Being a mother, for me, did not come naturally. I was never the teenager that took on babysitting jobs, worked summer camps, and held babies all the time. I didn’t know how to hold a baby until the nurse at the hospital showed me how.
The first three days after my daughter’s birth, I was a nervous wreck. I’ll never forget the sweet delivery nurse who whispered: “Don’t worry, she won’t break, and everything can be figured out.” Such simple reassuring words to a new mom.
In the nearly ten years of being a parent, the best “parenting advice” anyone has ever given me would be from my grandmother. She told me, about eight years ago in a lucid moment from her Alzheimer’s dominated mind, to “get comfortable talking about the things that nobody wants to talk about, especially with your kids. Being open and candid in a loving way is the best way to speak to your children about life.”
Now that my oldest two kids are nearly ten and eight, I feel that it’s time to begin having some of those difficult conversations, especially about the types of things they are exposed to and most of us might see as normal, like alcohol.
April is Alcohol Responsibility Month, and I am proud to be on the #TalkEarly team this year for Responsibility.org. Part of parenting is finding the tools to raising children based on the principles that we believe in. Being mindful of the potential hazards of drinking alcohol and implementing the right language surrounding it as a part of our lifestyle is important to me.
And what better time to talk to our kids about making smart choices than Alcohol Responsibility Month? This year, my husband and I have begun to have conversations with our kids about responsible drinking, especially how to say “no” to underage drinking.
Living in New Orleans, I feel, has a way of desensitizing the issue of alcohol for many of us. There isn’t a single event, including kids’ birthday parties, that doesn’t have wine and beer, at a minimum, served. While my husband enjoys a beer on occasion, it’s been a long time since either of us has “partied like we did in 1999.”
As parents, we must feel empowered to have these type of conversations and take the “Responsibility Starts with Me” approach. Kids will believe what’s “normal” from many of their childhood experiences. Although we aren’t’ the type of parents that wind down with a glass of wine to cook dinner -mostly because he gets home late from work and alcohol gives me headaches- we both understand the need to unwind from a long day.
With three young kids and an exchange student, our house is loud, it’s busy, and evenings are quite hectic. What works for some doesn’t work for others, of course. Admittedly, it’s been a challenge to find ways for me to unwind. Most nights, when 8:30 pm rolls around, I often give my husband that look that is followed up with a sigh that says “is it bedtime yet?”
As you know, a parent’s job is never done, the piles of laundry accumulate on the sofa, emails need to be responded to from my phone, and the kitchen needs to be picked up. And then, if we are lucky, Eric and I will find ten minutes to ourselves to talk and catch up on life before going to bed.
For someone like me, who is constantly doing and creating things, it’s tough to turn my brain off. Instead of “relaxing” with a nice glass of red wine (which I can’t have because of sulfate-induced headaches) I go to bed instead, and sleep, because my body needs it.
I realize that it’s now more important than ever to be my children’s guide, their mentor, their parent. They will have many friends in their lifetime, just not me. I’m very much ok with the parental role and all the difficult conversations that will come with it.
Just because alcohol isn’t something that is often consumed at our home, I know that my kids will grow to be in situations where they’ll need to make decisions (like getting in a friend’s car after a party or not) about responsible consumption. My hope is that by having early conversations with them as kids, they’ll know how to make those life decisions on their own when I’m not around.
For this reason, I’m happily a part of the #TalkEarly team (responsibility.org) this year. I am eager to start and be a part of the conversation both at home and online surrounding alcohol – some of which I’ll be sharing with you this year. You can join the online conversation by using #StartsWithMe.
Do you have any tips for having difficult conversations with your kids, especially around alcohol?
Disclosure: From time to time, I work with awesome companies that share my values and have important messages to share. Today’s post was brought to you by #TalkEarly campaign and Responsibility.org. All opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that encourage my creativity.