Today a friend asked me if I shared my history with my kids…if they know my sordid past or if I keep the dirty details to myself.
Funny, it never even occurred to me not to tell my kids…at least my teens…my story. It is me.
They know it all. They know I smoked pot. A lot of it. They know I drank and drove drunk and got pregnant at sixteen. They know I screwed up my life time and time again. They know, not because they heard it from others and get mixed stories, but because they’ve heard it from me.
I tell them because I am a believer in “teach by example”, even if it is…by bad example.
I tell them because it gives us an even playing ground. To claim I’ve not caved to the same pressures would be like telling them their pressures aren’t viable….that their failures are not my own. That I don’t understand where they are coming from. But I do. I’ve been there.
I invented there.
I tell them so they know I’ve walked their path and that I struggled because of it. They know about blackouts and keg parties. They know about back seats and teen pregnancy and dropping out of school and marrying young and divorcing soon after. They know about what it takes to struggle through college at 30 with eight kids because I screwed up so bad when I was their age.
They know me. And because of that…I know them.
I tell them so that when they walk out the door and I say, “Be careful,” they know what I mean. I tell them because when they are in some dark room at a party, half lit from the keg and some guy they barely know is doing things he shouldn’t, they will hear my voice saying, “There was this time when…and here’s what I learned…” and know what to do next. Or what not to do next.
I tell them so they know that I stared down at the white powder and said, ‘bring it on’, and some guy I barely knew saved my life when he said, ‘Your first time? Not with me…” and took it away. They know I didn’t do it and they also know that I would have. They know that it’s normal to be tempted. They know that it’s okay to be curious and to think about it. And that thinking doesn’t mean doing. And hopefully….God, I pray…they will use that example in their own lives when that inevitable pipe passes by and they hold up their hand and say, “no, thank you.”
I tell them so they know the price I’ve paid for my mistakes and that when I tell them not to walk in MY shoes, it’s because my shoes are worn and tattered from use. They know I speak from experience and not from some ‘grownup’ world that doesn’t ‘get’ them. They will know…I understand.
I tell them so when they need to talk to me…about anything…they know I won’t be surprised. They know I’ll listen.
Because once we stop talking…it’s too late. By then, I’ve lost them.