When I was a younger I had to listen to my dad talk about when he was younger…seems that is just what us dads do. When my dad was younger the stories of things he got away with are astonishing…you’d be in jail today! However that is the joy of growing up in a small town in the 5o’s. Growing up in Wichita in the 80’s I got into my fair share of trouble and by the 90’s I was an outright menace. However, there is one universal thing most parents have dealt with at some point: Catching your kids drinking.
Somewhere between being a “wild child” and a “menace to society” I got busted for drinking by my dad. To this day I don’t know if my dear ole dad was more upset that my friends and I were drinking…or that we were drinking Zima. For those of you that don’t know what Zima is, it was like alcoholic Sprite but so crappy that even girls who drank wine coolers stopped drinking it and Coors stopped making it in 2008. My dad, a patient man, went with the “old-fashioned” punishment and decided we’d drink a 6-pack together so I’d hate the taste of the beer, get drunk, and never want to touch the stuff again. We sat down and opened a beer. Not bad. Fizzy. It was no Zima but we were only drinking Zima because that was what we could get our grubby little hands on at the age of whatever-teen we were. So there we were, my dad and me, drinking a foam-top and getting a bit bored…so we turned the TV on and watched some random sports show. Then I started asking about sports, he started telling me about sports, and we cracked the next round. By the end of the “punishment” it was agreed that we should do this more often and that we loved each other. Hooray beer!!!
From that point on I was allowed to have a beer with my dad if the situation was appropriate and I asked first. I (and my sister) were also allowed to drink wine at dinner so long as we were not driving, could talk about the complexities of the wine, and would participate in family conversation over the meal. How did it work out? I’ve never gotten a DUI, I have no problem turning over my keys or calling a cab, I collect wine, and its rare to see me slip past tipsy even on special occasions. I respect alcohol and how I consume it.
Since becoming a father my respect has grown even more. A hangover when your baby needs attention sucks but being tipsy around your kid when they are constantly observing you and learning from you is worse. Dada likes beer and often has one after work or a glass of wine with Mama. Dada loves beer on Sundays, especially when its football season. So…its no wonder that Max (my almost two-year-old) knows what a beer is. Sometimes I ask him if he will get a beer for me and he will lovingly go to the kitchen where I or someone has to help him open the fridge…the rest he can do on his own. He even helps put the cans in the recycling after! When he was little he would grab for my beer so I’d give him a little sip every once in a blue moon. He wasn’t a fan of IPA’s or Lagers but boy did he like the foam on a porter! When he asked, “Have some of Dada’s beer?” I gave him a real sip and he wasn’t a fan so now he says, “Beer is for adults!” Yup…good little buddy.
Yesterday I found a bag of airplane-sized Makers Mark bottles from a party and laughed that they had been in the bottom of a storage bin for over a year. Max pointed and started asking, “Try? Try? Please? Have? Try?” Kate and I explained that this was bourbon and that it was not for kids. Max started to flip out and demanded that it was dark beer and he wanted to try it. I thought back and wondered what my dad would do. It was almost nap time for Max so a little nip wouldn’t hurt and since it was warm, it would be strong enough to make him not want it again. So…I obliged Max’s request. Kate looked at me like I was crazy, “Don’t do that…that’s mean!” I replied, “It’s not mean…he’ll hate it and then he won’t ask for it again.” We had gone through a period of time where we were very careful about what we let Max try as we didn’t want him to be a picky eater or afraid to try things. He is neither afraid nor picky. I unscrewed the cap to the tiny bottle and gave Max less than a thimble-sip of Kentucky Bourbon. He swallowed…puckered…smiled and asked, “More?” I looked at Kate – she looked at me – and we both decided he must not have really gotten any because no kid his age (Irish or not) likes this stuff. I gave Max another nip and this time ensured that he was getting (though still a small amount) a fair sip. He smacked his chops and clapped his hands.
Crap! That backfired.
Obviously I’m not planning on pounding a few Bourbons with a toddler but the lesson of “Alcohol is no, no, no…” just up and slapped me in the face. Kate and I both were a bit proud and scared at the same time. On one hand we both were like “Damn right my son nipped the bourbon!” On the other we thought, “What have we encouraged?” That’s the funny thing about parenting…you are partially sculpting a kid’s personality. What have I sculpted today? I guess the moral to the story is that there just some things that are “no”because Mommy or Daddy said so. Alcohol being one of them…but how do you enforce “do as I say not as I do” with a kid that just wants to emulate you? I have no intention of pounding a few tiny cartons of milk during the Super Bowl so I better brush up on my reading and get back to you with some results on how to explain to a toddler that some things are just for adults. Till then, anyone want to come over tonight and do some apple juice shots? Milk chasers!