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COMMENTARY: Teach your children well

In light of the Steubenville rape trial verdict, I’m wondering when it is we tell our children the cautionary tales about alcohol? Is it:

• While we’re sitting around a holiday table with our glasses full of wine?

• While we’re watching a professional baseball game with a bottle of beer in our hands?

• While we’re barbecuing with a six-pack on ice sitting at the ready beside the grill?

• While we’re mixing cocktails in preparation for an outdoor concert?

• While we’re getting dressed for a night of bar hopping?

• While we’re drinking the green beer wearing our little leprechaun hat?

• While we’re packing the back of our car with beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, etc. to go and tailgate before the football game?

You get where I’m going here.

The culture of drinking in America is all about getting drunk – not just getting drunk – but getting drunk as quickly as one can. We want everything faster and quicker and better – that is the American way.

Children learn what they see and what they hear. If every holiday meal from the time they are born is centered on a table filled with food and bottle after bottle of wine with the adults sitting getting drunk - well that’s what they will know holiday to be – not the holiday itself – but the sitting at the table getting drunk.

If their experience of watching football is meshed with the adults putting back beer after beer after beer – well – they will associate drinking beer with football and soon it will not be about the game at all, but about the beer.

Now don’t get me wrong here – I enjoy a really smooth Seagrams Seven and a little 7-up, however – I don’t need that drink to enjoy a holiday meal or a football game. The difference between want and need is huge.

It’s a fine line we walk as adults when it comes to setting examples for our children and our grandchildren and anyone else who may look to us for guidance of some sort. It’s not so much what we say that matters – it’s what we do – it’s what they see in us that matters most.

For if we tell our children – don’t drink to excess, and then we sit in front of the television and get drunk – what does that really say? If we tell them don’t drink and drive and we then sit at a restaurant and have a few drinks with our dinner and drive home – what does that really say to them? If we tell them you don’t have to drink to enjoy sports and then we get totally wasted watching a football game – what on earth are we teaching them?

Our kids are living in an age where everything is instantaneous. Cell phones, texting, Facebook, video games – it’s all in their face – it’s all fast and furious. They’re young – they don’t have all the answers, and as much as they believe they are - they are not immortal. Life-changing mistakes can and do happen when kids get hooked up with the wrong crowd and rely on the wrong things to give them that instant gratification they believe they need.

Yes, I am aware that kids whose parents don’t drink and kids whose parents talk to them seriously about drugs and alcohol still have problems. I’m not putting everything on the parents. I believe it’s on all of us collectively, to set an example for the generation looking to us for guidance and answers.

You do know you can eat wings without drinking beer and you can munch on nachos without drinking shots of tequila – right? There is fun to be had in this world without a drink in your hand; let’s teach that to our children.

Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.