The Alcoholic

My parents had some interesting parenting techniques back when I was growing up. I was their first child so as some of you know, with the first one you have NO clue what you are doing.  The ideas you have are basically done to avoid damaging them forever but also just getting them to stop what they are doing or shut up for 10 minutes.

I remember a few good ones as a kid. Around the age of 5 or so, my parents got my brother and I a duck phone for our room.  Yes, my parents were WAY ahead of The Jersey Shore in terms of coolness.

Duck phone

Once we got it, I must have picked it up and dialed my house phone number a billion times in a row.   To the point where when I got home from school one day  my mom told me the operator called and asked that I stop doing that cause the police and fire departments are missing calls because I am tying up the phone lines.  I stopped, so I guess it worked.

Another good one was that I could only shower a few times a week because my parents told me there was a water shortage in the town and even number houses had to shower on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and odd number houses could shower on Tuesday and Thursday. I was only 10 or so at the time, so the shower time was innocent.  In fact, each time I showered I’m not even sure soap was involved.  I was in there to sing the Canadian National Anthem and pretend I was Rene Rancourt.  I would get to a part of the song, forget the next line, and just start over.   I still sing that song in the shower now.  In fact, Rene is retiring this year so maybe I will be the next anthem singer for the Boston Bruins.  They are playing a Canadian team in the first round, so you know I will have the game on before it starts so I can hear both songs.

But, my absolute favorite was the time I was 15 or so and I stole a Red Dog (remember that?) beer from my parents basement and drank it with 2 of my friends. They each stole one and we drank them.  Well, I got caught and I got a get out of jail free card with that one.  My parents were so cool about it I thought I was ok.  Until the next time I got caught, again, probably splitting 30 beers with 15 friends, pretty innocent stuff, but I’m sure as a parent you are thinking, well, he’s not a kid anymore, now the real parenting begins.  You have to keep your kids away from real world problems, not dumb fights with friends because someone hit someone else with a tennis ball or they said they were safe stealing a base but I knew for sure they were out so we had to fist fight over it.  They had to keep me safe doing something really dumb that could cost me my life.

So, what do my parents do…they decide to tell me my Dad was/is an alcoholic. They ask if I have ever seen him with a beer.  I tell them no.  Then, they give me a choice.  I can be grounded for a month, or I can go to the library and write a 5 page paper on the dangers of alcohol.  So of course my decision was easy.  One day at the library was WAY better than 30 days and home hanging out with Mom and Dad.

I learned a few things about it, but I was 15 so I did it to get them off my back and I continued on with my lifestyle. I was just a kid, making mistakes, but trying to be as good as I could in the process.

After that point when I would talk about my Dad I would bring up how he was a great guy and that before I was born he was an alcoholic and how he had a choice back then to pick his family (me and my Mom at the time) or drinking. He picked us.  I would tell everyone I met who asked about my parents this story.  From my high school friends, to my wife’s parents.  Then one day, probably when I was 30 or so my parents were telling all these parenting stories,  I went to go get my Mom a drink and I said something like “I’d get you one Dad, but I guess you can’t”…both of their faces dropped and they starting dying laughing.  I was just sitting their stunned.  My Mom finally collected herself and she said “Dad’s not an alcoholic, did you think he was?” So I responded with “Yeah, that’s what you told me.”  It was the hardest I have ever seen my Mom laugh.  It was like my world was flipped upside down.  He just didn’t like the feeling of drinking and since he didn’t they used that as a tactic to try to keep me away from booze for a few weeks, months longer.  They were just doing what they thought was right at the time.  Never knowing that it was the story I told to literally every new person I met if they asked about my parents.  “My Mom’s cool, My Dad’s an alcoholic, but he’s cool too. He still dances at weddings and stuff”. There are people all over this world who think my Dad couldn’t handle his booze!

My point with these stories is TELL YOUR DAMN KIDS EVENTUALLY THAT YOU WERE SCREWING WITH THEM. It’s like telling your kid to not touch the COLD stove.  If you eventually don’t tell them the word is HOT not COLD they will look like an idiot at some point when they are at college and tell their roommate to turn the HEAT up cause it’s not COLD enough.

I didn’t know until years later that the operator never called about the phone, that I could shower whenever I wanted or needed to or that my Dad could control his drinking if he decided to have a beer.

What my parents got out of it was laughing so uncontrollably because they forget to clue in me in on the joke or that they assumed I would eventually figure them out without getting crazy embarrassed!

What I got out of all of that was the understanding that you parent they way you know how. You do the best you can with what you have in front of you.   You think when you grow up that your parents have all the answers and the second you were born they had all the right answers.  Then you grow up and see that they had NO CLUE what they were doing, just like the wife and I feel right now.  We are just two people trying to get our two beautiful little girls to survive one more day.  And if I have to give up booze to do that I would.  My Dad has been clean and sober for 40 years now!

Good parenting comes in many different forms. I’m just lucky that the ones I got would literally try anything to put me on the right path.  Some of us don’t have your parents behind you with flashlights guiding you in the darkest and scariest parts of this life.  If you did, or you had someone who at least lit a match for you, make sure you thank them.  You never know how far a small gesture can go until you try it.

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