This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org as part of their Ask, Listen, Learn program. April is Alcohol Responsibility Month and I encourage you to start a conversation with your kids about alcohol.
When you find out that your life is going to be blessed with a baby, you start thinking about all the milestones you’ll achieve together: first tooth, first words, first step.
I left this picture on my dry erase board for 5 years because I didn’t want to erase one of my son’s earliest pictures of our family!
And when you recover from those first few years and think you’ve made it through the hardest parts, you start thinking about the rest of those milestones that don’t always make it into parenting handbooks.
The first day of school.
The first loose tooth.
The first time your kid loses a friendship.
The first lie.
All of those things will inevitably happen even if you have become a certified, classroom-trained parenting “expert.” Every kid is different and every parent-child relationship is different. And you’ll eventually develop your own style that helps you through the tough times.
For example, we just passed another milestone that nobody prepared me for. The puberty discussion!
We try to stay open and honest in our household. We talk about changing bodies but I don’t always put up a human anatomy diagram and spell it all out. Unfortunately, his school does. Starting in the 4th grade, they show a short video that prepares the boys for the changes that are “just around the corner.”
We talked about the general stuff and I let his dad talk to him about some of the specifics (glad I dodged that one). And for the rest of the discussion, we simply poked fun at the videotape he watched (yes, I said VIDEOTAPE). With early 90s style, abysmal sound and video quality, and a theme song, “Just Around the Corner,” we were able to laugh our way through the most serious parts of puberty.
Finding the balance between addressing issues seriously and with humor is something I’m constantly refining because it makes talking about big issues all the more approachable.
Alcohol consumption is another topic we’ve addressed from an early age and in many different ways. But now that my son is old enough, he, like his mother, tries to find the humor in everything, even when it may not always be appropriate.
A few weeks ago, we popped into the local haircut shop and tried to beat the rush (it’s the most popular place for boys in our small town). While we were waiting, I noticed some pretty hilarious coloring sheets available, presumably, to pacify impatient kids.
The one that caught my eye was picture of an old-fashioned barber cutting a young boy’s hair. It was funny to me because not only because barbers are often a rarity these days but because this particular barber was wearing a smock.
If you’re picturing Floyd the Barber from the old Andy Griffith show, you’re on the right track.
I sat down and Evan started coloring the sheet. He didn’t get a chance to finish his picture and handed it to me as he headed back for his haircut.
“EVAN!!” I exclaimed.
I was caught in a moment of laughing at his sense of humor (I’m not really sure what all of those bottles are actually supposed to be) and wondering what other parents would think if they saw his picture.
I quickly folded it up and put it in my purse to show his dad later on. There would be no talks or lectures. But his dad and I would probably have a little chuckle about it later.
What I later thought about was the style of humor in his coloring sheet. This is adult humor. Yes, it’s funny to me. It’s probably funny to other adults who see it. But it’s not kid-friendly humor.
While my son is pretty mature for his age and has a pretty intelligent sense of humor, I need to remember that some things need to be dealt with in a style that’s suitable for the subject matter.
While we may laugh about changing bodies, we need to make sure that we talk alcohol in a more serious way. Kids often see their parents consuming alcohol (hopefully in a responsible way) while laughing and enjoying themselves. It can easily send a mixed message to kids.
As my son heads into puberty, I imagine that he’ll have more milestones than I can even anticipate but I don’t intend for underage drinking to be one of them. We’ll continue to have the tough talks, sometimes with humor and sometimes with grace, but always with the understanding that parenting is a process that’s never quite done.