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Teach Kids About Responsible Drinking

My Facebook messenger exploded last night and continues to burn my battery up this morning with new comments every few seconds.

It is a tsunami of messages from my Alpha Gamma Delta sisters –– all compassionately offering love and contributions for one of our own. The awful news broke that her son had passed away on Monday morning, off campus of our alma mater Ohio University, one door over from my old apartment on Mill Street.

It is heartbreaking. And chilling. And sobering.

Yes, I said sobering. The reference is appropriate.

The news is reporting the “off campus” affiliation to her son’s fraternity, blaming not blaming, an alcohol-induced hazing incident, or at least once again, connecting the dots between our beloved Greek system and its fondness for overindulgence, albeit forced or highly encouraged. Doesn’t matter.

But what does matter, is that losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Losing a child in this way, this terrible, preventable, awful, sickening way, is a sucker punch on top of the hell you can’t wake up from.

Am I passing parental judgment? HELL no. Not in a thousand years. I’m so devastated for her. It could very easily be any one of us because kids are going to do what they want when they’re off at school, no matter how hard you parent all those years that they are at home. For that matter, it well could have been ME 30 years ago that the national news was reporting about.

I quickly made my contribution to the sister’s fund, but long after the flowers wilt and the money is allocated, what I am sure the mom would really want to come from this tragedy is that we talk to our kids about drinking. This pit of my stomach awful situation serves as my rallying call to continue crafting conversations at home about responsible drinking. I say responsible because let’s be realistic, my little sees Mommy and Daddy enjoy their booze and we’re not going cold turkey, it’s how she sees us enjoying our bevvies that’s important.

When my 10 year old woke up this morning, I told her about what happened.  I told her that an old friend of mine’s son drank himself to death at OU.

“Why would he do that?” she asked.

“Because alcohol changes how you make decisions, and he was probably encouraged by his fraternity to drink too much. The more you drink, the worse your decisions are,” I tried to explain.

“I’d never do that. I’d just leave if someone tried to get me to drink alcohol,” her 10-year-old self said.

I would love to wrap her in this moment and keep her in it forever. Reality is, she will get older, and she may discover beer doesn’t taste so bad. She might like wine. She may realize that shots make her a whole lot happier after studying for an all-nighter and acing an exam. I don’t know.

If she’s exactly like her mama, that’s her destiny. My college-age self would certainly be no role model. I managed to collect 3 degrees at 2 of the most renown party schools in the USA, completely embodying the phrase, “work hard, play hard.” Good times. But oh, there were definitely decisions I’d like to forget, and plenty of nights I did.

Now that I’m a “mature mom,” my forty+ year old self hears me telling the hubs on a Wednesday night as he extends a glass of wine to me because I’m especially “tense,” (my word, definitely not his), “No thanks, I actually sleep better if I don’t.” I mean, WHO AM I?!

How times have changed.

What else has changed? Conversations.

We recently had a lesser degree “teachable moment” after attending an LSU game. The Cupcake witnessed first hand, how the behavior of someone morphed as the drinks went down. It wasn’t pretty, the language became foul, the actions were lewd, and his balance completely unsteady. The said drunk came close to being arrested or maybe worse, merely beaten up by an angry fan. She saw it all through wide eyes. That experience offered a meaningful discussion about the dangers of over-indulgence. And LSU football fans.

I’m not going to shelter her from all adult events where liquor’s invited, that’d be impossible. There will be more football games in her future and we will continue to talk about the boozy-bad behavior that she’s exposed to, how she should react to the guilty adults, and what she is seeing.

I can’t recall my parents having conversations with me growing up, about alcohol, and responsible drinking. I know they didn’t share stories about dumb things that ruined lives because of alcohol. Doesn’t mean they didn’t talk about it, I mean, I am old now, I forget a lot, but I think those would have resonated with me a bit. I know it wasn’t out in the open through my formative years. If it had been, would I have been less wild in college? Mmmmaybe. I’d like to think I might have said no to “drink and drown” at least once.

Bottom line, I don’t want my little to ever forget that her mama had these conversations with her. I don’t want it to be a “thing” to talk about drinking. I want it to be as casual as soccer or a movie. I want her to “get” the dangers of drinking too much, and hello, the fact that it’s still illegal until she’s 21? I’m hoping she will feel confident enough to rise above the peer pressure to drink when she doesn’t want to, and when she does want to, to be able to say, “no,” to over-indulge. And if/when she does drink too much, somewhere in the depths of her drunken psyche, I’ll cross my fingers that she will remember her mama’s words to please call me or girlfriend, or an Uber to bring her safely home.

I hope that you too will have conversations with your kids about responsible drinking. And I mean, responsible. It’s cool if you are a tea-totaling household, you don’t get a pass from these talks because kids will do the one thing you tell them they can’t or shouldn’t, you know that. It’s cool if you kill a keg on the weekend. You do you. Still have the conversations. Know that your kids watch your every move, and teens and young adults have minds of their own. We can only parent and try and teach and influence for so long, and then these tiny humans have to make their own decisions — and sometimes, they will be bad ones. And when that happens, if they are really tragic decisions like this one, I hope that you too will have a phone that blows up with messages of love and support and prayers to wrap yourself in just like this mama’s. And then you too will pass the message forward to other mamas and their littles.

Please, take a moment and say a prayer for the Wiant family and all the other families who have suffered similar tragedy as they struggle to deal with the aftermath of losing their son.



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