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Sober Moms: Explaining a DUI To My Daughter

There has been lots of news recently about a certain pop star and his current run-ins with the law. This pop star has been idolized by countless preteen girls like my 10 year old daughter.  As the news hit the airwaves there was just not escaping it. Hearing over and over about his DUI arrest and such, was  quite overwhelming. Not to dismiss the dangers of drinking and driving by any means, but to see that this seemed to be the news for the day was rather disappointing. And although my daughter doesn’t watch any broadcasts, she came home from school that day quite upset and confused.

Did you hear what happened? OMG! – she exclaimed.

Yes , I did. -I answered quickly, hoping for this to be the end of it, but also knowing that it wasn’t going to be that easy.

He got arrested! What is a DUI?

Driving Under Influence.

What does that mean? What’s under influence?

Oh, goodness. For a minute there I felt just like the time she asked me how a baby gets in mommy’s tummy. But of course I was kind of expecting that question at some point, so I was fairly well prepared with the answer. But this question? I didn’t think I needed to worry about, let alone get prepared to answer it.

It means that the person was driving after they have had too much to drink.

Too much to drink what?

OK, so there was no escaping it now and I needed to clarify this thoroughly. Or at least as much as a 10 year old would understand. This is the one thing I have learned from my psychologist friend. She told me to try to explain things to your child at their level and to try not to give them more information than they are actually asking for. Otherwise they get more confused.

DUIWell, how do I explain this, and where do I start. In my mind, and maybe against the majority of people out there, I believe that anyone can get a DUI, anyone can make a mistake, and anyone can get in trouble. This doesn’t mean that they have a problem with alcohol and it doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. It is a bit crazy though, that when a pop start gets in trouble it is splattered all over every TV channel – but I guess if you are a public figure this comes with the territory (?). I for sure am glad that this doesn’t happen to all of us normal folks. I certainly wouldn’t have liked to have my DUI arrest plastered all over the news. Or… maybe that would have been a good idea, for everyone who gets a DUI to get on the news. I wonder if that would cut down on the arrests and/or help people get sober! In my state when a person gets a DUI conviction they are automatically required to attend ASAP (Alcohol Safety Action Program) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings whether they have a drinking problem or not.

Nevertheless, I don’t think that having my name on the news for my DUI arrest would have helped me quit drinking; being convicted of a DUI alone, did not make me stop drinking! Honestly, I think that if it got on the news, it would have brought on more shame and guilt, and it would have given me a perfect reason to drink even more! That’s exactly how my brain worked when I was drinking; instead of trying to fix the problem and find a solution, I would escape it all by getting drunk, and of course making things worse. But for a normal person, who is not an alcoholic,  I would assume that this all is much different. Anyways, I digress.

So, stumbling a bit to find the right words, I manage to explain to my daughter that when a person drinks too much alcohol their body movements and reactions to things around them, slow down so much, that they are not able to drive a car safely. They may cause an accident and hurt themselves or someone else. That is why it is against the law to drive after drinking too much alcohol.

Why did he do that?

I don’t know. He made a bad decision.

Have you ever had a DUI?

OMG, what do I say now! I was really worried, she was already disappointed, what would she think of me? I want to say NO, but that would be lying, and growing up in a family with many secrets I vowed not to live that way. I want to say YES, but I don’t want my daughter to think that this not a big deal. And most of all I am afraid that she will no longer think that I am the greatest mom in the world! UGH. But you see, just like anyone else in this world, I too have made mistakes, and I am sure I will make few more, and I know today, that doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me HUMAN. And hopefully, by staying sober, I will never, ever again put myself in a situation where I could get a DUI!

So I hugged her and said:

Yes I have. It was a long time ago. I made a mistake, and I have learned from it. I hope that it will never happen again. I also hope, that he too learns from this situation and works to make things right, and that he makes sure that he doesn’t do this ever again.

Have talked to your kids about DUI?

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  1. I really can’t tell you how much I like this! Kids are inquisitive. With that comes a responsibility as a parent to educate them with the truth. When I married my wife I inherited the responsibility of a 10 year old girl and a 12 year old boy. We have had the same uncomfortable conversation with them (and others) and included parts of our past. We didn’t lie either. She will remember and be a better child because of your honesty. Kudos to you!


    • Thanks, I really appreciate it. As a parent I sure doubt myself often. This was one of those times. But I know that if I don’t show her honesty, she will have a hard time being honest. And I really want her the have the right information, the media is so over the top sometimes. It’s scary. And then her friends translations aren’t really accurate either! Lol! I have to say, that every time I have been honest with her, it worked out for the better. So that’s a good thing 🙂


  2. I got a shot to the heart reading this. My wife and I were talking the other day and she mentioned that our oldest (who is 6) will be 9 before he sees me driving again (my suspended license from my DUI). This got me thinking about the time he eventually asks why mom is doing all the driving. Not sure what I will say. I might not mention DUI, but will certainly come up with something more than “oh, mom just likes driving”, etc.

    Thanks for this…



    • Hi Paul! Awww, I feel your pain, been there, before I had kids, but never the less. It’s all alot to ponder about, but you know, you will find a way to cross that bridge once you get to it! I have no doubt! Kids are not us judgmental as we think, although they are easily influenced, and I would like to be the positive influence. Also, the way I think about all this has surely changed over the years, and it is still changing. I told my daughter that she could ask me anything at anytime! HA! Little did I know it was going to be all this and some! LOL. But you know, I am OK with it, I am OK with me, I am sober now, that was my past. It would be much different if I was still doing all those things. So here is another reason to stay sober! Woot Woot!


    • Thank you Jami! I am not sure about extraordinary, I am really just a mom, I have no answers, I am not an expert for sure. I am just trying to do things different, and I guess that includes my kids too. I used to lie to everyone about everything; I lied so much that I believed my own lies! So being open and honest is still quite challenging!

      Thanks for stopping by Jami, hope you’re doing well!


  3. Wow, Maggie! You handled that really well! I never got a DUI, but I know questions will come up sooner or later about my drinking, why mommy doesn’t drink, etc. It’s a fine line and I think you did great! Important stuff for all of us parents to think about.


    • Thanks Chenoa! I think some of this is tough because of my own shame. But I don’t want my kids to carry the same shame or stereotypes. The media is cruel and so are many people out there. I want to fill my daughter with good info.

      Ps. So nice to see you back around. We missed you.: )


  4. I’ve often wondered what and how much to tell my kids about my drinking as they get older, not to mention my difficult childhood. I hope I handle it as gracefully and compassionately as you did!


    • Hi Karen! Thank you! I think for me when things come up, I just say a bit a time. I have a feeling that there will be a part two to this for sure. Although she didn’t ask more and I didn’t push, I have a feeling that more is coming. Lol!


  5. I was literally hugging myself as I read this post. Maggie, you have touched upon such an emotional topic for me, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing this story. I am circling around the idea of sharing my story with my children, and you have hit upon every emotional reason for my keeping it from them for this long! If you ever want to delve into this more, I for one will be the first one in line for reading a follow-up… did your daughter ask more questions? How did she handle the information you gave her? Did it affect her in the days following? At the top of the list of the reasons I have not sat down with my children is the age of the younger one (11), and I see from your post your daughter is 10.

    Whether or not you do a follow-up, it really helped me to read this much, thank you so very much for your honesty!


    • Well, yes I think there will be more, although she seemed satisfied with the answers for now and we were getting ready to eat dinner, the subject sort of dwindled off, but I could see that look in her eye, that she was not sure about something. I always tell my kids that they can ask me anything, sometimes its harder than I imagined – let me tell you death was hard to explain – which my daughter asked about after my mom passed 2 years ago. So, well, I am sort of ok with this talk about alcohol and DUIs, it might be beneficial to her… well I hope it is! And most definitely there will be a post if we get to more talking!
      Thank you Josie! HUGS!


  6. I have to agree with my good pal Paul as I to got a shot right to my core. This is what they call STIGMA around those of us in recovery. Like I REALLY wanted to wake up one DAY and tell myself, “HHHHmmmm, I think I’ll become an Addicted Compulsive Gambler and drink to excess while I gamble and become addicted and HURT all who care for me, and waste thousands of dollars, and let it take control and DESTROY my LIFE with 2 attempts to kill myself because I didn’t know how to STOP,” Yes, let DO that Today……When we were in our addictions, we were just very sick people trying to find a way to Cope with life challenges that we didn’t know how to deal or process in a healthy way at the time.

    I was using my addictions to numb, escape, and try NOT to FEEL old wounds, pain and hurt from my childhood, no excuses, just trying to give “INSIGHT” of the How’s & Why’s, as many in recovery CAN RECOVER not needing to know the How’s & Why’s……
    Thanks for such a great post!
    Hugs & Blessings, Catherine 🙂 🙂


    • Thanks Catherine! Awesome comment. All very true. That was the worst for me, once I realized that I need to quit I didn’t know how. I wish it was as easy as just stopping, that would save so many of us still out there. But it’s not. That’s the part that’s hard to understand for a none addict, sometimes I don’t get it either. All I know is that I have to continue my journey and help others! Thanks Catherine. Hugs.: )


      • Yup!
        Your so right about when we are ready to get clean, have a better life, but we just don’t know where or how to start. And that is why I try to help others, blog info and recovery resources. When we do that, it helps others know they are not alone, find a resource for help, and helps us in our own recovery.

        I wish you the very best in yours Maggie 🙂


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