We Are Both Right

When it Comes to the Past, Honesty is the Best Policy


How honest will you be with your kids about your past? ©ubik2010/stock.xchng

My friend Tracy loves (LOVES) to tell a story about one New Year’s Eve night when we were in high school. I don’t know how it came about, but along with our group of friends, the chip and the dip, and Dick Clark on television, there was an assortment of wine coolers and her mother was O.K. with it.

My friends, who for the most part not only towed the “good kid” line but probably knitted it themselves, were surprisingly thrilled about this turn of events, happy to kick back and do the wrong thing for once (even if it was under parental supervision).

I wasn’t.

It was illegal. We shouldn’t be doing this. Tracy’s mom could get in trouble. My parents would kill me.

I look back now and laugh (and roll my eyes) at my goody-two-shoeness (I think there were eight wine coolers total for six kids plus the aforementioned grown up), but  I do remember being completely panicked in that moment, my sense of what was right completely at odds with what my friends were doing.

Eventually I caved, agreeing to try the sweet, fizzy “hard stuff” but when I brought the bottle to my lips, I couldn’t go through with it. I balked, firmly putting it on the table and saying “no” in what I can imagine was a tone that invoked the height of sanctimony and memories of Nancy Reagan.

(That Tracy is still puts up with me astounds me.)

It wouldn’t be until two years later when I would eventually try my first underage alcoholic drink, courtesy of (gasp!) Suzanne (my most responsible friend) who introduced me to the wonder that is grocery store wine.

So there it is. My sordid backstory. In my next blog I’ll tell you about the time I returned a library book a week late.

When the day comes when my kids ask about drugs and alcohol and the pressures that come with being a teen, I will be honest. Easy for me to say. It’s easy to tell the truth about your past when you don’t have one. Still, everyone has transgressions. And whether it’s underage drinking, cheating on a homework assignment, failing your driver’s test (twice!), I think it’s important to share them with your kids.

I think (and hope) that talking with them often and honestly will only keep the lines of communication open. Whenever my kids get into trouble or are having an issue with someone or something, I try to relay a tale from my own youth. We talk about why I made a certain decision and what the outcome was. Was there something I could have done better? Do I have any regrets? I think on many levels, conversations like this humanize me, and hopefully show them as you grow up, the decisions get harder, especially when there are many different influencing factors — doing what’s right vs. doing what’s socially acceptable.

And there was a good lesson in my turning down the drink that New Year’s Eve. My friends, although they rolled my eyes at my refusal, were still my friends the next day. (And in the case of Tracy, 20 years later.)

I don’t know. Maybe I better leave this part of parenting to my husband. As a teen on a Friday night you could regularly find him in the bleachers behind his school partying with his friends. He even brought his own six pack.

Of Yoo-Hoo.


What do you think? Will you be (or have you already been) honest with your kids about your life as a young person?

Suzanne and I have similar backgrounds — if she had been at that party, she wouldn’t have had a wine cooler either, but still, she’s decided that not sharing her past details with her kids is the way to go.


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