With barbeque season in full swing, normally I wouldn’t think twice about having a few drinks with friends on my porch while the kids run around on the yard, but a recent piece in the Washington Post got me wondering.
David Cameron, British prime minister, and his wife, accidentally left their 8-year-old daughter in a pub after having a traditional Sunday lunch with some other families. Their daughter went to the bathroom, and they drove all the way home before they realized they’d forgotten her at the pub. Most harried parents can relate to the “oh-my-God” moment of sheer forgetfulness, but in this case, some are pointing the finger not at beleaguered parents, but at booze.
Did the fact that the Camerons had some drinks at the pub impair their ability to care for their daughter, or was it an honest mistake that any parent could make, sober or buzzed?
This incident sparked the age-old debate: do parenting and drinking mix? (Surprisingly, even the normally drinking-friendly Brits were stirred up).
In the Post, the reporter raised the question: “Does good parenting, along the lines that a skills class might teach, involve abstaining from alcohol during family events? Does the age of the child or the situation make a difference?”
I think the answers to those questions are “no,” good parenting does not require abstaining from alcohol and yes, the age of the child and the situation make a world of difference.
Here are parenting situations where I’d watch my drinking, or abstain:
A) If I had to drive afterwards. I’d stick to one glass of wine, and switch to seltzer, or ask my husband or a friend to be the designated driver.
B) If I were caring for an infant or toddler, or any kid under the age of 6. Why? Because they are unpredictable and have limited coordination—just like a drunk person—and two drunk people can’t really be of much help to each other. They’ll just pull each other down, while hanging on for balance.
Luckily, tomorrow night, I won’t be in any of those situations. I’m hosting a barbeque, and the people who are coming over live within walking distance. All our kids are of the age where they have a modicum of sense and coordination, and don’t have to be watched every second. So I say, break out the booze. In moderation, of course, because I’m still a role model for my kids.
I see nothing wrong with modeling responsible use of alcohol, for adults only. As they put it on Slate’s XX factor blog, when discussing the whole British prime minister scenario: “Tone matters. If parents are modeling an approach to alcohol that foregrounds the pleasures of inebriation—in other words, that drinking is merely a means to an altered state of mind (whether mildly buzzed or trashed) reserved especially for adults—they’re doing it wrong. Instead, the message should be focused on appreciation of the drink itself.”
Here’s to a nice glass (or two) of rose, guilt-free.
Do you think light or moderate drinking impairs a parent’s ability to be a parent? Enhances it? Or has no effect whatsoever, and we should all relax about this issue?