As many of you know, I work with responsibility.org and this month they asked me to write about drinking in front of my kids. I do it. Apparently a lot of parents don’t, preferring to wait until their kids go to sleep. That used to be me! When my kids were little, they needed my complete and total attention in order not to set the house on fire or attempt to ride the dog. The only time I could sit down, let alone finish a drink (alcohol or otherwise) was when they were asleep.
If we were in a social situation like a party or a barbecue, there was no way I was drinking because that’s when my offspring needed me to be on super high alert.
Plus, have you ever noticed that when kids are little and you’re at a party, at least half the parents of young children conveniently disappear and just expect you to watch their kids for them while they enjoy some nice adult time? And then you find yourself alone in a room with twelve screaming toddlers and preschoolers and you’re like “how did I become the sheriff of this goat rodeo?” Then you glare at your husband casually drinking a beer and chatting with another grown-up, while you attempt to pull brawling children off each other and repeatedly tell some random kid to stop squirting his juice box into the DVD player, while praying someone comes to your rescue? No? That was just me?
Well, that’s why I hated parties from approximately 2003-2012 and also why I never drank at them.
Now that my kids are older, I can (mostly) trust them not to be total lunatics at someone else’s house. That means now I can be the person to drink a beer and have an adult conversation. Woo hoo!
Last weekend, we went to a neighbor’s house for a graduation party. When we were walking home afterwards, my daughter asked me if I had fun and then asked me if I drank and how many drinks I had. I was a little taken aback but I told her that I’d had two, and what they were. I also mentioned that I couldn’t tell how strong the first drink was (it was a fruity punch), so I only had one. Then I explained that I switched to wine, because I knew how that affected me and I nursed it while nibbling on delicious food for the next two hours. I also reminded her that the last time we went to a party in our neighborhood, I had too much to drink. They’d already heard me talk about that. I’m thinking that’s what prompted her question in the first place.
I reminded my kids how last time, the adults were sitting around a table talking for a couple of hours, and our host was mixing up a really cool cocktail and it was hard to tell how much alcohol was in the drink. Over the course of a long evening, my glass got topped up a couple of times without me paying attention. I made that a point - I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t sure how strong my drink was, I was super tired from a long day, and all that led to me feeling like I’d had too much to drink. Nothing dramatic happened. When I realized I felt funky, I switched to water, we all walked home a little while later, and I had a bad headache the next day.
So we talked about it because there were some important lessons there. The first is, we walked home from these parties because you never, ever, ever drink and drive. Ever. The second is that you always need to pay attention to how much you’re drinking and what you’re drinking - or you will pay a price for it. The third is, if you drink something and you’re not sure how it’s making you feel, stop right away. Drink some water and eat some food.
I feel really strongly that I need to be honest with my kids about all of this. I want them to know that drinking is a part of our lives, but not a defining one. I want them to know how alcohol can be a fun aspect of parties and celebrations, but can easily ruin those times if people don’t act responsibly. I also want to remind them that it’s for adults, and not for kids. I want them to learn from watching me, but also from having conversations and from having all their questions answered with total candor. If I don’t do it, they’ll be left to figure it out on their own and that’s not ok with me.
Here’s a cool video from a psychologist about drinking in front of your kids: On Drinking in Front of Kids: https://youtu.be/-4kfj68t7SM
Here’s a cool infographic from responsibility.org:
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