Actually, I’m not confessing my “vices.” I don’t like to think of things as vices: they are tools, and like any tool, they can be used for good or bad. We all have a different relationship with them.
I have been thinking a lot about my relationship with alcohol after being challenged by Responsibility.org, to examine how much bloggers rely on alcohol-related humor to go for the easy laugh with their #RefreshYourFunny campaign. I watched this kick ass video, at #BlogU15 and I recommend you do too: Click Here. I did not post any alcohol memes or even status updates on my fan page or my personal page for a month (which, I think went even beyond what they were asking us to do.)
And, you guys, it could not have come soon enough.
I didn’t think that I was saying inappropriate things about booze in front of my children…much (let’s start with the fact that I was routinely calling it “booze.) But kids have a way of holding a mirror up in front of your face, and I got to take a hard look at myself.
Me: (Sigh) “I feel stressed out.”
My son: “Do you need wine?”
Me: “Uh…no!” (WTF?!)
My Daughter: (handing me money she owed me) “Here you go!”
Me: “Thank you!”
Her: “Are you gonna buy booze with it?”
Me: “What?! No! Why would you say that? I plan to use it for something important, like buying food to feed us.”
My son: (handing me a plate he made for Mother’s Day) “Look Mom! It says “Keep Calm and Drink Coffee.”
Me: “I love it!”
Him: “I wanted it to say ‘Keep Calm and Drink Wine,’ but my teacher said that was inappropriate.”
Me: “Yes, that would have been.” (Groan…How many days left of this school year?)
People, let me be clear, I drink very moderately. I don’t overindulge. I don’t drink and drive. I don’t even drink every day. I have medical problems, so healthy living is a paramount in our house. I didn’t think that I was behaving or speaking in a manner that was translating these messages. And yet, from the mouth of babes…
No matter what my behavior around alcohol is, I clearly have a PR issue, because my kids were hearing and seeing a message from me that I am not comfortable with. So, I have my work cut out for me to undo some of the damage that I have done. I need to be teaching my kids about alcohol in a way that is both healthy and honest to my own behavior. But how do I do that effectively?
The first part is I have decided to not make “booze” the punchline anymore. I am not going to be posting anymore “isn’t getting trashed hilarious” memes…ever. I consider myself a funny person, but now I see these posts as the humor equivalent of crotch shots on America’s Funniest Home Videos. I don’t get trashed, and I can see that just joking about it has created an image of alcohol that is affecting my children.
As for alcohol being a stress reliever in my life: guilty as charged. I need to make sure that my children are seeing a better balance of the tools that I actually use. For example, though a moderate amount of alcohol does physiologically reduce stress (fact,) so does deep breathing, massage, a quick walk, talking to a friend, a hot shower, writing a list of tasks and then checking them off, a strong hug from a family member, and lots other things that I do every day. I just wasn’t talking about these things out loud, or posting funny pictures about them on Facebook. No wonder they were getting such a skewed view of my toolbox.
But I don’t want to just take alcohol out of the picture: I know that this will leave a vacuum in my children’s lives that could be filled…by anyone. I need to help teach them how to have the right relationship with it. What I love about the #RefreshYourFunny campaign, is it is simply asking that we stop making alcohol the punchline to the joke. They aren’t asking us to stop enjoying alcohol. Because the truth is, I enjoy alcohol and do have a healthy relationship with it. I love the taste of it, the experience of it. We are foodies, and we love pairing the right drink with just the right item. We even brew our own beer.
I don’t remember being taught how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol (or sex for that matter.) I was taught how to avoid getting hurt by these things – how to protect myself, but the abstinence-based education that many of us grew up with taught risk-avoidance, and not necessarily to embrace the relationship (it was more of a begrudging allowance, as I recall.) And then, I went off to college, and dove head first into multiple affairs with both sex and alcohol (sometimes at the same time.) It has taken me years to develop a more mature and responsible relationship with them, through the trial and error of my youth.
Do I want my kids to learn the same way that I did? HELL NO! I was extremely lucky that my college escapades never resulted in any personal harm (and honestly, I wasn’t that bad.) I plan to take a very different approach with my kids, and it is going to start by admitting that things like alcohol and sex, when experienced responsibly, are enjoyable. Like, really enjoyable. Sometimes, I think we are so afraid that people will overindulge, that we overemphasize the restraint and deemphasize the pleasure. But what if we could teach kids that they are allowed to enjoy their relationship with alcohol? And that moderate uses of alcohol, are not only good but also good for you? Studies have shown benefits in cardiovascular health with moderate alcohol intake, among other nutrition benefits. Of course, we still need to teach all of the pertinent risk factors: that the bell curve of drinking benefits drop off after a few drinks, and the risk of sexual assault, DUI, personal injury, etc. increases dramatically, as well as all of the signs of physical addiction.
I am hopeful my kids will have a good relationship with their bodies and make the right choices…for them. I have done the best I can to raise them with a standard of what goes in them that most people of my generation weren’t raised with. My children are little foodies just like their parents. They appreciate elegant tastes that I never even knew existed when I was their age. I am looking forward to teaching them how amazing different beverages can taste when paired with the right foods when they are of age to drink. I am so grateful for Responsibility.org and this contest, because already my children and I have had some amazing conversations around this subject. I am relieved that I was given the chance to amend the messages going into their head early – before they have to start making difficult choices in the next several years.
Maybe if they learn how to savor their one or two cocktails like I do now, they will be less likely to get trashed in a frat house on horrible warm beer, because they had never learned how to appreciate Life’s simple pleasures. Maybe teaching them how to love alcohol, gently and maturely, will replace their need to fumble with the bottom feeders around the pony keg.
I know they need to make their own mistakes as young adults who have left the nest.
But maybe…just maybe I could make these mistakes for them.
Thank you so much for reading this post! This is my entry into the #refreshyourfunny essay contest sponsored by Responsibility.org. I have not been paid to write this piece. All of these incredibly insightful opinions are my very own!