When my daughter was four years old, we went to a friend’s cabin for the weekend with a couple of families. My friend and I went for a morning run and when we returned the other mom rushed out to cut us off before we got to the door with a panicked look on her face.
“Everything’s okay now,” she said, which of course makes us instantly start to panic. “We called 911 and the paramedics said everyone should be okay.”
It ends up that one of the kids had started a little game of “let’s share the chewable vitamins” by distributing them amongst all five kids. Fortunately, she wasn’t dealing fairly, which resulted in the youngest child coming to tattle to his dad about not getting as many vitamins as the other kids.
When I asked how many my daughter had taken, the mom said, “Zero, she told the kids that her mom gives her one a day and that she’s only supposed to take one and only if it comes from her mom or dad.”
Now, before you start thinking that I’m humble-bragging about my precious flower, wise-beyond-her-years 4 year old who’s not susceptible to peer pressure, let me clarify….
She was simply a 4 year old who was very susceptible to parental brainwashing.
Years before we even had kids, I heard the story about how my husband and his brother once played ‘share the vitamins’ at a family party when they were children. I figured that this type of Flintstones experimentation may be genetic so every time that I gave her a vitamin, (or any other type of medicine,) it came with the non-so-subliminal messaging that “You only take one of these and only if mommy or daddy gives it to you or you will get very sick.”
In this case, it worked, (thank goodness).
We follow the same philosophy with most important topics: Repeating consistent, easy to digest facts on a regular basis vs. trying to have one monumental “this is SO important” lecture.
We’re big on starting these discussions at an early age and then layering on additional facts, as they become age appropriate. Sometimes the results are clunky and entertaining (like when our daughter was two and started rolling down the car window to lecture smokers walking down the street about the dangers of smoking, or how our early sex talks resulted in her thinking that there was a planet called “Uterus”.)
But in some cases the results have been potentially lifesaving, as in the case of the vitamins.
It’s not surprising that we have followed the same ‘talk early & talk often’ philosophy when it comes to discussing the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
When our daughter started really liking Michael Jackson and asked how he had died, we used it as an opportunity to talk to her about how if taken the wrong way, drugs can kill you, even the ones that doctors give you, even if you’re rich and famous.
When she asked me about the song, “Rehab” when she heard it on the radio, it opened up a discussion about alcohol abuse. She asked if the singer went to rehab and we explained the she had died and that just like drugs, alcohol can kill you, either by consuming so much that it makes you body sick or by making bad decisions that can result from even just a couple of drinks.
(And yes, we did get to a weird point where any time she liked a song she would first ask, “Is this singer still alive?”)
So, how do we balance this scary information with the fact that she knows that every Friday, I love to go to Maudie’s and have a giant margarita and frequently get so excited about it that I take a picture of it and post it on Facebook?
Pretty much the same way we addressed the vitamins: with simple facts. We tell her that alcohol is only for adults, that I only have one or else it would make me feel sick and that if my husband’s not around to drive, that I don’t get one at all since it’s not safe for me to drive after I drink.
In fact, we go out to restaurants quite a bit when my husband travels and my daughter has been known to draw me a margarita on her menu or even 3-D art one out of french fries.
I’m sure to some people this may be seem like a sad statement of “that poor girl thinks her mom needs a margarita so badly that she’s going to craft her one out of french fries!” I take it as a good sign that she’s hearing the message that if you have to drive, the only safe type of margarita is one made out of fries.
I’m hopeful that by starting early with these honest, up front discussions that, like the vitamins, some of the subconscious memorization will kick in. Plus, I hope that it will make our kids that much more likely to feel comfortable coming to us with questions since they know we’re open to talking about it.
Speaking of ‘talking early’, the reason that I’m doing a post about alcohol responsibility instead of one of my normal posts about how to dress up your American Girl doll like a goth party girl is because of a writing contest presented to all of the attendees of Blog U which is sponsored by Responsibility.org.
I feel pretty safe in telling you that I will not be winning this contest because the subject of the post was supposed to be about Responsibility.org’s #RefreshYourFunny initiative. I instead decided to focus on their #TalkEarly message because I think it’s much more authentic and beneficial than #RefreshYourFunny.
Responsibility.org’s overall goal is “advancing alcohol responsibility”, which I am all for. The idea behind their #RefreshYourFunny campaign is that alcohol has become the punch line for many social media memes & shared photos online. Because of that, Responsibility.org has asked that I (and the other Bloggers at Blog U) join in for one month and refrain from sharing alcohol related memes and photos on social media and ask my readers to do the same. Here’s a peek at the video.
Anyone who has read my “Shut the F*ck Up” Poem (seriously, it takes about 1 minute, you should totally read it,) knows that I’m a big fan of being aware that your kids are paying attention to what you do and say a lot more than you think. That being said, I’ve got some concerns about #RefreshYourFunny.
My biggest issue is that it feels very censorship’y and I already censor myself enough by using an * every time I write sh*t or f*ck so that my mom doesn’t know that I swear. Plus, since the age of 21, I have followed my first boss’ advice of “not doing or saying anything that you wouldn’t want to see next to your picture on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.” That’s really all the self-censorship I need.
My other issue is that I feel like there’s a big disconnect between Responsibility.org’s initiative to #TalkEarly about alcohol while at the same time asking us to censor our conversations about alcohol through #RefreshYourFunny. If they want to encourage people to #TalkEarly with their kids, wouldn’t it make sense to put more energy into using these memes as a launching point for a discussion about alcohol use vs trying to get people to stop sharing and liking them (which they won’t)?
And why won’t they stop?
Because that sh*t’s funny.
Which brings me back to the pictures of my weekly margarita (oops, I finished this one.)
Obviously, it’s not even trying to be funny. It’s simply the picture that speaks a thousand words. It says, “My day started by picking up two piles of cat poo in front of my bedroom door, I accomplished a negative three things on my to-do list and forgot I wasn’t at home alone when I farted in the produce section of the grocery store today, but dammit, I’ve got a margarita the size of my head now. Cheers!”
Just like I ‘cheers’ with my family and friends around the table as a gesture of love and celebration, I enjoy using social media to send a virtual ‘cheers’ to all my family and friends around the world. I recognize that your day probably had the same kinds of ups and downs as mine and you would probably appreciate a little virtual ‘cheers’.
So, cheers to you and wishing you a wonderful week ahead!
Cheers to all of us for surviving whatever type of crazy our kids put us through today!
Cheers to Maudie’s for your heavenly, grande margarita, on the rocks, with a little salt.
And cheers to Responsibility.org’s overall goal of advancing alcohol responsibility. I will continue doing my part to #TalkEarly even if I won’t be RefreshingMyFunny.
Disclaimer: This piece will be submitted for a written contest sponsored by Responsibility.org. I am not being compensated for this post and all the opinions are my own.
Update: Holy sh*t! I did win! Sure, it’s third place, but it’s better than zero place, especially since I pretty much criticized the campaign I was supposed to be writing about. Thanks Responsibility.org for the award and for all you do to keep kids safe.
Once upon a time, Susanne Kerns was a Senior Account Director at an advertising agency working for two of the top brands in the world. Nine years ago she traded in her corporate life for a life as a stay at home mom, raising two of the best kids in the world. She started her blog, The Dusty Parachute as a way to dust off her online advertising skills and begin her job search. Instead, she now uses it as a way to spend lots of time on the computer so her kids think that mommy has a job.
Susanne’s essays have been featured in Scary Mommy, BonBon Break and Redbook and she is also a contributor in the upcoming books, It’s Really 10 Months, Special Delivery and Martinis & Motherhood – Tales of Wonder Woe & WTF?! You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.