Pouring a drink is legal, healthy and perfectly acceptable adult behavior. (So long as you’re not a Baptist.) And yet, my 6th and 8th grader are increasingly on my case whenever they catch me with a corkscrew in hand. Maybe instead of inundating our children with the dangers of alcohol, we ought to be educating them about its proper and diverse uses, such as celebrating special occasions, getting through uncomfortable family gatherings, or because it is Tuesday.
Yes, alcohol abuse is a liver-damaging, relationship-crushing, life-threatening problem. One in ten kids live with a parent who has abused alcohol, according to a national survey on drug use and health conducted by by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
While it is terrible and awful and wrong that one out of ten parents can’t respect the power of wine and spirits, the remaining nine of us can. Yes, it's absolutely important to talk to our kids about alcohol and its dangers. But do we really have to turn them into an army of pubescent cocktail police?
When I was my children’s age, everything my friends and I knew about alcohol abuse we learned from the math teacher with the perpetually red nose. His “World’s Greatest Teacher” mug held more than Folgers. So sure, I’m happy that my children are learning about alcohol before they reach their peak consumption years, a.k.a. college. I am not confident that health class will prevent them from ever sucking on the end of the keg hose or taking body shots off a frat boy, but it can’t hurt.
I know a father whose daughter got so upset about his evening beer that he started hiding his weekly six-pack in the back of the crisper drawer, under the romaine. Now that’s a problem, especially when said beer-obsessed daughter writes her midterm essay on Daddy’s hidden lager. My own kids favor the smart-mouth retort. The other day, my son had a friend over for dinner, which included wine for me and my husband. When I made some stupid joke, my firstborn was quick to play the liquor card. “OK, now, Mom. Don’t drink too much.” As if I’d soon be recruiting our young guest to hold back my hair. Almost makes a girl want to pour her wine into a coffee cup.
We social drinkers want to set a good example, but what does that look like? Clearly we’re not going to invite the ninth grade class over for a keg party, à la Dina Lohan. There are laws against that. But how do we explain to a 13-year-old that a dirty day sometimes calls for a dirty martini? Bottom line, we are the grown-ups. Drinking — like sex, cursing, and voting — are privileges reserved for adults. And if you’re not yet old enough to do them, I don’t want to hear your commentary.
Now, if only I could get my kids to learn the proper ratio of gin to tonic.
Do you drink freely in front of your teen, or have you been known to pour wine into a coffee mug?
Lela Davidson blogs about marriage, motherhood and keeping the evidence of aging at bay at After The Bubbly. She shares more humorous observations on family life in her book,"Blacklisted from the PTA."