Today is my oldest son’s birthday. It’s a big one. He is 13, a teenager, on the cusp of so much advertised angst and all that goes with it. According to society, he’ll most likely hate me soon enough, what with the stereotypes and coming-of-age stories that all too often blur our own life experiences with pop culture nostalgia and the fears we have carefully curated on Facebook. Then, it won’t be long before he’s toasting today with a glass of something stronger than the celebratory soda he is currently hoisting, sugars be damned. But not yet. Not this today.
The funny thing about birthdays is that they are just regular days, another mark on the calendar that, in reality, shows nothing new upon the surface. One does not wake upon their birthday with the sudden wisdom and assorted changes that their newly acquired age is known for—those are lessons that are learned and lines that are drawn in the sand of hourglasses and other metaphors. And yet, that day means so much. On one side of a milestone you are not legally allowed to drive, vote, gamble or drink, things all attributed to maturing stages of adulthood, and then the next day, like magic, you are. Ta-da! The waiting is harder for some than others.
A lot of the buildup, in my everyman opinion, has to do with the amount of visibility and access that a child may have to one “adult activity” or another. For instance, kids that have parents involved in the current political process probably can’t wait to have their own voice heard, whether that be via voting or getting the hell out of the country (I’ve heard it both ways). Kids who have parents drink alcohol in front of them, making it look cool and fun, may be excited about their own opportunity to enjoy said coolness and fun. Monkey see, monkey do and all that.
It’s okay. Alcohol is fine (and often fun), for adult consumption, but not for underage drinking, and as such there is no need to hide it from kids (although, that’s your call). In fact, drinking in front of kids (in a responsible manner) is actually a great opportunity to speak with them about it—that it is for adults and why. Let them ask questions. Talk about the dangers of underage drinking and the health concerns thereof. Talk to them about the impact alcohol has on the decisions people make, whether it’s getting behind the wheel, sexual activity, or other—all of them carrying very real consequences that can change their life and the lives of others. Consequences that are not cool or fun.
Today my son is turning 13, but that doesn’t mean I’m waiting until he turns 21 to speak with him about underage drinking and alcohol. That is a conversation we have already started, and one that we will continue, possibly over cake.
And to prove that I’m not just making stuff up, please enjoy Dr. Mary Alvord‘s professional opinion on drinking in front of kids:
Interesting stats: Now with infographics!
This post is in partnership with Responsibility.org and the #TalkEarly campaign. Our collective mission is to eliminate drunk driving and speak to kids about underage drinking; also to promote responsible decision-making regarding the consumption of alcohol. It is a good cause, and while I am compensated as a #TalkEarly Ambassador, my opinions remain my own.
Please learn more about Responsibility.org and #TalkEarly by connecting on social media:
Whit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change, the Social Media Director and Community Manager of Dad 2.0 Summit as well as a Senior Account Executive at the conference’s parent company: XY Media Group. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy.