This afternoon, a Facebook friend posted a link to this very funny blog entitled, “Yes, I Drink in Front of My Children, Thank You Very Much.” The gist of the post was pretty much that having the occasional glass of wine in front of your kids is not going to kill them, but if you don’t have an occasional glass of wine, YOU might kill them. Which is a message that I, as the stay-at-home mom of a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old destined to conquer the universe, am wholeheartedly behind. But in all seriousness, it did get me thinking about how I drink in front of my kids, and it occurred to me that drinking in front of your kids can actually be setting a very positive example. Before you decide I’ve lost my mind, please hear me out.
When I have a glass of wine or a cocktail when my kids are at the table, whether we’re at home or at a restaurant, they learn that there’s nothing wrong with drinking alcohol. And when I refuse to share it with them, they learn that alcohol is something that only adults are allowed, kind of in the same category as staying up past 9pm or eating ice cream for breakfast or driving a car (all three of which are equally attractive to my children). They also learn that sometimes when Mommy and Daddy are getting dinner ready, one of them will ask if the other would like a drink, and the reply will be, “No, thank you, I have some work to do later.” Or if we’re at a restaurant, one of us will comment, “I’d love another glass of wine; would you mind driving home?” Often, when offered a second glass of wine, the response is, “I’d really love to, but I’d better not.”
All of these scenarios are teaching my kids that it’s okay for an adult to have a drink, but much more importantly, it’s teaching them that it’s also okay – sometimes even necessary – for an adult to NOT have a drink. I am modelling behavior that my children can use later in their lives. Imagine a scenario where my daughter is at her senior prom and someone offers her a beer for the first time (la la la la, this is my scenario, shut up). She’s seen adults whom she respects politely declining a drink without spoiling the party or being accused of being a goody two shoes, so it will (I hope) be easier for her to say no. And if she does say yes, it will also (I hope) be easier for her to not only stop, but to know that she SHOULD stop.
Some people might not agree with this approach. After all, if I’m showing my kid how to drink responsibly, am I not also teaching him to drink? Despite my la la las above, I am well aware that my children will, sooner or later, be offered alcohol, most likely long before their 21st birthdays. Like it or not, my kids are going to drink. The vast, VAST majority of children do at some point. And when they do, I want them to know how to handle it. Imagine that your child is turning 16 and gets his learner’s permit. Would you hand him the car keys without going over the controls, reviewing the rules of the road, having him observe you driving? Of course not. That would be irresponsible and unsafe.
Likewise, I want my children to know the rules of the “alcohol road”: don’t be pressured into drinking if you don’t want to; know your limits; never drink and drive; never put yourself in an unsafe situation. And not only do they need to know those rules, they need to have the tools and the confidence to wield them. So if watching me helps them to learn to use those tools, pass me a glass. (But only one.)