A Little Thinking about Drinking
I grew up in a dry household.
While I was vaguely aware that some of my friends' parents drank, that was simply not part of our world. Occasionally, my mom and dad were invited to a neighbor's house for a cocktail, but they always politely declined.
When we entertained, it was for church groups or our neighborhood Christmas caroling party, with hot chocolate for the kids and tea and coffee for the grown-ups. There was no liquor cabinet to break into, and our holiday meals involved goblets filled with ice water. I never had the experience that many of my friends did-- happily mixing drinks for their parents' friends at parties, and emptying the ashtrays the next day.
Mom's one foray to the “dark side” came when she decided to make a trifle for dessert one holiday dinner. I knew what was up, because nothing escaped my eagle eyes, and I saw her unpack some cooking sherry from a grocery bag. The alcohol-laced dessert did not go over well with my dad and his Methodist parents. Mom was pissed. This was the 70's, and she and Ann B. Davis were experimenting with soufflés and other exotic dishes to liven up their tuna casserole-heavy meal rotations, but her trifle never made it out of the gate.
A wonderful result of my parents' abstaining from alcohol was that I knew I would always encounter the same mom and dad, no matter what time of day or time of year or day of the week it was. Tired, busy, grumpy parents? Sure. But the same mom and dad, with the same judgment, and the same personalities. There was a lot of security in that.
My husband’s parents drank in moderation, sharing an occasional bottle of wine with dinner or having a beer now and then.
When we got married and started a family, Tim and I never discussed our philosophy on drinking, but we didn't do a lot of drinking, either.
At first it was because we were broke.
Then it was because we had school work to do each evening as I graded papers, and he studied his law books.
After that came the cycle of pregnant, nursing, pregnant, nursing.
Tim kept a few beers in the fridge, but we never got into the habit of drinking. I was often alone with the kids, late into the night, and I wanted to be sober in case of an emergency.
Soon, much of our social life took place at church events, and our play dates were most often in public places like the park and the pool, where there was no alcohol..
Beach trips, camping, block parties, and the occasional "significant" birthday parties were an exception, where we'd stock up on beer for him and Mike's Hard Lemonades for me.
Looking back, I realize that if I had wanted to drink in front of the kids when they were little, they might not have noticed a thing, but it just rarely came up during our 30's.
Our social life since we hit our forties centers more around alcohol, and that just happens to coincide with our daughter's teen years. We have a "beer fridge" in the basement, friends who enjoy fine wine and craft beers with us, and there are probably 50 beautiful wineries in close driving distance from our home.
Recently, we had friends over and a few of the dads drank too much. Our daughter, Margaret, spoke up and said, "You can't drive home," which is exactly what we had told her to say to a friend who had been drinking. But several adults dismissed her, saying they were fine. This was telling her not to trust her own judgment.
She was taking it all in. That's what kids do.
Tim and I never made a conscious choice to drink or not to drink, but with our very occasional drinking, I think our kids got used to the same kind of consistency in our home that I had in mine growing up.
But I wonder what's next?
With all of the social drinking among our friends, are we teaching that any good moment, memory, or celebration requires alcohol? Christmases and celebrations of my youth may have been less raucous than at others' houses, but we still had a good time.
Don't get me wrong: there's not a ton of excessive drinking. My friends and I are old enough to know how much is too much, and we value our (elusive) sleep enough to know that a restless night and an ugly hangover just aren't worth it.
But it seems as if alcohol is everywhere, and we aren't talking about it very much.
We talk about NOT DOING DRUGS, but we seem far quieter on the way alcoholism can destroy families. It doesn't take much of a look at anyone's family tree to see that. We talk about medicine abuse, but not about how alcohol is a form of self-medicating.
I also wonder about the impact of saying things like, "Mommy really needs a drink," and "That's 'Mommy Juice'" or having "Mommy Play dates" with sippy cups for the kids and Solo cups for the moms.
And with social media, as we capture our social lives and share them farther and wider than ever before, is it starting to look like life is one big alcohol-fueled party?
What is that saying to our kids?
I don't have the answers; I just know they are watching.
They always do.
This article first appeared on the blog An Inch of Gray.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*