Took the boys to the nearby lake today to float their blowup boats. We had the beach entirely to ourselves. It was a lovely time; DS3 paddled his boat and DS4 made sand sculptures out of improvised beach toys.
I had forgotten our usual “fromage blanc” (yoghurt-like substance) containers, so this time made containers out of cut-off (plastic) milk and pop bottles, tops and bottoms. Z was completely entranced by the fluted shapes the tops made. (Highly recommended. You do have to warn them in advance about the cut edges which could give paper-cut-like scratches if they’re not aware. We had no mishaps though. Afterwards, rinse and recycle.)
Meanwhile I read more of This Naked Mind, in between watching the kids. I was at Chapter 11, where the author tells the story of her own descent into gradual alcoholism. She took her first drink on a campout/nature hike with cousins at age 12.
Reinforces for me why I rather my kids don’t go on sleepovers. It’s hard to say no though. Not only for the kids, to say no to their friends/relatives, but also for us, the parents. Yet saying no can lead to a lot of good things, the kind of things that make dreams come true. “No pain, no gain.” And it can sometimes even help avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering as well.
I remember (at around age 11 or 12) I was invited to a church sleepover by a friend whose family was religious. I thought we would be praying or singing songs or something, which I would have found interesting (even though I was non-religious), but instead we watched a violent 18A-rated movie (put on the VCR by the chaperone) and were led in an embarrassing game of spin the bottle. Not sure where the chaperone was for that part of it. Probably out back with his girlfriend, smoking a joint or something. Either way it changed my view of church sleepovers quite significantly. It was very uncomfortable for me; I felt ignorant and unattractive (11/12 was an awkward age) and unhappy and scared (after watching Terminator, which pretty much traumatized me) and then having to sleep in a church basement with these various-aged kids I didn’t know, overnight. I didn’t sleep at all; just waited for morning to arrive. Yet I had probably begged to be allowed to go in the first place. And that would likely have been because my friend had begged me to come along.
It’s all about social pressure.
But at least there was no alcohol at that sleepover. At least, none that I knew of. It would still be another year or two before I tried my first glass.
But that story’s for another time. Now, back to the beach. I am very grateful for that idyllic, peaceful hour my kids and I had all to ourselves this afternoon. It was real, true, complete relaxation. Self-medicating at its healthy, natural best. Just sand, sun, water, birdsong, breeze in the trees, contented kids and a good book. What could be better?
Well, everyone of course has different ideas on that, depending on what age and/or stage they’re at — and what the most dominant members of their group are interested in.
A huge busload of teenagers in red t-shirts suddenly came down from the parking lot, clearly a vacation group of some kind, not sure where their leader was. They set up a stereo and blasted clown music while they did a bunch of very loud clowning around. A couple of the boys were toting beer bottles around like soothers. One had an empty plastic cup roped around his neck. Very unusual sight for us in France. All the French teens I’ve met are mature, polite and conscientious around adults.
We watched for a short while, then finally packed up and left. It was just getting really hot and sunny, would have been nice to go for a swim, but they had surrounded us (since we had of course picked the best swimming spot) and it was just too uncomfortably loud. “Yo b*tch mutherf*cker”-type lyrics pumping at rave volume.
One of my biggest worries is for my boys, as they grow older. I’d like them to be able to avoid falling into the teenage trap of feeling they have to fit in by using drugs such as alcohol. I talked to them a little about it but in simple language. I pointed out how alcohol had made these kids selfish and annoying, seeking only their own pleasure and gratification, shutting off awareness of others around them. As I once had done.
I used some of Annie Grace’s words from the book (This Naked Mind), and also explaining that many of those kids were shy and probably tired of being stuck in a group all the time and to cope with it, they might be tempted to join in with the drinking. That’s how it was, a lot of the time, for me.
I explained that all of them are experiencing some fear and anxiety, the fear involved in group pecking orders and possible rejection by their peers, and the anxiety of teenage hormones and what to do about them. I explained that some believe they are gaining courage from alcohol, but in fact self-medicating with alcohol is the more cowardly way of managing stress since all alcohol does is dull your sensibility to the true reality going on around you. It in fact makes life more stressful since later you have to deal with the shame and regret of what you did while your inhibitions were artificially lowered, and you have to deal also with the toxic physical effects of the drug itself as well as the toxins that the liver secretes in coping with the excess workload.
I’m loosely paraphrasing here. Annie Grace did a much more eloquent job of it. The way she lays it out makes logical sense. I’d like to read sections of it with my two older boys, who will soon be exposed to these kinds of pressures, but I’m not sure how.
“Listen and then act, as each situation arises”
says the tree
I still did not at all feel like drinking today. I had one 0% (double-checked, this time!) raspberry-flavoured near-beer at “aperitif” time, which was delicious and felt like a treat. It’s also nothing like wine, my former drug of choice, so no triggers there.
Thanks for reading and for sharing your own experiences too; I love this community so much. I know I keep saying it but it’s true: You’re my support group.
xoxo one sober tree-lover