Thursday, 22 May 2008

Drinking under age

Over at Frenemy's last night for a barbecue. Our children, who have been friends since toddlerhood or even earlier, are now becoming teen-agers. And some interesting issues are cropping up. Like alcohol.

One friend allows her 14-year-old son to have a beer and to sit in with the grown-ups. The rest of us might allow the odd sip of champagne on New Year's Eve in our homes. In the UK there is no law against allowing your children to drink alcohol in your home, according to Frenemy's brother-in-law who is a policeman.

I started having sips of my dad's Saturday afternoon after cutting the grass beer when I was quite young. I started drinking shots with my brother when my parents were out when I was (gasp!!) 9. I had my first proper hangover when I was 11.

I'm not an alcoholic but I probably fall into the binge drinker category. I'm not a great role model. But I don't want my kids drinking. Not yet. A lot of problems begin with alcohol. Violence, pregnancy, unwise sex. I suppose in the safety of our own home it wouldn't be a problem. But if they start at home at 14, they'll be in clubs and bars soon enough.

Another friend's daughter is 15 and looks much older. She frequents the bars of our town, according to my daughter. I don't know if my friend knows and I don't know if I should tell her. It was told to me in confidence. It was told to my daughter by the girl's sister in confidence. Would I want to know if I were in her shoes? That's a tricky one because 15 is a vulnerable age for girls. You can lose their respect, their confidence. You can ground them, keep them from their friends, and they'll hate you. Here's where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's a small place around here. Everybody knows everybody or is friends of friends of friends. It will get back to my friend at some point. Should she have allowed her daughter to drink at home? Would that keep her out of the bars? Actually, she did allow her to drink at home and at social functions. Going to the bars is not about the alcohol. Even I know that.

My kids ask for the odd sip of wine or beer, which is what I drink mostly anyway. I let them have one. Am I being irresponsible?

Maybe it's time to have a talk with my kids.


Aoj & The Lurchers said...

No, I don't think you are being irresponsible by letting your kids have sips of your wine or beer. In fact, I think you are being sensible.

Making alcohol a big "no" thing is always going to encourage them to experiment behind your back, just from the thrill of doing what Mama says they can't. By allowing them to experience alcohol at home, under your supervision, you are de-mything it and it won't hold as much excitement for them outside because it's no big deal for them.

I'm not saying they wouldn't ever not experiment behind you back but it might help.

softinthehead said...

I agree - I don't encourage it but I try not to make a big deal about it, it then becomes a forbidden fruit and we all know where that leads. In Europe where there seems to be a much more liberal attitude they don't seem to experiencing problems, or at least not noticeably.

jenny said...

My mom and dad never let me or my sister have a sip from their drinks. They rarely drank anyway. I remember a big bottle of wine sitting in the fridge for the longest time, until a friend of mine came over when I was 13 or 14 and encouraged me to take some for us to drink. We took about a cup and mixed it with kool-aid. I got caught right away and got grounded, but my friend's mother laughed it off and said we were "experimenting" and did not punish her.

We went to college together and had our share of drinking parties etc.. but as far as I know, we were both lucky enough to have friends that watched out for each other and nothing bad happened.

For some reason, my dad thought I had a drinking problem in high school, but except for the wine/kool-aid incident, there was only one other time I had a drink and that was when I was 17. I've asked him why he thought that, and he can't remember why, just that he thought so. hmm...

My kids are young still, but I think if the time came and they asked for a sip, I'd probably let them try it.

Vi said...

Geez, from about 7 I think I was allowed a glass of wine with Sunday dinner. I never hit the pubs/clubs underage (unless it was with my family). I was actually a sensible teenager, and I think it's because my mum was less strict with me. On the other hand, she was extremely strict with my much older sisters, and one was pregnant at the age of 15! (hence why tried differently with me).

Flowerpot said...

I absolutely agree with AOJ. Not that I've got kids but that's what I'd do.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where the sensible line is drawn here. Having had no experience with under age drinking teens I really haven't spoken to anyone about it. I know it will crop up with Amy.

On the other hand, I drank under age many times. I just remember my dad telling me the hangovers were my own doing.

CJ xx

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

aoj: That's why I've let them have the odd sip or two. I'm sure they'll try it on their own too.

softinthehead: Interestingly, the UK has the biggest problem with binge drinking in Europe, I think.

jenny: Strange about your dad. I think I might take the attitude of your friend's mother.

vi: I think all parents do that. If they fail with the older children, they try a different tack with the younger ones. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

flowerpot: The same applies to animals too. Just be careful with the beer. It might upset their tummies.

CJ: From the age of 11, my dad said I'd learn from my hangovers. Now at 48, I think I finally have.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Expatmum said...

I've been reading a lot about the binge drinking "problem" in the UK and it seems that the liklihood of your child abusing alcohol isn't really correlated to what you allowed them to do when younger. Some kids were never allowed to drink and went on to hardly drink as adults, while others are the binge drinkers.
I have to say, in looking back, it's probably more the company they keep. Me and my friends went out at the weekend and just kept drinking till the pubs closed (at 10.30pm) which was far too much, but that's what every body did. If they keep company with big drinkers, they'll probably just follow suit.
Very complicated but bravo for giving it consideration.

laurie said...

so hard to know. it seems that kids do what they're going to do, and all you can do is let them know what the rules of the house are.

when i was growing up, we all had a glass of wine at thanksgiving and at christmas. it was foul. mogen david--sour, disgusting stuff. i never wanted to drink.

but one of my brothers loved it, and he went around and finished off everyone else's undrunk wine.

you just can't predict.

my dad drank far too much in the years after my oldest brother's death. some of my siblings learned that drinking is bad, and they don't drink at all. some of us learned moderation.

i don't know what to tell you. give them rules, and stick to them, and what happens will happen.

DJ Kirkby said...

I think it is ok to allow kids the odd taste of alcohol in order to demystify the whole drinking thing. If it is forbidden then it may be more alluring. It is up to us as parents to set a good example of sensible drinking though I am not certain this will have any effect on their own behaviour until they settle down when they are older. Drunk teenagers are scary and very wrong and unfortunaly they are becoming more and more common, what is the answer? I don't know...

Teresa said...

This IS a complicated issue. We never so much as let our daughter (now 20) bring us a beer or bring our empties to the recycling bin. We started letting her have a small amount of wine at holiday meals at age 14. Then at age 16 she was an exchange student in France and on occasion was expected to drink wine with her host families. I know although not supported by her exchange program, it was likely that she drank with her peers in social situations, and sometimes I would expect, to excess. She did tell us that she was quite sure that one of her host fathers was alcoholic and a source of embarrassment to her and probably to his own kids at times. The one thing we stressed continually was: IF YOU DRINK, DON'T DRIVE. TAKE A TAXI. WE WILL NOT HARANGUE YOU FOR DRINKING AND WE WILL PAY FOR THE TAXI. ALSO, DON'T GET IN THE CAR OF SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN DRINKING. Now she is doing just fine and I like to say; "There are some things we don't need to know." But I do have bragging rights to a daughter that is consistently on the dean's list at the University of Chicago, and that counts for something!

Bollinger Byrd said...

Both my sons were allowed to drink at home. Both went out and drank underage in pubs. Both have got drunk on several occasions. And both now know the value of controlling their drinking, and the consquences of not doing.
It may not be anyone else's way but I'd been brought up very strictly and it didn't help me stay out of trouble and I wanted to be able to discuss things with my sons rather than constantly tell them off, as I was.The result for me was years of low self esteem and my sons have more confidence than I will ever have. That's not the result ofdrinking more the result of giving and receiving respect between us.

J said...

I don't know where I stand on this issue, but your post has given me much to think about.

Anyway- haven't heard from you in a bit. Everything okay?

Victoria said...

I kind of think the French have the right idea. If you make alcohol that is something that is 'normal' than kids are more likely to have a healthy relationship to it. So I think we will be letting our daughter taste beer and wine from 14 years and on in our supervision. She sees us drinking sensibly when we eat, and that we introduce drinking as a social activity but not one to go mad on... OK she's only one and a half so talk to me in twelve years time....