A Guide for Kids from Conservative, Dry Families
Many articles give advice on talking to your kids about alcohol, but how do we talk about it with our parents—especially if they don’t drink themselves?
By Molly Flynn, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The first time I got drunk was off of a Four Lokos and a few bottles of Smirnoff Ice.
As you can imagine, this is not typically how I introduce myself. And this is definitely not how I came out to my parents that I drink. Depending on your relationship with your parents, drinking can be a very sensitive subject. In some circumstances, your parents will buy you a bottle of bubbly to celebrate you acquiring a taste for alcohol; in other circumstances, however, you could be shunned and shamed. In order to understand my experience with my parents and alcohol, you first have to hear some background. Hopefully, what I’ve learned about the sensitive subject of spirits will help you uncork the awkward tension you may feel around your parents.
I grew up in a pretty conservative environment. My parents grew up in an extremely conservative environment. The extremism they were raised under reflected in me living the majority of my life in a dry home, and honestly, me judging anything alcohol-related. Alcohol itself, t-shirts with alcohol, jokes that included alcoholic references—seriously, it was bad. But then, sometime around my junior year of high school, wine bottles started mysteriously appearing around our house. I also discovered that we owned two wine glasses and a few bottle openers. Either my house was possessed by the Casper of cabernet, or someone in my household started drinking—and it sure as hell was not little judgmental (and underage) me!
Slowly but surely my parents stopped drinking privately in their room and started drinking publicly at the dinner table. They even offered me and my siblings a few sips! But, ew, who actually likes the taste of alcohol? At least, that was my mentality back then. What was happening?! My conservative 16-year old self didn’t know how to handle my parents’ “coming of age” that happened while they were middle-aged. Your parents are expected to judge your drinking habits, but at this phase in my life, it was the other way around.
After the shock of discovering that my parents liked to get saucy every now and then wore off, I began accepting the idea of alcohol in moderation.
Obviously, it was still incredibly wicked to get drunk… especially off of Four Lokos *cough cough*.
Flash forward to the first semester of my freshman year of college and just going through a terrible break up. Living on your own with a broken heart and with friends who like to party are a bad combination if you want to be a teetotaler. It’s safe to say that first weekend of singlehood forced the “dry Molly” to teetotal her way right out the front door. Enter in “Four Lokos Molly.” This marked the beginning of a very long and very alcoholic period of my life. And while I have always had an honest relationship with my parents, this was one secret I decided I would keep.
As I said earlier, I typically don’t brag about my old drinking habits, especially now that I have matured my tastes. But the sheltered nature of my childhood propelled me into a phase of life that was dominated by alcohol. It is difficult to talk to your parents about something that you are ashamed of and realize you don’t have control of. So for me, I waited a little while before coming clean about my weekend (and let’s be honest, weeknight) adventures. After about a year, I stopped drinking out of a need to fulfill myself and started drinking because I actually enjoyed it. When you drink to enjoy, I realized, Four Lokos is definitely not involved.
It was time for me to introduce this new version of myself to my parents and what better way than to pretentiously bring a nice bottle of wine over for family dinner? I guess “nice” depends on your definition, but spending more than $30 on a bottle for me was enough to brand myself as a fancy drinker. Breaking the ice like this seriously opened up my relationship with my parents. We began to have a mutual understanding about alcohol and the shame I felt began to disappear.
One of the most fun things for me now is going to dinner with my mom and she and I finishing a bottle of wine together—even though I’m always tempted to drink it by myself.
While I can now drink with my parents, I still have to pace myself.
Especially with wine—I love wine. I understand, though, that my situation is unique and that not everyone will be able to break through the awkward drinking conversation with your parents. For example: My in-laws are vehemently against alcohol. So please, if you know them, do not forward them this article!
I adore my in-laws but that’s one relationship I can’t bring alcohol into. Bringing a nice bottle of wine to a Flynn family dinner would be a suicidal escapade. And while I love wine, I love my relationship with them more. There are a lot of sacrifices you have to make when your parents are against alcohol and when you realize that they would also be against you if you were, like my husband and I are, an alcohol enthusiast. My husband and I had a dry wedding out of respect for them. When they come to visit, we know exactly where to hide any alcohol paraphernalia, and we make sure to drink any leftover liquor in our house the night before. We can’t take them to our local brewery for a tour, and we can’t buy them a nice bottle of bubbly for their anniversary. And while we are sometimes restricted in conversations with them, we still have a great relationship with them, albeit a dry one.
You may have parents like mine or you may have parents like my husband’s. Regardless of their stance on alcohol, you can still have a mature and semi-honest relationship with them as a drinker. It’s important to read their cues. If in conversation you hear them shunning the neighbor kid for that beer bottle they saw in his hand, maybe the timing is not right to explain to your parents that that beer brand is your favorite. If your parents invite you to the new bar in Uptown, it’s safer to assume that they do not relate alcohol with antipathy and that you should be bringing your I.D. How they speak about alcohol is very important. If after you’ve been listening to them and things seem smooth as a fine brandy, initiate alcohol contact with them. Maybe your parents aren’t wine drinkers like mine are, but discover what they like and then bring over something at dinner. Don’t bring the cheap stuff that tastes more like nail polish remover than something that should be consumed.
If you get as lucky as me, they will help you with the bottle and then volunteer to buy the second. If not, things will still be okay. A liquor-less relationship can still be a very good relationship. And the bright side of being forced to have a dry wedding like we did is that you save a whole lot of money.