I thought I had this one all set, that we had addressed alcohol and it’s consequences with our kids in a responsible and realistic way. And we had in our safe little family circle.
We have travelled as a family to Italy where we let the kids taste wine with their food as part of the cultural experience. Back at home on special occasions the kids have been allowed to toast with champagne or have a taste of wine on a holiday. We have discussed different scenarios in the news, or local situations concerning kids they know, and how choices can result in unattractive and dangerous consequences. We have had plenty of open conversations about incidents in town with underaged drinking. Yes, we have handled it pretty well.
But we hadn’t considered how controlled our environment was, and didn’t realize how complicated the topic of alcohol would get when the kids started to hit the college years, and how the boundaries of drinking opportunities would quickly expand as they spent more time out in the world on their own.
What the hell should, and does, moderation look like? In the safety of my own home, I’m confident I know. I didn’t grow up with healthy examples of moderation, neither did my husband, so we don’t really know what regular social alcohol consumption and its associated behavior look like. There was alcoholism and there was complete sobriety. It’s that murky space in-between that now needs our flexibility, attention and consideration.
I can personally have a glass of wine, maybe two, and know that that’s enough. But I also know that drinking becomes less personal and more of a group activity, making individual choices such as how much and how often harder to make independently, especially when you’re young and inexperienced. The trickiest part are these times of compromise, and each situation may call for a new set of guidelines. The rules need to be flexible unless you want rigid rules that are constantly challenged or broken by your kids.
We were on vacation this past summer where each afternoon by the pool morphed into this relaxed family happy hour, and many parents casually passed solo cups out to their underage adult children. I don’t live in the clouds. My college kid has a fake ID. I have had a glass or two of wine with her. Yet drinking with her in a casual social situation with other families just didn’t feel right at all. But we were clearly the odd balls.
I’m sure there were many explanations for it. The kids are 18, or they’re in college and drinking there anyway. They have fake I.D.’s or are “almost” 21. They’re the youngest in the family, the last to be legal, and honestly, listening to them nag you about it on vacation is just a royal pain in the ass. After all, it’s your vacation, too, and you’d like to not have to be up your kid’s butt for a few days. It’s a different venue, you’re away from home, no one’s driving and it’s an opportune time to test the waters in a controlled environment.
But what does that mean when we allow it? Does it mean we condone it? Does it mean that because we enjoy a cocktail or two, or a glass of wine that we should relent and let our adult children have one with us? Maybe I have to accept that it won’t ever be comfortable for me. I just won’t be able to relax about it and feel like there’s nothing to worry about.
It’s a dilemma that everyone will find their own way of handling, and you can’t worry about what other parents are doing, or what they think about how you choose to deal with it and vice versa. This is way hard sometimes. Especially if you’ve had a drink or two, and others are watching to see how your choices are serving you and your family.
Although no one has given me any solid answers, I feel like we are navigating this path one drink at a time. As with most things, my kids will eventually make their own independent choices about alcohol. I can’t be 100% sure what those choices will be, but I can be sure that I have equipped them with all the necessary information they need to make the best individual decisions possible when it comes to drinking.
We had a lovely vacation. No one was drunk poolside, and we didn’t se anyone puking into any trash cans. Every family seemed to have their own situation under control. So as long as I have mine under control, then I guess we are finding our way to finding what social moderation means to us.