Opening the Conversation

I was talking to some friends the other night about the cross-country flights I used to take when the kids were babies, about how they’d get so carsick on the way to the airport and then we’d be left soggy and stinky before we even boarded the plane. My patience was already tapped, I was embarrassed and exhausted and worried about how I would entertain them for six hours. We’d board and prepare for takeoff and, though it only happened a few times, I’d end up rocking a screaming baby for long periods of time. On a couple of different occasions, we were offered alcohol by the flight attendants: A beer for me, and the age-old suggestion that whisky on the baby’s gums would sooth the pain of teething and eventually help them sleep. It occurred to me in that instant how interesting the notion of giving alcohol to a child to calm or sooth them was, how accepted it once was and how inconceivable it is to me personally. It made me think about the one time Zoe asked Justin for a sip of his beer, to “see what it tasted like” and how to me it felt harmless-she’d see that it tastes pretty terrible and wouldn’t want to try it again. He eventually declined, but the overall conflicted feeling stuck with me.

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In my personal experience, drinking alcohol is a casual, fun, harmless and festive way to relax and engage socially… Until it’s not.  I grew up with the understanding that a beer on a nightly basis was normal, that wine was acceptable at dinner and on holidays with family gathered, or at restaurants and other social occasions. It’s true that the occasional and routine glass of wine is an accepted way of life for many adults, and that seems perfectly fine to me-I don’t judge other people for their decisions, but for us it just isn’t something we incorporate into our daily lives. Drinking is casual and enjoyable and something we partake in occasionally as well as many other people we know. Most people, it seems.

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There’s an alcoholic beverage specific to most events, holidays and even the time of day: Mimosas at brunch, and hot toddy’s around the camp fire. Cocktails and wine are accepted in theater shows on broadway, in bucket sized cups at sporting events, and cleverly contained in plastic containers at theme parks and concerts. Drinking is widely accepted and almost expected, it’s ritualistic and acceptable as a way for us to wind down, de-stress and celebrate, but there’s very little information out there about how we should be talking with our kids about the possible dangers and consequences that alcohol consumption can so easily bring.

37% of kids by the age of 8 have had a sip of alcohol and that number rises to 66% by the age of 12.

FINAL TALKEARLY SIPPING INFOG

I’m curious, as many of us drink casually around our friends and our children, have you been asked by your children for a sip of your drink? Do you appease their curiosity? Why or why not?

It’s an interesting topic and not one that I’ve spent much time thinking about, simply because we don’t drink regularly, because we (Justin and I) have our own experiences with the negative affects of alcohol and want to keep the notion of drinking as normal as possible, yet not routine enough to incorporate into our daily lives. Our children are getting older though, and this conversation is presenting itself to us as they observe their parents, friends parents, grandparents and extended family members enjoying a glass of wine during the holidays. I’m working with Responsibility.org’s #TalkEarly program and they have resources for parents with kids of all ages, from six through the college years. It’s a relief to me to know that there is a resource to turn to for challenging topics like this, especially around something so widely accepted and yet rarely discussed. The statistics speak for themselves, and while for so long I was in the more casual camp of not making an issue out of something that isn’t currently one, I personally think that information is knowledge and it is power. I wouldn’t want to subject my children to something that they may or may not be predisposed for in the first place.

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6 Comments

  • Thank you for your insight. As a new mother I have not even wrestled with these questions but see the value in preparing myself for the conversation with my daughter and family and the example we want to set.


  • I don’t have kids but I do have many nieces and nephews. These are interesting statistics! Thank you for sharing, Jessica.


  • Yes, this is a good topic and I’d like to hear what folks have to say.


    • I don’t have children either but have lots of thoughts on the availability of alcohol in children’s lives, especially after they go to college etc.. And how accepted it is to overindulge in it.


    • I agree. I think this infographic was incredibly surprising and eye-opening, too. It’s good, at the very least, to start talking and thinking about these things as it is SO widely accepted to drink, and in excess.


  • I’ve let my nearly 10 year old son to take “pinky tastes” of my alcoholic beverage, whether it be beer, wine or a mixed drink. He hasn’t liked anything he’s tried, but that doesn’t deter him from asking to sample something new. He knows he’s absolutely not allowed to ask when we are at a restaurant or in a public place, but in our home, he is given permission to try.

    With that said, his father and I have already had many conversations with him about the affects of drinking alcohol and how it is a very serious adult responsibility. I’m the victim of a drunk driving accident – I was t-boned by a man who was nearly three times over the legal limit and the DWI he received after hitting me was his fifth offense. I have pictures of my car, my injuries, and I have the police statement where it clearly states if the drunk driver had hit me an inch further down on my car door, I would have been killed instantly. My son knows I was in a bad car accident that was caused by a man who had had too much to drink. I haven’t shown him the pictures or police report, but I plan on doing so when he’s a bit older and ready to learn about it.

    Am I doing the right thing by allowing my son to have small tastes of alcohol? Maybe. Maybe not. But I don’t want it to be a taboo subject. It’s not something I can keep him away from for the rest of his life. He will find himself in situations where alcohol will be flowing freely, probably sooner rather than later. My hope is by talking to him about alcohol, allowing him to see that drinking socially isn’t a big deal, and by keeping an open line of communication with him will help him make the right choice in the future.

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