‘When I was younger I was a bit of a rebel. I hung out with some bad kids and did some stupid things, but nothing that could get me in trouble. When I hit the drinking age, I think my parents were worried about me but didn’t know what to do. They knew that no matter what they said I’d just do what I wanted anyway, so they were stuck.
Finally, one day my dad said to me:
“Hey Reiko, let’s go out drinking together sometime! I’ll take you wherever you want and you can order whatever you want. We can go to some fancy places. It’ll be great.”
As any young person who gets invited out to drink with their dad would probably feel, I didn’t really want to. But, at the same time, back then I was interested in seeing what nightlife was like. I’d only just gotten a taste of it.
So we went out, just me and my dad. Once we were out on the town, he said this:
“All right! Drink as much as you want, Reiko. Drink until you can’t drink anymore. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure we get home. Feel free to go crazy.”
It felt really weird being told from my dad to “drink all I wanted.” Wouldn’t Mom be mad at me if I came home drunk? But, I didn’t worry about it too much. I’d already come this far, and Dad said he’d treat me to whatever I wanted, so I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity.
The first stop: a meat-grilling restaurant. The hostess thought I was Dad’s new girlfriend and he was happy to play along.
The second stop: a nightclub. I had some drinks, and the people there saw through Dad’s ruse of pretending I was his girlfriend. But that just made him even happier. He jokingly blamed them figuring it out on my eyes, which he claimed looked just like his.
The third stop: a sushi bar. The chef was nice and had a hint of jealousy in his voice when he talked to my dad. He said it was a dream come true for parents to hang out with their kids like my dad was doing with me. My dad was thrilled and encouraged me to keep eating and drinking, since this was a rare opportunity for the two of us to be out.
The fourth stop: a pub. I don’t remember much at that point. I don’t really remember what I drank… what we talked about….
The fifth stop: a “snack” bar. Don’t remember a thing. Pretty sure I just collapsed on the counter.
After that, Dad called a taxi and helped carry me home. I remember briefly regaining consciousness during that time.
“Oh wow. Hey, sorry, Dad. I got kinda drunk.”
“It’s okay. You just go to sleep.”
The next morning when I woke up in bed I felt awful. Not only from the hangover, but also the embarrassment of having drunk so much last night in front of my dad. I didn’t really want to face him after my drunken display last night.
But when I went to the living room, Dad was already gone. My mom gave me a note he’d written for me on the back of some advertisement. It read:
“To Reiko. Last night was fun. We should do it again sometime. Also, Reiko, do you know how much you drank last night to get in that groggy state? You had two beers and five chuhai. That’s your ‘limit.’ So from now on, when you go out drinking with friends, be sure to stop before you reach that limit. The world has some bad people in it, and some of them may want to take advantage of you. I can’t be around to protect you, so that’s why we did this, so you can know your own limit and protect yourself. I know you can do it. Love, Dad.”
And I proceeded to eat my breakfast in tears.
Mom told me that she and Dad had been worried for a long time how to best tell me all this. Rather than forbid me from doing things they knew I’d do anyway, Dad decided to show me how to take care of myself.
And for that I thank you, Dad. Because of what you did, I never went past my limit. I never had any problems with alcohol. I had fun out drinking with friends and never got hurt, thanks to what you taught me.
Now, years later, my dad isn’t as cool as he used to be. He’s an old man. The guy who took me drinking around town is gone. Instead he just spends the days in his garden, growing vegetables for me and his grandchildren to eat.
I am who I am today because of you, Dad. And I can’t thank you enough.’
The story is quite straightforward and a little on the nose, but one that perhaps many parents could learn something from. It’s so easy to see your child as the same little kid whose diapers you used to change, and yell at when they stuck their fingers near the electric socket.
But once they get older, the yelling doesn’t work. There comes a time to treat them like adults, no matter how hard that may be, and let them make their own choices. By then, all you can do as a parent is help them make good choices, and this story lays out one way of going about it.
Remember, all you parents and future-parents out there: if you truly love something, set it free. Or, in this case, set it free after a wild night on the town together.
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