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Woman makes 7 year old son attend AA meetings with her; 'He has a tablet to play with.' AITA? UPDATED 2X

Woman makes 7 year old son attend AA meetings with her; 'He has a tablet to play with.' AITA? UPDATED 2X


When this mom is concerned that she's being a bad parent, she asks the internet:

"AITA for making my 7-year-old go to Alcoholics Anonymous? + Update?"

I (31F) have an amazing son (almost 8) who is incredibly sweet, well-mannered and inquisitive. (Although, I guess most parents think of their kids that way.)

I quit drinking about 2 months ago and have been adamant about doing the AA program correctly - 90 meetings in 90 days, sponsor, daily readings, therapy, etc.

I really want to be a good mom and make up for my bad decisions when I was drinking. (I never harmed him or put him in danger but I just wasn’t present and am remorseful about my drinking past.)

The problem is that I’m a single mom who works full-time and I live in a small town. Because it’s small, there aren’t a lot of options in terms of AA meetings, so the only one I can really attend is the 5:30 based on my schedule and my son’s.

His father has him part-time, so on those days, I can attend meetings by myself but on my days I HAVE to bring my son. I don’t have anyone to leave him with and babysitting wouldn’t work because nobody wants to babysit for just one hour - it doesn’t financially make sense for them.

So, I take my son to meetings. Naturally, he isn’t too thrilled when I have to. (Before you suggest I could do zoom meetings, i really don’t get anything out of them. I like the in-person connection and atmosphere).

My ex (who has never taken my alcoholism seriously and has never actually attended an AA meeting) says I’m TA for exposing our child to “that kind of atmosphere” and “those kinds of people.”

The truth is, “those people” are what have saved my life. They are so sweet and good with my son and, while sometimes the subject matter can be a little adult-ish, we mostly talk about how to be better people and live a spiritually-sound existence and to help our fellow man.

I personally think it’s good for my son to be surrounded by people that are trying to better themselves and also to let him know at an early age the effects of alcoholism as it runs in my family, but maybe I’m TA and way off the mark and am doing more damage than good. I would just like outside opinions that aren’t emotionally connected to the situation.

AITA for taking my 7 year old to AA meetings with some of the topics that are addressed?

Before we give you OP's updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

sinsta writes:

I’m not comfortable calling you an AH over this because you’re between a rock and a hard place, but yes, it’s inappropriate subject matter for a child. It might make other members feel they can’t speak their real experiences, meaning they cannot get anything out of the meetings.

The topics often cover abuse, death, etc and that’s not appropriate for a child. It will not be fair to other members, or your child.

Eta - I was taken to these meetings as a child by family members. I got to hear, first hand, as rapists and paedophiles described their crimes in detail.

One woman started drinking cos her husband beat her- and she described that in detail, too. In the meetings I was in, people often tell their stories of the worst times in their lives. Maybe I went to unusually dark meetings.

Maybe things have changed a lot since then. I don’t know. I can only go by my experience, and my experience is that these topics are unacceptable for a child, and unfair to the other members.

Op, you have to find a babysitter or do zoom classes, do not take your child. It’s not fair to anyone to bring him. edit- cheers for the awards, lovely humans.

felon664 writes:

I think YTA, chiefly for two reasons: Your ex is half-right. An AA meeting is not the kind of atmosphere a 7-year old should be regularly subjected to. He's seven, not 10. (Though, to be clear, your ex is an AH for being judgmental about "those people").

You're doing a good job trying to teach the dangers of alcoholism to your child at an early age, but I think seven is just a tad too young for such serious and somber topics. There will be a time for this, but I don't think it's now.

You may not realize it, but perhaps the presence of a young child may be affecting the others to perhaps not speak as freely as they could've. There are just topics you do not talk about in the presence of a child.

And I know that they all probably say they're fine, but in that situation, it's fairly possible no one wants to be "that person" who bitches about it. Even if it's just a hypothetical, I think it only adds to the notion that you really should be finding something else to do for your child during those hours.

Does your child not have any friends he could stay with?

Also, "YTA" is merely for the purposes of judging who's "in the wrong", so to speak. You're explicitly not an asshole for this, and I offer you my most sincere congratulations for beating this demon and staying strong

crisama writes:

NTA - my mom went to AA my whole life. When she didn't have childcare, she did what she had to do. As long as you're supervising your kid and making sure he doesn't get hurt by strangers, it's not a big deal.

I promise you he isn't listening to the meeting. My brothers and I were dragged along to AA meetings since birth, and actually, I would say that the people I've met through my mom have enriched our lives.

I learned how to cross stitch from an old timer who was tattooed head to toe because she couldn't pass it on to her own kids. My brother got a vocational license because an AA old timer wanted to teach him because he had seen us all grow up.

I know that if I ever get hurt and can't reach my mom, I have AA old timers that I personally know who will help me if I need it.

My mom loves to tell the story of how I wouldn't let anyone but her hold me, except this one AA old timer who offered to give her a break. And we loved her.

My best friend growing up was the child of my mom's sponsor. They live across the country now, but if I saw him again, it'd be like seeing a brother.

Are there sketchy people who go to AA? Absolutely. There are also sketchy people at church, but nobody complains about that. Ultimately, as long as you're protecting and supervising the child, you're NTA at all.

In my area, it was so common to bring your kids that they'd usually have an older kid watch some of the littles. I used to watch the others when I was a kid too, and the kiddos loved me.

I think being brought to AA meetings as a kid and being dragged along was a positive experience for me and my siblings growing up. I wouldn't trade the good people I've met solely because my mom has been in AA for my entire life for the world.

EDIT: Thank you for the awards!!! I'm glad that y'all see that OP is NTA. However, some of the people in my replies absolutely are the AH.

As for the people who hate the idea of children in AA meetings, I question if you personally have ever been to an open AA meeting.

If you have an issue with kids coming to your AA meetings, either bring it up at a group conscience to try to get kids out of your building, get a group of volunteers together for childcare, talk to your sponsor about it, or go to/work to make a closed meeting that doesn't allow kids.

As per the 4th tradition, it is up to YOUR group to determine whether or not kids are welcomed - not a bunch of strangers on reddit.

The fourth tradition states that each group should be autonomous, so unless you're in OP's group, it's not your call as to whether or not the group should allow OP to bring their child. Clearly, OP's group is fine with it because that wasn't even mentioned as an issue in the original story.

And if you've never been to an AA meeting, either as an AA member, an Alanon/Alateen attendee, or as one of the kids being dragged along to Mom or Dad's meeting - I don't really care about your opinion as to whether or not it's wrong to bring kids because you are forming an opinion about something you've never been a part of.

feenta writes:

YTA. I hate to say it because you are doing well, especially wanting to attend all the meetings. But taking your child to the meetings is not only unfair to him, it is unfair to the other people in the meeting.

I have been to AA as well as other groups for other issues that are styled the same way, with steps. These groups are for people to talk about their past, their issues and it is not always pretty. There is crying, emotions all over the place. Having the child there means these people are not able to fully express themselves.

Please, find a babysitter, ask the father if he can take him for an hour or do the zoom meetings. Even with headphones and a tablet, the child will likely still be exposed to things he should not be.

And I honestly would not be able to express myself even if the child had headphones on. Unless you can afford very good sound cancelling headphones, my son can still hear me when he has his on.

dueshuber writes:

NTA. I’ve been that kid. I was around your kid’s age and my dad was in AA. My grandfather couldn’t always watch me because he worked almost an hour away from where we lived.

I’m going to tell you something you need to hear. He’s going to remember those meetings and he’s going to remember that his mother was willing to put in every ounce of effort to stay sober for him.

I don’t regret being there at my dads meetings. I don’t regret the nights where I sat outside with my gameboy under a street lamp or the times it was too cold so I played in the church gym where they met.

My father passed for unrelated reasons in 2006 and to this day I look back on those meetings with the utmost pride because they are the reminder of how hard he fought and how dedicated he was to being the best man and the best parent he can be. Your son will remember your dedication, your discipline, and the fact that you never neglected your own well being.

Those are some of the best qualities you can pass on. You’ve already made the hardest decision and the one you’ll have to make every day. Embrace what it takes to be on that journey and teach your son those values that will also help him learn to be the best he can be

ETA: if you’re worried about subject matter bring headphones and distractions. Technology is wonderful for that. All I had was a gameboy and honestly I don’t remember a single word said in AA other than the prayers.

Most of what I remember is gaming and how nice my dad’s AA friends were. I don’t even remember their names. I just hung out in other areas of the room like my dad told me to.

numerous6 writes:

ESH. Your ex more for (1) being unsupportive and unwilling to find a compromise on this issue and (2) the “those people” comment.

Those people are working every day of their lives to overcome a disease that many don’t have the strength to acknowledge exists, let alone try to do something about. They deserve all the respect in the world for that.

However, the comments about age appropriateness and unfairness to other members aren’t wrong.

I would be uncomfortable sharing certain things knowing a kid is there and it’s not really fair for them to be denied the same support you want for yourself because you can’t find childcare.

If you HAVE to bring him I would ensure he has noise cancelling headphones from the moment he enters the room to the moment he leaves. That should be a last resort though.

I recommend asking neighbors if you can pay them for him to stop over an hour a day while you’re at your meeting, see if one of his friends parents are willing to watch him, or see if anyone else in the group has a spouse or partner that would be willing to babysit for an hour.

To be clear, that means you transporting him to and from wherever he will be spending that time, not expecting them to come to your house.

See if other members have kids and what they do with them while they attend the meetings. Or find him a sport or other activity that has practice/meetings during that time. Either way you really need to make some kind of adjustment here.

And now, OP's first update:

Edit: I super appreciate everyone’s responses! It gave me a lot of insight. Admittedly, I didn’t really think about how other members may feel about having a child there - I was mostly thinking about the comfort of my son.

I WILL say that the group is all old-timers that have years of sobriety and largely just talk about service work and how much better their lives are.

But, as many have pointed out, the presence of a child may deter members from talking about serious subjects, so I’ll either just give my kid headphones and a tablet to play with (something I usually hate doing but I guess I’ll just have to suck it up) or do zoom meetings when I have him.

Again, thank you for ALL of the input (even the ppl that were incredibly harsh with their verdict).

And now, OP's 2nd update:

First and most importantly, I’m still sober and feel better than I have in years. I can now be more present and a better mom to my child, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

AA has quite literally saved my life and if anyone who is reading this struggles with addiction, I just want to say there IS a way out - you just have to know YOU ARE WORTH IT and SOBRIETY is worth it.

My first post ended up being a mixed bag in terms of judgements about my assholery. I accept my judgment of being the AH but I did want to clarify a common misconception.

Abstaining from alcohol is just a small portion of AA. A much larger portion is dedicated to is looking into WHY we drink, take accountability for our selfish actions and apologize accordingly and to rectify our character defects so we can be better ppl to our friends and family.

Because of these aspects, I was hoping exposing my son to the program would teach him something about accountability, patience, and empathy.

I ended up just asking my AA home group if it bothered them that I brought my son to meetings. Not only did everyone look at me like I grew a second head for even asking for permission, every parent in the group talked about their own children growing up in AA and how “you do what you have to do to stay sober.”

Essentially, the consensus was that it is far better for a kid to have to be dragged to meetings a few hours a week than to have a mom drunk all the time.

I still take my son to AA meetings, but now I allow him to play on my tablet with headphones. (I got reamed in the comments for not allowing my kid to do this before. Fair enough. I just have this “thing” about kids being on technology as a quick fix for boredom, but I need to get over that.)

My son gets a lot of treats and gifts from my home group members. One dude gives him $10s and $20s every time he sees my son (I know, right? Untapped resource!). My son is learning how to play electric guitar, and two AA members will rift with my son and talk music (Jimmy Hendrix is currently my son’s hero).

All in all, my son likes the attention and says he doesn’t mind going to meetings.

A surprising update in all of this is that my son’s dad has stopped drinking. (Although he currently refuses to attend AA). My relationship with my ex is much better and my kiddo seems much happier as a whole.

Life for all of us is just… better. And while I don’t want to turn this into a public endorsement for AA, I just want to say that sobriety is hands-down the best thing that’s ever happened to my family.

What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for her?

Sources: Reddit
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