It's the old giving your 13-year-old a few sips of beer at the family barbecue, buying your 16-year-old some drinks to take to a party, celebrating the right of passage that is their 21st with them chopping a yard glass as everyone cheers. I always cringe when see proud dads cradling their wee babies in their arms and giving them a tiny sip of something, or letting them suck on the end of a beer bottle. This is common. Is it to get them used to the day they'll be a drinker like dad? Is it to get their wee bodies acclimatised (for want of a better word) to alcohol? It's weird that people think it's harmless to give wee babies tiny sips of alcohol when it's generally accepted that there's no safe level of alcohol for pregnant women. One thing that makes me cringe as a dad is wondering if my daughters will drink like I did when I was a teenager.
I know they will get to an age where they start to make decisions for themselves around alcohol. But here's the thing. My parents' mostly moderate drinking never influenced me one way or another. When I was 16 all me and my friends could think about every weekend was whether we were going to be able to scam our way to procuring beer. I'm not blaming my folks at all, because I hid 90% of my teenage drinking from them, but I might have benefitted from some frank discussions around the dangers of alcohol (or is this just the parent in me talking).
What I question now is why is it inevitable that our children will just be enveloped into the booze culture, as if it is their birth rite? And why do we have to be complicit in it? Yes, I know when they get older it will be their right to make their own decisions around booze. Yes, I know they will probably follow the crowd and drink before they reach drinking age. I know they will have to learn by their own mistakes rather than mine. But I've decided I'm not going to help them along in their drinking endeavours, other than giving them all the information they need to make their own, hopefully responsible, choices.
What can I tell you about the effect my non-drinking has had on them. Well, they no longer ask about what variety of wine we're drinking. They still have to deal with their grumpy sleep-deprived dad on occasions, but they haven't had to deal with their hung-over dad for months. Alcohol is just not really on their radar anymore.
They can be influenced by the drinking culture, by their peers, by their family and now they have another option - being a non-drinker - to add to the mix.
I think it can only be a good thing that they see that as a valid choice too.