Question of the Day: Do I Tell My Kids I was a Wild Child?

wild child teenager

My husband and I continue to debate one issue (well, besides every issue because obviously opposites attract.). I’m not talking about Tomato Tomaahto. I’m talking about how much to disclose.

To our teenagers.

About my Wild Child former self. You know, the drugs, sex, booze, and rock and roll years.

The issue has come up many times, usually as a joking, Don’t you ever tell the kids about what you used to get up to.

More recently, the statement was made more emphatic when we found a knapsack with some umm…paraphernalia in the basement. Much more shocking than finding tall boys (of the beer variety) in the girls’ bedroom, but to me, nothing to freak out about.

Before you stare with incredulity at me, I’ll give you the backstory.

My husband didn’t have any Wild Child Years. He had one night. One wild and crazy night where his brother-in-law got him drunk and then he passed out on the front lawn and his father turned the sprinklers on him.

Yes, just like in the movies. That’s how my Father-in-Law rolls. Dramatic all the way.

I, however, enjoyed a winning streak of fun from about 15 until I was ready to cool it at 23. Now, let me clarify, my early Wild Child Years had nothing on those of some of my peers.  I was never thrown out of the house, I was a late bloomer when it came to sex, and I graduated from high school as an Ontario Scholar and offers from all of the university programs of my choice.

When I got to University, all hell broke loose. I came from a fairly strict upper middle class home where I had a midnight curfew until I was 18, and a young man’s foot wasn’t to touch the bottom step of the staircase that led to my booo-doir. Any fun to be had was on the down low. And as far as they were concerned, my pristine behaviour was to fall somewhere between Mother Theresa and a Rabbi.  As far as I was concerned, what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. As long as I kept my grades up, arrived home before the witching hour, and snuck the boys into the basement, all was fine.  There were no cell phones. They had no idea what I was doing.

I left my parents’ constricting rules behind when I boarded that jet plane to Vancouver and became much more publicly and intimately involved with partying, beer, and boys.

I won’t go into specifics to protect my mystique. But it goes without saying that throughout high school and into my early 20s, I would have been very happy to move to Colorado and/or Washington State (and not because Christian Grey lives there). I could drink any athlete under the table and well, my Dad embarrassingly detailed my exploits with the opposite sex in his speech at my wedding so I don’t need to go there.

When I met my future husband, I was rocking out at Psychedelic Mondays at RPM. The next weekend at a cottage party, he swore I wasn’t the girl for him when I toddled up, cigarette in hand, swigging from a 2L bottle of homemade killer Kool-Aid.  (He obviously got over his reticence because I moved in three months later.)

In other words, he knew who I was, and what I was like, when he married me.  He knew that I could dance all night and sleep all day. He’d heard the stories of how I’d drink another table’s pitcher of beer by stringing straws together and then how I’d get a football player to carry me all the way home to my dorm when I was too ‘tired’ to walk. He was aware that I knew the various uses for an empty Coke can.  He was fully cognizant that I spent my 22nd birthday dancing on a bar in Greece.

And I knew that he was nothing at all like me. Which was probably a good thing.  To be fair, I did settle down for him. A lot. I guess I got it out of my system. (I thank him every day for insisting I quit smoking, that’s for sure.)

So, back to the question of disclosure and whether or not my kids need to know what I was like.

He says that if I tell them they’ll think it’s ok to do the same.

I say what’s wrong with that? I survived.

He says that times are different and they can get into more trouble.

I say they’re good kids like I was and they know their limits. And if they don’t, I need to know so I can advise them.

He says it’s just wrong. Just plain wrong.

I say they’re going to do it anyways, and shouldn’t they be able to tell us the truth?

He says some of my parenting philosophies are questionable.

I say that he’s probably right. But that they’re working so far. And that I refuse to be a hypocrite.

This partnership parenting is pretty tough.

What do you say? Do I tell? Or do I pretend it never happened? 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/left-hand/7585289948/”>left-hand</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Comments

  1. We struggled with this one too. My teen years were wilder than my husband’s, but he caught up in university. We decided our teen didn’t need to know all the details, but we did/do talk to him about sex drugs and rock n roll. We didn’t talk about whether we did or didn’t, but we talked to him about the importance of safe sex and bought him condoms when he was 15. We don’t talk to him about the amount of drinking we (I) did as a teen, but we offer him a beer or glass of wine at home and tell him to be smart about the beer we are sure he drinks when he’s with his buds on Friday night. When he was going to the States with his rugby team we did make a point of reminding him the drinking age there is 21 and he’d best obey it, being in a different country and all, and with his school to boot.

  2. I disclose some when asked, depending on the age of the kid. Mostly, it’s too let them know where I went wrong and why – now that I have the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom to understand my questionable motivations. Do you have regrets? Why? Those are the most important details to share, in my experience.

    • My regrets have nothing to do with my wild child. they have to do with my educational choices. But, as I said, I think I coloured within the lines most of the time.

  3. Ah, yes, this IS a tough one, isn’t it? I like both of the previous comments/suggestions. Believe it or not, my husband is the one who is much more open than I am. Strangely enough, though, neither of us was particularly wild when we were in high school OR college. We have discussed things with them in different ways, depending on their ages when they inquire. Our oldest, who is in college now, is having fun, but (I hope) not too much fun. Mostly I try to remind her the dangers of losing control and how miserable it is for one’s friends if they are always needing to “babysit” that one person who never learns his or her limits (or, worse, has something he or she is trying to compensate for by excessive partying). So far, so good. But, ask me again in about ten years….

    • That’s a great tactic-turning it outside her, and that her friends would have to take care of her if she parties too much. In 10 years you’ll be a granny, and all you’ll have to do is spoil.

  4. I don`t remember how, but I am happy I stumbled upon this blog. Always makes me nod and smile to myself as I`m reading..thanks for that!
    As for the question do I tell or pretend it never happened: we can`t pretend it never happened, that`s part of our history. Besides, our teens are smarter than that 😉 After my son repeatedly asked me if I ever smoked pot and I continuously changed the subject (he was 15 at the time) I ended by fessing up because he said `I know you did Mom, you`re from the hippy era, everyone did back then.` Me? Hippy era? I was born in 1966! You`re Dad was closer to the hippy era than me! Gimme a break kid!
    I find it`s similar to when they were of the pre-school age and ask `where babies come from`, we don`t go into the whole explanation, but tell them what they are mature enough to hear, at that time. If we go full disclosure, it would be too much! They don`t need to know everything…I dish out tidbits here and there when it relates to what they are going through. The boys (15 and 17) roll their eyes, but I say we`re just giving our input based on experience. The daughter (19) is less tolerant: I don`t want to hear about your orchard parties and what you did there Mom..but she is more receptive to the boyfriend stories.
    We offered the 3 of them $500 each when they turned 18 if they hadn`t smoked cigarettes or pot and the girl received her $ last year. She never had any interest in cigarettes, not many of her peers smoke, but she said she did continuously think of the $ when at parties and other kids offered her a joint. She told them about our deal, then they all kind of looked out for her `hey! don`t offer C anything..she`s never smoked and she wants to keep it that way!` She is kind of intolerant of people that do smoke (whatever) and I try to explain things from my old `wild child` point of view, but she really does not want to hear about me and my `hippy days`. Once again, can someone explain to my kids that I was not a hippy? that I did NOT go to Woodstock? that my mom was changing my diaper in the US pavillion at Expo 67…
    As for regrets, no I don`t have regrets about the partying. Only regret that I could not be as open as my children are to me. Sometimes I find myself holding on the the counter as my knees are weak with what they are discussing with me, as they`re sitting having their toast in the morning, or snack at night, but I remind myself that this is a good thing, and I hold on to the counter a little tighter.

    • You hold that counter, Mom, because it’s really special when your kids tell you that knuckle-whitening stuff. So glad that you like the blog. That makes us really happy! Please feel free to tell all your friends!!

  5. Pam @writewrds says:

    I was thinking about this particular post — and the discussion on Twitter — yesterday when my kid arrived home at about 12:30 in the afternoon. He had gone to an overnight hockey party at 7 p.m. the previous evening. It was one of the “rookie parties” held for new players on a junior hockey team. At age 16, my guy and a buddy are the two youngest players on the team. Three of the guys are 21. Several are age 20. Most are over age 18. (Men. Big men.)
    The party was at a frat house on the U of Ottawa campus in downtown Ottawa. Gulp.
    Honestly, was I freaked? Not really. While I was what might be described as a high spirited teen, my kid is (shockingly?) level headed. After reading your post, I was going to talk to him about being at some (Queen’s) university parties when I was his age — and some of the shenanigans that went on, but he just doesn’t say much. (As in, lips are pretty much sealed.) And he came home apparently hangover free. What is a mom to do?

  6. Ahh! This makes me dread the day when my twins become teens. I’ve got a while to go (they’re only 2) but I’m already trying to decide if I should divulge my past. I was off the charts as a teen, but it truly made me the person I am today. Do my kids need to know about all of it? I’m not so sure.
    Great piece 🙂

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