So I read this article today.
It’s about alcohol. And parenting.
And the mantra, “Do as I say, not as I do.” There was a period of time in my life where I did not have a healthy relationship with alcohol in front of my kids.
You know what I’m talking about. Having friends over for happy hour and game night. Going out to big dinners with all my friends and their kids. Barbeques. Parties. There was a period of time that I was doing this almost every single weekend.
And bringing my kids right along with me.
I felt badly about it from time to time. I would think to myself that it was wrong to be letting them see me kick back with a couple of glasses of wine and perhaps a time or two overindulge.
But everyone else was doing it around their kids too. So was it all that bad?
I also told myself that it wasn’t a big deal because my kids were little. Too little to know that I’m rocking a mean hangover from last night’s book club. It wouldn’t hurt them at that age to see adults having parties and enjoying their lives. I worked hard all week – don’t I deserve to have a little fun too? I can’t live my life around my kids and give up my fun, can I?
Nobody else is giving up their fun…
But inside, I hated myself for it. It wasn’t okay with me to be demonstrating a party atmosphere in front my kids every weekend. Or even every other weekend. Or even once a month. A party or two a year, sure. But I was overdoing it, big time.
Then, thankfully, I got divorced.
Wait, that’s not what I mean. Divorce was horrible, depressing, miserable and every other adjective that applies. But it stopped me from game nights because I’d lost my game partner. So that’s why I say, thankfully, in that part.
And my ex and I both agreed that we’d been heading down the wrong road with these weekend parties and we were going to tell the other one that very thing but then divorce happened and it didn’t apply anymore anyway.
My kids are much older now. I realize they watch every single thing I do. If I snap at one of them, they will snap at them too. If I leave my shoes on the couch, they do the same. If I laugh at something inappropriate – they watch closely to figure out what it was that I’d heard or seen so that they can laugh at something inappropriate too.
They watch my husband too. They watch how he handles stress. They watch how he remembers to mow the lawn. They watch closely how he treats me like a queen and they model his behavior. They will open the door for me or pull out my chair for me. It’s an amazing thing to see.
And they watch what we drink.
They hear about drinking in movies. On tv. From their friends. And a few years ago there were parties that I attended that they remember. They hear being drunk is funny. That beer is for chugging. People who drink too much are silly and charming and a little off balance! Drinking beer as fast as you can is a fun game!
Then they look to me to understand how to feel about this.
I am grateful that now, I live by example. To be fair, I have my kids every other week. So on my off weeks, I can attend a party without them and indulge a little. But when I do have them, I am careful to show them that I have a relationship with alcohol that is healthy.
I don’t have late night game nights. I don’t drink more than two glasses of wine in front of them. More often than not I skip parties where there’s a lot of drinking around the kids. This is because I realized that we tell them, “don’t do drugs,” and we act like alcohol isn’t a drug.
It is very much a drug. An addictive one. Do you know that an alcoholic who stops cold turkey can die? His body becomes so addicted to the drug that he can’t live without it anymore. He stops drinking and his body can shut down.
So I tell the kids yesterday that alcohol is an addictive drug. They were shocked. And then I had a glass of wine at dinner. Good parenting there.
I guess I want you to know a few things.
- 1. Just because I’m not having game nights when I have my kids it doesn’t mean I am judging you.
- 2. I do not think I’m better than you because of my choices.
- 3. I do attend parties. And I love to have fun and have wine. I love wine.
- 4. Again, I am not judging you. Those are your choices and I used to do the same. And I plan to still attend a couple of parties a year where kids come and there’s alcohol. I think it’s good for kids to see adults kicking back and having fun.
It’s just become increasingly obvious to me that I am responsible for sending the right messages. And more importantly, for me, I need to demonstrate for my kids what I want to see from them. I don’t want to get the ER call that my 17 year old has been admitted due to alcohol poisoning. I think to myself that maybe if I show him how to be responsible with alcohol by being responsible in front of him that I can avoid such calls.
Ugh, can you imagine?
I have no idea if doing this will mean I can save my kids from future alcohol problems. I don't claim to have the answers here. I just know that for me and my family - I had to make some changes.
Has “do as I say, not as I do,” become “do as I say, not as I drink”? It definitely did for me for a little while. I just hope I stopped it before it did any real damage.