joint after that buzz-harshing lecture, then he's cured for sure.

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**

Dear Starshine, 

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I've been dating a woman since February of last year. I am a 51-year-old male and she's 39. Neither of us has been married or had kids. We get along very well, and we love each other. But she's decided she wants to try to get pregnant this year, preferably late spring. Her motivation for telling me was that if I don't want to have, or be around, kids, I should get out now. She was NOT asking me to get her pregnant, but she left that option open, "if I want to be a part of this." She has maternity leave and health benefits. I'm finishing up my PhD, I own a condo, have retirement savings, etc., but I'm not sure where my career will take me. My thinking is, I am either "part of this" all the way (committed partnership, possibly marriage, father, shared parental obligations) or not in the relationship at all.

Bottom line: I'm not sure I'll be ready to "be a part of this" — either logistically or emotionally — by spring; the relationship is barely 10 months old, and I'm not sure she's the person I want to marry and have children with. I haven't told her that I'm currently not and possibly won't ever be ready because this is possibly the last, best chance I'll have to be a father. But I also realize I'm in no place to ask her to gamble on me by waiting a couple years until I'm (possibly) ready. What are your thoughts on my "modern" situation? 

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Damn, I wish you were less compassionate and reasonable so you could walk away from this ultimatum insulted and resentful. But (sigh) you're a thoughtful guy and she's wise to want you to "be a part of this."

We map out our lives so fastidiously these days, don't we? But nature laughs snidely at our "40 is the new 30" affirmations. Your girlfriend's body has an inconvenient but immovable deadline and I've gotta give her credit for heeding it, budding love be damned.

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What I know for sure about parenthood (that it's both the heart-swelling best and soul-sapping hardest thing you could ever do with your life) won't help you decide whether to become a father — but it doesn't need to. Because the problem between you and your girlfriend isn't that she wants a kid and you're undecided on the matter; it's that she's got her priorities locked and loaded and you, with all due respect, "own a condo." That's a gaping chasm. And heaving babies through gaping chasms is a cruel sport.

If you're going to walk away — and I think you should — do it quickly, for her sake. 

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Send me your dilemmas via email: ToughLove@TheWeek.com. And follow me on Twitter: @ToughLoveAdvice

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