To tell your kids about the bad in your past or to not?

I was listening to the radio the other day and they came on with a question that sparked a fire in my brain and heart.  The question was do you tell your children about the bad things you did in your past?  Examples: drinking under age, doing drugs, stealing.  Apparently there is a study out that says the more parents who tell their children about the bad things they’ve done they are more apt to doing it themselves.

Here’s my thought on the situation.  It could really go two ways.  There are some children that when you tell them the “bad” things you did when you were younger that think “No, I don’t want to do that.  Look how much trouble they got in, I don’t want to get into that kind of trouble.”  Then there’s the kids that think “Oh, well they did it, they didn’t get caught and as long as I’m smart I won’t either.”  I hate to admit it but I was the second of the two.  BUT, some kids also don’t give a crap either way.  I am afraid that some of those kids who have such strict rules are the ones who rebel more.  I’ve seen it first hand.  I had a friend who grew up Protestant.  No cutting your hair, no pants just skirts and dresses, no makeup.  She, I don’t think, was a big fan of it.  Whenever she’d spend the night she would beg me to let her wear a pair of my pants or shorts, or have mom put make-up on us.  I didn’t care if she did, I don’t remember if mom ever put make up on her but she did wear my clothes pretty much the entire time she was at my house.  After elementary school we went to different schools and I haven’t seen her since.  I’d heard she rebelled in a really big way, cut her hair, dyed it, wore make up, pants, really whatever she wanted and basically wrote her parents off.  I don’t know if this is true but I wouldn’t be surprised.  You give me rules like that and I’d rebel too.  But for those of you who know me also know I’m not a big fan of following rules either =D  It’s so much easier to break them! and sometimes a hell of a lot more fun to break them then follow them.  Don’t get me wrong I follow rules, but if they are ridiculous or I think dumb I won’t.  I’m more of a “lets buck the system” kind of gal.  Where does it come from?  I don’t know.  My parents? maybe.  They both follow rules but I also know they bucked the system and were rowdy too. Friends? Maybe.  They did have a bit of an influence on me when I was younger and was more prone to be dumb and do dumb shit to fit in.  Really it doesn’t matter where I received that mentality from, it happened and yes I do still buck the system from time to time when needed.
I grew up in a family where my parents didn’t keep a lot of secrets about their childhood from us.  We knew our parents drank under age, partied, raced their cars down main and across the bridge and our mom smoked weed, but really there’s nothing else to do in that town, you had to find ways to entertain yourself and that’s just what most chose to do.  My dad raced his cars and my aunts and uncles were far from saints.  Shit, they used to sneak into the pool over night.  So basically they were like every child and teenager that I’ve ever known and did stupid shit.  Did my knowing that they partied in high school, drank underage, raced their cars and smoked a little grass influence my decisions?  I wouldn’t say that I thought to myself “hey mom and dad did this so now I need to.”  It was more along the lines of the phrase I lived by “it’s not illegal until I get caught.”  I wasn’t a bad kid by any means, some others in my family my beg to differ but really I was mild compared to what I could’ve been.  Yes I partied in high school so naturally I drank underage…..a lot.  Yes I was alone with guys, but I stayed modest and stayed pure a hell of a lot longer then a lot of the girls I went to school with.  Yes I smoked a little in college, but honestly I ask you……who hasn’t!? Ok well I know there are people out there that no have never smoked in there entire lives, hey good for you!  Then there’s those of us who were introduced to it and really liked it but also knew when to quit.   Some who get introduced to weed also get bored with it and move on to other things.  I was not one of those people.  I’d seen what being addicted to drugs looked like.  I also knew that a good amount of those drugs made you feel invisible and they could kill you.  I chose to stay away from them because 1. I was afraid I’d like how I felt when I was on them and get addicted, and considering addiction runs rampant on one side of my family I didn’t want to go down that road, I wanted something out of life and an addiction problem was not one of them.  2.  I didn’t feel like over dosing and leaving that kind of devastation behind.  So along with the stories of my parents partying they also taught me to be smart about it.  Don’t set your drink down or accept a pre-mixed or pre-opened drink at a party and I guess the don’t do really hard drugs was kind of implied when they said don’t do drugs.

So do I tell my kids about my mild rowdiness?  My personal choice…..yep.  They’ll know.  It’ll be just like me though they won’t know until they are old enough to understand and when they ask. I’m not just going to spew it out.  Now I can hear some people saying “Jen that’s not smart, what if they go and do those things then?”  this is going to sound terrible, but I’m kind of expecting it.  See when my parents told me about their “tampered” past I felt like it opened a door to me to not be afraid to talk to them about it or come to them.  All parents tell their kids “don’t ever be afraid to come to me for anything.”  I’ve told our son the same thing, but I feel like when you expose your past to your kids and teenagers it shows them you’ve been there.  To some they don’t give two craps if you’ve been there or not, to me it did.  I was less afraid to let my parents know what I was up to, of course I was still a little nervous the first night I came home from a party that I drank way too much at and threw up all over in my car, I think I even told them that I drank too much Mt. Dew.   But I never received the “we are disappointed in you” speech, I was WAY better at beating myself up then they were at giving that speech.  All I was told was, “well guess who gets to clean their car out today by herself.”  It was kind of like we had a mutual respect for each other.  You be honest with me and I’ll be honest with you.  I was a hell of a lot less scared to call them to come get me when I was too trashed to drive home because of that respect and openness. Yes I tried to hide things because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, that’s just who I am I don’t like to disappoint people, but they always found out some way or another.  My parents were pretty lax though.  But with them being lax I think also helped with me trusting them.  So back to me expecting it with the kids, I do.  Unfortunately it’s everywhere out here, the drinking the weed and now there are almost weekly heroin overdoses just 45 miles away, so the drugs are here unlike they were when I was younger.  This is why I want the kids to know what I did when I was younger, then maybe they can feel more comfortable talking to me about it, cause I’ve done it.  I want them to be able to come to me and tell me what’s going on, to tell me if they need help.
My husband and I decided we are going to be those parents that if you want to drink underage I’d rather you did it at home and if you want to have a party fine but I get everyone’s keys and they can stay the night or their parents can come and get them.  You want to smoke cigarettes, hey that’s fine, your body but be aware of what it’s going to do to your lungs and the smell that is constantly surrounding you.  Not to mention the cost, you want those new jeans well you can’t have them because your money went to that pack of cigs earlier.  You want to smoke marijuana?  Well if the passing of it keeps going the way that it is who knows it may even be legal when they become teenagers, so fine smoke it but don’t be stupid about it.  But they will be taught to be aware that it can lead to other harder things and I pray to God that they have some smarts like I did when it comes to that.
I’m not going to be a parent that hides my past or even their dad’s past from them.  No they aren’t going to know absolutely everything but they will know that I wasn’t an angel.  I want to keep that line of respect going, because once upon a time I was a teenager too and when I was it wasn’t easy then and I know it isn’t any easier now.  It might even be harder.  Having that line of communication open though and knowing that yea when things get difficult or you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a pickle, that your parents will be there to help you, no questions asked, is nice to know.  I’d rather have it open and know that my kids are drinking and partying and having a good time, but that they are also safe.  I want them to not hesitate to call me or my husband if they went to a party and are three sheets to the wind to come and get them without getting a royal ass chewing.  We are supposed to be here to bail our children out and teach them how to be smart and responsible.  We had a saying when I was growing up, if you end up in jail don’t call home.  I don’t know if I can carry that saying on with my kids.  Now if this is the 3rd time you’ve landed yourself there then yes don’t call me, you can sit there for the night and maybe you’ll learn.  I have noticed that both of them tend to learn things the hard way. With that assessment I think it’s best that I prepare myself for them to make a lot of stupid mistakes, but also they are learning how to problem solve their ways out of things so hopefully that carries on in to their teens too.  Hopefully when they do end up doing something stupid they don’t get caught. They will learn quickly, like I did that hangovers suck and life isn’t all about smoking and living a foggy life.

We can only protect them from so much, then they have to learn how to get through things on their own.  I feel kids need to be able to experiment safely, safely is the key word there.  I also don’t feel like hiding things from my kids is ok,  how am I supposed to expect them to be up front with me and honest if I can’t be upfront about things with me to them?  I will teach them that having someone you can trust with you while at a party is the best way to party then you have more than your eyes to see what’s going on.  I know not everyone has these same beliefs, but I also know that not everyone has the past that I did or even the parents and relatives I did.  There was always a line of trust and honestly I believe as long as you have a line of trust, respect and communication with your kids that’s what matters and could make things a little easier……but I guess we will see in 10 years if this is still my thought process =D



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