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Sober Parenting -Children Know When You Drink

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

...and When You Drink Too Much.

This weekend was our annual Parish Picnic at my children's school, and we have been every year since our children have been in school. The Fall Picnic is something the kids always look forward to.

The Parish Picnic is a fundraiser and a community builder for the church and school and when I was growing up, I was always a little envious of the community that the kids on my street talked about, which was St. Sabina Church and School, so I am happy my kids have a supportive community for their grade school years.

The Parish Picnic however, is also a place that is loud, and rambunctious on Saturday Evening, which is the first day of the the festivities. The kids run around all night long until their hearts are content, (or they get sick from the 'Scrambler') and the parents get sloshed as the evening progresses. There has been many a parent who has had several too many beers on the night of the picnic, me being one of them for many years.

I've been 'single momming' it all weekend with my 10 year old, while the older one is traveling for a bike race, (NICA League) and one thing that I can say is that taking care of one child is much harder than two at his age! My son has been completely obsessed with the picnic and counting down the minutes until we could go this year on both Saturday and Sunday. In the meantime, I've had what seems like a million loads of laundry to catch up on before the away group returns.

At 2 years sober, what I can tell you is that Saturday night was challenging, but not overly hard. There are times when I still want to drink, and this would definitely be one of the times when I was triggered. I could have easily picked up a little bottle of booze from the Q.T. to stash in my bag, which is probably what I would have done in the past.

I was never a beer drinker, and 6 ounces (plus a tad more) would have done the job for the night if I had a drink prior to the event. I would have kept the small bottle in my bag and taken my portable tumbler with fresh squeezed lemon and homemade simple syrup, and ice. A trip to Q.T. would give me 200 cc of Absolute and why drink 6 beers when 6 ounces of Absolute would do a much better job?

This thought crossed my mind, playing out that scenario as I watched the Round-Up turn around and around as kids stuck like glue to the metal compartments from the force of the spin.

If you were in my shoes, you would have walked around the church grounds and lots which go in a circle, and would have tried to find people that you knew just to have someone to chat with. I brought a few books, but lets face it- a carnival is not the place to just sit and read.

I didn't arrange to have anyone meet me there, and had to be 'okay' with just being there by myself.

When we get hooked on booze, we loose some ability to connect with 'ourselves'. It's hard to be alone, so we drink. When we drink, everything has a nice fade out, and we don't care about being in any situation. In this case, the noise of the carnival would be shut out, and the boredom of talking to people would have been more tolerable, and time would have gone by much faster as we dripped on about parent life today.

I spent the whole night as a sober person like this: walking around and chatting here and there. I texted a friend. I sat on the steps on the side of the building, then the steps at the front of the church. Then, I repeated this process to look busy and like I was walking to find someone when I wasn't looking for anyone at all. My kid knew where to check in with me because I was only at 1 of 3 spots rotating around them. It was boring, and at times uncomfortable, but I was present. I was there for my child, fully and totally, in the loud monotony of it all.

As the night progressed, I had an observational experience that most will have when they decide to choose Sobriety as a lifestyle. A few times throughout the evening, my son told me that his friend 'K' felt sick and asked if we could take him home. I didn't know what he meant since 'K's dad was at the picnic too. I had talked with 'K's dad and another friend at one point, and could smell alcohol and tobacco emanating from his breath and his pores.

Actual Picture From the Picnic

My son had his fill of the evening luckily around 8:45 p.m. and we rode home. I was thankful it was somewhat of an early night. We pulled into our alley and it was much more quiet with just the two of us on the ride home versus having the whole family in the car. I told him that I knew it was quiet with just us, but I kind of enjoyed it. He said 'same', which I thought was sweet. He then told me that his friend 'K' told him that he liked his mom more than he liked his dad. 'K' had told my son that his dad had 15 beers at the picnic and his mom had been sober for a year. 'K' told my son he didn't like it that his dad drank.

My eyes and ears perked, and I said, 'oh, really...?' We talked a little more and I put 2 and 2 together. 'K' needed a ride home because he felt sick (from all the rides), and wanted to go home and his dad had drank too much. 'K's mom had been at work that day to evening as she does shift work and wasn't there. What was interesting is that the kids knew the number of drinks 'K's dad had consumed. (Whether it actually was that amount we will never know, but that makes sense considering what I smelled.)

A million thoughts flew through my head. "What should I do, who should I call, why didn't I see that...? We should have brought 'K' home." I felt so bad for 'K'.

I texted a good friend who was still there and told her what my son said. My friend said that 'K's mom was there and that hopefully 'K' would be going home with her. I worried about 'K' and I thought of his situation. I felt bad for his dad, because honestly, I know how it is to drink too much and not be able to stop, or not be aware you need to stop, in other words to be in the throngs of it.

Image from the Picnic
The Fun Factory is Not Actually That Much Fun

My son wanted to watch T.V. but I told him to come upstairs and we talked briefly on my bed and had good snuggles with our dogs. I told my son to let 'K' know he can always have a ride home with us. He planned to go back downstairs and watch T.V. but I found him on the floor in the hallway asleep when I went to the bathroom.

I woke this morning, on Sunday so grateful. Children are highly intuitive and they know so much more than we think they do. I thought about how my kids do not have to internalize how they feel about a drunk mom, and not wanting to be with her when she drinks. I thought about how awful that would be. I was so grateful that I made it out to the other side of a drinking issue before I hit rock bottom.

Kids do not like it when their parents drink too much, it makes them feel rotten. Trust me, I know because I grew up in an environment where people drank too much.

This is definitely one of those sober moments that made me feel like being sober is worth it, no matter how hard it is for me to sit and wear out a spot on the church steps while I watch my kid do the 'LOOP O' PLANE' for the 10th time. (He has the constitution of an ox, but can't stand spicy foods?)

When you see people and events in your sobriety that represent your narrow escape, then you can be thankful that you are getting there, and so am I.

If you need help, please reach out ~ you are not alone.

With love from the Midwest,


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