Many friends, family and whomever else will listen, have repeatedly heard me say during the last year, "I LOVE raising teens...this is what I was cut out for!" This weekend's talk on drinking and partying just confirmed once again, my passion for all things teen! Not only do I love the awesome conversations that come about...the bonus (and probably the most special gift of having kids) is that I get to heal my past through their experiences. Let me explain...
I believe that my kids chose Jake and I to be their parents and that they came to us to teach us the most. The more Jake and I are able to disconnect from our 'snow-plow parenting' tendencies, the more we are able to witness our kids experiences without wanting anything different for them and in turn...the more we all learn and grow!
This weekend Tré went to his first high school parties where there was drinking....DunDunDuuun!! We have had plenty of talks in the past about his black and white views about who are 'good' kids and 'bad' kids and what actions (drinking and smoking;) make them bad and why! He would get very judgy of kids (his friends) that were making choices that were different than his. As we all remember, the teen years can be full of lessons in 'where do I fit in?' Does this group like me? Do I like this group? Do the jocks like me? Am I jock? Do I want to be a jock? What do I need to do to fit in...stand out...?
Fast forward to the parties...On Friday night Tré and a friend went to a party full of juniors and seniors and he encountered his first major scene and drunk kids:) Both he and his friend chose to stay sober and we had a great talk about the temptation to join in the fun and why he didn't the next morning. The next night he was invited to another party. This time his friend decided to drink...no judgement. Tré comes home right at curfew and says, "I don't know what to do...I grabbed XX's keys so he couldn't drive and he is still at the party...what do I do..he's pretty aggressive?" I do what I always do in moments that require action, I threw Jake at it;) "Do you want to go up and grab him with Tré?" That was all the thought that I put into it and was very proud that I didn't go into story or worry mode. Meanwhile, Jake drove Tré up to the party house and they returned the friend home...brilliant, boring outcome. The next morning I gathered the kids up and wanted to have a 'teen talk' (this just means that I want the younger kids to hear about Tré's experiences and thoughts so they don't feel so alone or judge themselves when they run across the same things). He said he danced the night away and showed us funny/BRAVE videos. He also said that it was both weird and hysterical to see people acting ridiculous. While Tré was talking, I had an epiphany about my own young life and with a flash...understood why I started drinking at parties and didn't stop until maybe 8 years ago. I wouldn't get drunk every time so I didn't ever classify myself as having 'a problem'. But boy, was there ever a problem! I was numbing (and blacking out) and used alcohol as liquid bravery!
I explained to the kids that I didn't have the same control and cut off point when it came to drinking at parties like their Dad did. He would get a buzz and be good for the night. I, on the other hand, would turn into a cross between Cedric the Entertainer (comedian), Frank the Tank from the Old School movie and a phenomenal athlete of the drunk olympics (the one that plays drunk games miraculously...beer pong, quarters, whatever).
Here's what I discovered through Tré's experience... All of my kids have this ability and courage right now to show a new version of themselves to a crowd of their piers. They feel the uncomfortable feeling of showing a new side of themselves, and they push through it! I am very proud of them for this and also very much in awe because it takes a tremendous amount of bravery. You also have to be able to deal with a fair amount of discomfort....this is where I failed the test. I did not like the feeling of discomfort and I learned that alcohol could take that away. As a bonus, it calmed down what I call my external compass. I describe the external compass as the ability to think and care about EVERYTHING that others might be thinking...about me. All the answers are outside of me;) Because I was born with an indestructible external compass that was fully developed before I was probably even in kindergarten (a symptom of growing up under the false assumptions that I was famous #smalltownlife. I can still taste the shame and embarrassment the few times I tried on new versions of me. I would have never been able to go to a party and just start busting out moves and dancing, especially if no one else was (not once I had a taste of the bold person I was with alcohol) As I was walking out of a tea shop the other day after processing my discovery of what alcohol actually was numbing back in the day..I ran into this sign and took it as a 'sign' (no pun) to call Tré because I knew that he had a meeting with his bball coach and just wanted to hear what it was about.
Isn't that fascinating!!!! Tré proceeded to tell me that his coach was pulling him aside to tell him that he saw a social media picture of him at a party and there was alcohol in the background. He proceeded to ask him if he was drinking...Tré said he 'thinks' he believed him when he told coach that he didn't. His coach then told him that if this happened in bball season that he would have been kicked off the team. I understand that his coach and I are coming from two different perspectives and he has to assume the worst:(.
But...Mama Bear in me wanted to say, "Did you know he danced the night away and bravely chose not to drink even with full-court-press peer pressure from friends? Did you know that he chose to look out for his friend responsibly and without judgement!!!?" "Did you bother to mention that you think he is an awesome kid for the example that he set, and then give him an alternative to socializing? Don't get me wrong...I am grateful he has a coach that cares about his well-being, but everything he mentioned was reenforcing the "What will people think?...and...How would this look on the program"?
My response to Tré... "If you are looking for a fear factor to give you permission not to go to parties, then now you have one. We are interested in letting you continue to make choices on your own (even if you screw up) so that you can continue to develop that internal compass. That compass that tells you what is right and wrong for you and only you. The internal compass that tells you how you feel and connects you to your intuition. We trust you. You are an awesome young man. And we are honored to be your parents! Keep being you and inspiring others. Your coach will learn who you are one day and be very proud of you...but, you won't need to hear it from him, because you will already feel it inside!
The most magical note came from a friend just this morning to celebrate our family work we did together this weekend... "I had to share a story with you. XXX has really been struggling with friends he has that are starting to experiment with alcohol. He is my kid that is very black and white. In his mind he doesn't understand how he can be friends with them anymore. He came home a few days ago and told me that your son doesn't drink and is an example that it's possible! Thank you Tre for giving him hope."
Trust me Tré, Jalena and Jamie...You can dance...without vodka:) It may be a little uncomfortable, but that's just an indicator that you are alive!