Monday, August 8, 2016

A New Tool-Your Kids

"Teach Your Children"

You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of the tender years can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well, their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix,the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

As a mom, I was a giver-inner. I was tired, I was harried, I was young, but more than anything else, I wanted my kids to like me. I wanted to be the fun mom.

I can imagine me as a mom looking up at a waterslide that there was no way in Hell, I'd go down and saying to my kids, "Over my dead body, will I let you go down that thing."

And then caving. Because the begging was unrelentless. Because it was hot. Because all the other kids were going. Because I knew how much my son would enjoy bragging to his friends that he'd gone down the Insane Slide of Doom.

I can understand that.

What I can't understand is how I put my kids at risk by my excessive drinking over and over in their young and vulnerable lives. Want me to mention a few and make you and me cringe?

We had hordes of kids spend the night almost every weekend down in our basement, not to mention my own kids. I can remember thinking I shouldn't drink and put not only my  kids at risk but other parents' kids at risk. Then I'd think, I can have a couple. And we all know where that goes. I can remember thinking, right before I passed out Friday after Friday, Please, God, don't let there be a fire in the basement because I know I'll never wake up in time to save those kids.

I can remember taking my tween boys and a neighbor boy that we always called our "Other Son" out in the country to let them drive. I can remember having my Big Gulp of JD and Diet Coke right there in the cup holder. Tragedy was just one over correction on a loose dirt road away. It makes me sick and so ashamed to think of that.

Then there was the time my oldest son was having a birthday slumber party. I drove around to collect all the boys that were coming. Of course, it was a Friday evening and I had met my co-workers at our customary watering hole after work for a couple or more. And, of course, I had my Big Gulp right beside me in the car as I picked up boy after boy.  Then I thought it would be a really fun idea to have a Chinese Fire Drill, just like I had done when I was their age. I stopped in the middle of the main highway that runs through our town and the boys all jumped out and ran around the car and jumped back in. All except my son who sat in the backseat cringing. I might have seemed like the cool, fun mom to his friends, but I was his embarrassing drunk mom to him.

All of those events and many more could have ended in a tragedy that would have ruined dozens if not hundred of lives when you extend to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, the whole community of our town.  Tragedy might have happened even if I hadn't been drinking, but I was.

Every week, hell, every day, it seems like I read about another senseless tragedy in which a child is killed. The little boy on a family vacation in Orlando. An eleven year old girl stuck by lightening at summer camp. Children swept away by floods or tornadoes...So many.

And now,  another child who probably was a little scared but wanted to prove he wasn't, died on a waterslide that he wasn't big enough to go on in KC. Probably no one is big enough to go on that slide.

Another mother will live the rest of her life without her son.

While I, undeservingly,  got to watch my sons grow to adulthood.

I propose a new tool to help us quit drinking, or to keep our drinking in "safe" parameters. 

Never drink around your kids. I don't care if you swear you'll drink responsibly and only have two. Instead, if you're going to drink, make sure that it is when you're children are safe in the care of another adult. 

Tragedy is too close at all times in childhood, we, as parents,  don't need to invite it closer.

Teach your children well. Teach them that parents keep their kids as safe as they possibly can so they can teach their children the same thing.

Are you sitting there with your arms folded across your chest, adamant that your drinking doesn't affect your kids? 

I have a dare I'd like you to accept.

We drinkers make lots of lists for ourselves about the pros and cons of our drinking, why we shouldn’t drink, things that are better when we don’t drink.  

I dare you to ask your children to do the same.  Ask them to make a list of the good and bad things about your drinking.  That would be a real eye opener, wouldn’t it?

Too scared?  I don’t blame you, I’m too scared too.

Maybe you can fill one out for them.  I’ll give you some sample questions.

Have I ever embarrassed you because of my drinking?

Have you ever felt that drinking was more important to me than you?

Have you ever wished I didn’t drink?

Have you ever been able to tell that I was drunk?

Do I scare you when I’m drinking?

Have you been able to tell when I’m hungover?

Have I ever seemed impatient or grumpy when I’m hungover?

Have you ever lied about my drinking?

Are you afraid to have friends or company over because I might embarrass you?

Have you ever not wanted to come home because of my drinking?

Have you ever wanted to leave because of my drinking?

Have you ever made excuses for me because of my drinking?

Have you ever heard me lie because of my drinking?

Have you ever not got to do something you wanted to do because of my drinking?

Have I ever not done something I said I would do for you because of my drinking?

Have you ever seen me passed out?

Have I ever not remembered something you told me when I was drinking?

Have I ever done something or said something that hurt you when I was drinking?

Would you like me to stop drinking?

Do you still think you're drinking is not affecting your child? Even if a physical tragedy never befalls them, what kind of emotional tragedies have they been subjected to?

I see the results of my drinking in my now adult children and it hurts, it is a hurt I will live with the rest of my life.

I don't want that for you.


  1. Dear Kary May
    I have been lurking through sober blogs for the past year or so, and yours is the first one I came across so I have read you from start to now. I have never felt such an urge to comment as I do now reading this post.

    I have 2 sons, 28 and 24, and by the grace of God they are healthy, well adjusted young men that I am so proud of, but their whole childhood was filled with a mommy that drank way too much, and put their lives and their friends lives in jeopardy way too many times. Your post has struck such a deep note with me, I can't even describe the feeling. I am on Day 8 of so many Day 1 start overs this past year, but I hold hope that this time it will stick. We are expecting our first grandchild in about 7 months and I want more than anything to get it right this time around!

    For all you mothers with younger children that are struggling with the drink, please find a way to end it, and be their for your kids before something tragic happens, and even if you don't see any outward scars know that they are damaged inside by your drinking! I know, and a day doesn't pass when I don't have some flashback of something I did big and ugly or just stupidly small that didn't have a negative impact on my kids one way or another. It hurts everyone, even if you don't want to see it. I didn't for way too long, but the questionaire Kary May poses is so right on!

    Thank you for putting this out here!


  2. Thank you for responding to this, Linda. I am still deeply ashamed of the risks I took and the influence I let booze have over my kids' lives. I'm glad your voice is joining mine in this brigade. Congratulation on Day 8! If you've read my blog from the beginning, you'll know that there were a few incidences where I could see me repeating history with my grandson, those are the memories I carry with me to keep me from drinking again. Tomorrow I am going to stay with two of my grands while there parents go out of town. I have no worries about my capabilities or that they'll be safe with me. I can't tell you how good that makes me feel.

  3. Kary May, this is so powerful. I don't have children of my own - but I have stepkids and step grandkids - and I am deeply ashamed that they used to call my wine "G-MA juice". I still cringe.

  4. Jackie, I know we can't ever let go of our shame, but we can take pride in how we've turned it around. Our grandkids may never remember us as we were, and that's a damn good thing in my case.

  5. In my case, I am showing my nieces and nephews!
    I was known as the fun, crazy aunt.
    Crazy meant drunk. Ugh!
    Now I am showing them a fun, sober crazy aunt!!
    Much better role model for them!!

  6. Ouch! I got a big lump of shame stuck in my throat that is hard to swallow. My daughter always maintains she didn't realise I was ever drunk as I was never falling down drunk around her but she could still probaly answer the majority of those questions in a way that would make be cringe.
    The only thing i take umbrage to is "While I, undeservingly, got to watch my sons grow to adulthood" You made mistakes and you realise now that you would have done things differently but you still deserve to see your sons grow up. You still loved them I know, I can't speak about all of your circumstances and I can't quite nail what I want to say. I fully understand what you mean but I don't think the universe should punish you per se or have you feel undeserving. Your didnt maliciously drink, it wasn't to purposely hurt your kids or put them in danger. Please try and make peace a little bit with that.

    1. No, I didn't maliciously drink, but I "knowingly" drank. I knew every time I drank, I was taking a risk and many times putting my children at risk. I feel I have to take a stance on this so other young mothers think twice, and not let themselves be convinced by that "other" inner voice, the untrue one, that their drinking isn't affecting their children's lives.

  7. I think we can and must let go of our shame.
    I must be proud of the way I deal with my family today, or I might just forget how important sobriety and life are to me.
    What happened yesterday taught me my lesson. That's all the time it deserves.

    My kids were 8 and 10 when we quit drinking. I know my daughter hated it when I drank wine, and for the last year of my drinking knowing that almost broke my heart, but couldn't stop my compulsion to drink.

    I was sick. I take any and all efforts to remain well now.

    Love is too full of beautiful opportunities to wish the past was different.


  8. A friend of mine in recovery often says, "Don't beat yourself up about your past, but keep those times close to remind you." That's what I do. I am lucky, I didn't lose my relationships with my sons. There is a fine line of loving my life today and knowing I had to go through everything I did to makes this life I love, but there is still regret for some of the things I did and I view that regret as valuable stuff.