My first exposure to alcohol must have been at my bris. For those who don’t know, a bris is a Jewish ceremony where a newborn jewish baby boy is circumsized. A procedure is done, usually in front of family and friends and the baby boy has his foreskin removed by a “mohel”, a jewish person trained in the practice of this bris. Babies are given a piece of clean gauze, doused in sweet kosher wine, to suck on as a way of getting drunk so that they don’t feel the pain.
Yah, right…no pain.
It hurts a lot and while I don’t have any memory of the ceremony or the wine, I have been to enough of these events to sympathize with the baby boy. All I can say is, maybe the baby boy should be given something stronger than sweet wine!!
So beyond my bris, my memories of alcohol and my exposure to it are quite limited. You could say that I came to the game quite late…never really developing a taste or a desire to embibe when I was a teenager. I would have one or two beers at parties…but never drank hard liquor or got drunk to the point of passing out or projectile vomiting. I never had to go for greasy food at two in the morning to soak up all the alcohol in my system. I have never been so drunk where I have no memory of the night before the day after. The only hangovers I have had took place in my later years when I drank for the taste of it and didn’t drink enough water…not because of peer pressure.
Alcohol was around the house but was never really a big deal. My mom and dad would sometimes have wine at a meal (usually Friday night dinner) or when company came over. Dad would occasionally pour himself something out of the liquor cabinet (I assume now it was scotch) after a particularly hard day. I was one of the lucky ones because alcohol was never a problem in my family and I can’t imagine what its like for those families that have a history of alcoholism.
My own little family doesn’t have any problems with it either. Sure, my wife and I like to have wine on Friday nights, as a way to celebrate the end of the work week. In the summertime, we love to sit out on our porch on a hot day and sip gin and tonics or vodka and soda or beer or wine….because its relaxing. I do get occasionally buzzed but I never ever let it get out of hand and I am highly responsible.
So, when does a kid become aware of alcohol and what possesses them to try it? My teenage daughter is at that stage in her development. Fortunately, she has been forthcoming with her admission of consuming alcohol (her alcohol of choice is vodka, mixed with something sweet). She has been out with friends…either at someone’s house or while out on the town with a group. She claims she has never been “shit-faced” and I believe her. I think the notion that becoming extremely drunk can make you puke scares her…which is a good thing.
My wife and I obviously do not condone drinking at the age of 15 or 16. Do we tell our daughter NO when she asks if we can buy her a mickey of vodka for when her friends come over? DUH!! As we tell her…often, it is against the law to drink under the age of 19. It is even worse if we, as responsible parents, serve alcohol to our daughter and her friends in our house? What happens if something horrible should happen to one of her friends because we served booze to them?
On the other side, who am I to say to my daughter to not drink. It would be extremely hypocritical of me to tell her not to when I drank at the exact same age she is now.
I don’t get the big deal of drinking? Hard liquor doesn’t taste particularly good (although I do have an appreciation for certain kinds of Irish Whiskey, red wine and good beer…but that came with age). When we are young, sneaking a drink here and there allows us to flex our independence and rebellious tendencies. Drinking can be bad for you and yet, make you feel good (at least initially), so maybe that is why our kids like to try it? Maybe they like to test their boundaries because they feel invincible at that age.
We recently confiscated a half consumed bottle of vodka that our daughter turned over to us when we were doing some cleaning in her room. Although she wants it back (which we will not return to her), I do appreciate her coming clean and handing it over to us with an explanation.
We have told our daughter that its much better for her to tell us about her drinking then for her to hide it from us or lie about it. We warn her of what might happen if she overdoes it, how much she will puke and how crappy she will feel the next day and how its really not worth it. We tell her that if she is out socially and doesn’t feel well for whatever reason (alcohol or drugs), to call us and that I will come to get her from wherever…whenever – no questions asked. We have told her not to let someone get her a drink and to never leave her drink unattended for fear someone might try to lace it. We have told her to stand strong and not to be influenced by her friends – I know how hard peer pressure can be…especially at this age.
She is going to drink. She is probably going to try some mild drugs like marijuana, if she hasn’t already. Experimentation is a part of growing up. Our role is to keep her safe, informed and to keep the channels of communication wide open.
Teenage years are exciting and scary.