This summer will mark 24 years of marriage for my wife and I. We hadn’t been dating very long when she told me her primary rule: Love me, love my kids. Her children were 8 and 4 at the time, and it was clear that if we were going to continue a relationship, I would be expected to treat these children as though they were my own.
Now some people interpret that to mean they need to figure out how to befriend the kids, how to make them like you. But that’s not how I saw it. It meant that they were going to experience their mother and I as husband and wife, and as co-parents. I was not replacing their father, they would still have lost of interaction with him. But when they were with us, which was most of the time, I was going to be active in their lives.
Active as a soccer coach, as a chauffer, as a disciplinarian, as a parent.
I grew up in a “do as I say, not as I do” sort of way. My dad was a great provider, a gentle man, and a good friend to have. I was taught to never curse, though there was plenty of cursing to learn from. I was also taught to respect alcohol and the laws regarding it, and never had a drink before I was old enough. But I saw a lot of drinking, a lot more than I know my friends saw.
The one most critical thing I learned was this: If I was going to hold my children accountable for NEVER drinking and driving, then I had to display that same level of behavior.
Most people who drink any alcohol will not have any issues with having a drink or two and then driving. But how do you explain to kids, who may or may not choose to experiment with alcohol at some point, how to know if you are too impaired to drive? My answer was that the only allowable amount was none. No drinks when driving. If the family was out to dinner together, I would have water or iced tea.
But if we were home on a Saturday night and I wanted to have a couple of beers or some red wine, I had no problem drinking in front of the kids. And I would tell them this: If you or your friends ever decide to try alcohol, you need to promise me that you will not drive or get in the car of someone who was drinking. No matter the quantity. When you are old enough to drink, drink safe, at home.
Did my kids wait until they were legally old enough to drink? Not all of them. But, I do know they learned to drink responsibly.
How about you? Are you conscious of the training you are providing your children in this critical area?