I saw it on a beer ad – “Always drink responsibly.”
I thought about it for a while and wondered who teaches our children to do this responsible drinking thing? By the time my children can legally take a sip of wine, they will be past the point of me teaching them much of anything. At twenty-one years of age, they can for the first time partake of an alcoholic beverage. Three years after they have left the protection of my home. Three years after they have flown the coop. Three years after I have had the best chance of instilling some sensibility in them.
With this, I would like to raise the question – how can I teach my children to drink responsibly if they cannot drink with me and learn from me?
Other nations have sorted this out. During our time in Germany, we availed ourselves of the local liquor laws that allow children to partake in this dangerous game so long as they are at home and in the care of their parents. A sip of wine with dinner and tastings of various beers that crossed our threshold were little chances to expose our kids to America’s forbidden fruit. They discovered all kinds of things – bubble wine tickles. Sweet whites are “yucky”. Dry wines taste like the earth. Light beer is not really beer. Dark beers all taste different. And so on. One simply liked trying new things and the other turned into a cheese snob with a preference for dry whites. Their feedback and comments were delightful as they learned about the role of beer and wine on the table for those three precious years. And now, we are back in the US. It’s not as much fun when we can’t include them in the pairings we’ve carefully arranged for dinner.
Had we stayed longer, we could have bought them a beer at a restaurant at the tender age of 14. One beer, which in our town was a whopping 7oz. At 16, they could buy themselves beer or wine, and at 18, hard liquor. That’s right – graduated drinking laws. Just like graduated driver’s licensing, which nearly every US state has now.
Imagine being able to introduce your kids to alcohol in a holistic setting. Imagine them running off to college while thinking that the only reason to drink wine was to improve dinner. Imagine teaching your kids responsible drinking, right in your own home, when they are still receptive to your guidance. Imagine their first poor judgement call as a teaching moment instead of painful shame. If you have daughters, imagine preparing them for the worst, arming them with self-knowledge needed to protect themselves from potential harm.
I want my kids to drink responsibly. I want them to learn to drink from someone whose ulterior motive is something other than drunken stupor. I want them to know when to say when, before they have to for real.
It’s time to start a new discussion about US liquor laws.