Start a diet! Exercise more! Drink less alcohol! The beginning of every New Year starts with the same set of resolutions. I stopped making resolutions quite a few years ago when I decided to treat each day as a new beginning. Why wait until a ball drops on an arbitrary night to start making better decisions? My feelings about exercise, eating healthy and being a teetotaler are not any different on Jan. 1 than they are on Dec. 31. The choices I make for my family and myself are not dictated by arbitrary dates.
One choice that makes some people very curious and feel that asking questions is their right: I do not drink alcohol other than for religious observation. I made this choice for myself years ago. I had a sip at my wedding. I will have a sip during Passover. I’m sure that every single person has a line that they will not cross and the reason is their own. My hard no, the first of my lines that I can’t cross is drinking alcohol. If you can believe it, I get asked if I am in recovery. I get asked if I have DUIs. I get asked if I just don’t know how to handle my liquor. My one answer is this: I don’t have time for rehab. (Do you hear Amy Winehouse in your head right now?)
Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca have heard my spiel over and over. The reality is my fear of addiction. I am afraid because so many family members have some form of addiction. I watched people claw themselves away from the disease of addiction. There are so many substances that can pull kids in, and I am afraid.
My choice does not have to be the same as my kids as they get older. We talk about my choices and how I came to make them. I went to a college that is notorious for parties and alcohol. I did not drink. I made poor choices when I walked home alone in the middle of the night in the bitter cold after two fraternity parties. Seeing how people in my dorm drank, vomited and just looked like miserable so many mornings sealed my choice.
We talk a lot as a family. This is the most important weapon in my arsenal: talking. I am a great believer in having continual conversations. We have the sex talk with additional information as Benjamin, Rebecca and Olivia have matured. The sex talk isn’t the only one kids need. We have talked about guns, drugs, vaccinations and lots of politics. When the kids are “trapped” in the car with me, I will try to start a conversation or let them choose the music.
Having random talks about whatever is making Rebecca, Olivia or Benjamin happy or concerned helps me stay in touch. They make decisions without my input, and I want them to have all the information and support possible. Because we have phones that co-mingle our contacts, I have put in so many numbers for all types of help. My goal is to have these numbers available for them or their friends. If they ever need any of these hotlines, I pray they will use them. I have listed some of them at the end of this article.
This month Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca are celebrating their birthdays! They always ask about the day they were born around their birthdays. Harlan and I tell them about the day from each perspective. Each child has their own story. Each child has their own birth-minute. Each child has their own NICU story. Benjamin, Rebecca and Olivia have so many stories that belong to just them individually. I love my children so very much and they each hold a piece of my heart that belongs to only them.
• Brain Injury Associates of America: (800) 444-6443
• Mobile Crisis: (518) 292-5499
• National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233
• National Eating Disorders Association: (800) 931-2237
• National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
• Poison Control: (800) 222-1222
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 15-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.