I stopped drinking when my oldest (Anna) was about 3 years old and my youngest (Jack) was 1. Obviously, I wish I’d quit sooner, but hopefully they won’t have any memories of their mom before she stopped.
One of the things that I’m most thankful for in my journey is that (God willing) my kids won’t ever see me drunk.
Something that I’ve tried to be conscious of though, is talking to my kids about alcohol.
I’ve made a point to try and never scare them, but alcohol use has come up in conversation. They’ve seen people who’ve had too much to drink (thank you, Wurstfest) and I’ve expressed my fear of drunk drivers to my kids. But I’ve tried really hard to also talk about moderate consumption of alcohol and that it’s not all bad. They see my husband and many family members drinking alcohol, so they do see adults enjoying alcohol in moderation(ish) on a regular basis.
As a result of my tee-totaling and some of the discussions about alcohol that I’ve had with my kids, my 9 year old has developed an intense dislike for all things alcohol. When beer commercials come on tv, she always makes a comment like, “Alcohol is horrible! I’m never going to drink it!”
Recently, we were at a gathering at a family member’s house. Most everyone was drinking and an adult accidentally bumped into Anna and his beer spilled down the front of her shirt. I don’t even think that he realized what happened, but Anna immediately freaked out.
She came up to me, in tears, telling me what happened. She was disgusted and wanted to go home and change immediately to, “get the gross smell off of me.” It broke my heart for a number of reasons.
First, I felt guilty that, by my abstaining from alcohol, I’ve somehow (inadvertantly) given her the impression that any amount of alcohol is horrible and damaging.
Secondly, I’m sad that she has such an extreme, visceral reaction to the idea of drinking alcohol. Don’t get me wrong: I’d much rather her feel like this, rather than already showing interest in it, but I find her judging people more harshly than she should, when she sees them drinking.
I have a genetic predisposition to have issues with alcohol, so this particular attribute is in my kids’ gene pool too. The thing is though, I’d love nothing more than for both of them to grow up and be able to responsibly enjoy alcohol, but I also know that it’s something that they might have to be careful about.
I’m treading very carefully on the topic with them. I try and stress that alcohol is something that you’re not really responsible enough to try until you’re an adult (also: THE LAW) but that it can be enjoyable and festive in certain situations.
I’ve also let them know that, hidden deep in their body chemistry is something that might one day cause them to abuse alcohol and to be mindful of this. We’ve talked about the harm that alcohol can cause–to the human body–as well as to families.
Let me tell you though…that it’s a struggle to maintain a degree of levity, while discussing this with them and I worry constantly that I’m putting too much responsibility on them and giving them too much information, too young.
But, at the end of the day, I’ve decided that a little bit of truth-telling is healing. The effects of alcohol was never discussed with me when I was a child and I grew up with bad examples of how to use of alcohol. I would rather let my kids know now how I feel about it and what’s expected of them as they get older. I also feel like it’s not too early to share with them a bit of my story and plant some seeds of responsibility in them.
What about you? Have you discussed responsible alcohol use with your young children?