parent opinion

"She looked up and pointed to my glass." Why I stopped drinking in front of my kids.

I’ve never been a heavy drinker. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t, throughout many stages of my adult life, enjoyed a stiff cocktail to take the edge off a difficult day.

When I first became a father to boy-girl twins, that all stopped. I could barely find time to shower, let alone organise a trip to the bottle shop. So I replaced the bourbon with babies and the two glasses of Pinot Grigio with a double pram.

At least, for a while.

Some well-known parents discuss their first experience with alcohol and why it’s different for kids nowadays. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Then my babies stepped firmly into the Terrible Twos. And with it, a desire resurfaced to relax after a long day of parenting with a cold drink in my hand. I didn’t overanalyse it. I just fell back into my old routine. That was, until a few weeks ago.

My daughter, Stella, walked into the kitchen and saw me holding a drink while I was cooking dinner. She stopped, looked up, and pointed to my glass. I asked, “What, sweetie?” And she replied with, “No Stella. Dada’s drink. No Stella”.

She knew. Just from looking at it, she knew.

So I poured out the glass, changed the subject, and realised I had found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or in my case, a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks.

Should I be drinking in front of my kids?

And why hadn’t I thought about our policy before this very moment?

It’s a complicated issue.

On one hand, I don’t believe that my behaviour is inappropriate. I’m legally and responsibly enjoying a beverage in the comfort of my home.

On the other hand, I’ve seen the research. I’m not naive to the fact that children who are exposed to alcohol earlier in life tend to drink sooner and are more likely to have problems with it later on.

But if you agree with the former, what are the rules? If asked us about it by your children, would you be able to thoughtfully articulate what it was you were doing and why?

I decided to trust my instincts (which is all we really have as parents) and created House Drinking Rules for my husband and me.

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For inspiration, I looked to the government. Because if something happens, god forbid, and we aren’t capable of driving our car, then we’re abusing alcohol in a way that simply isn’t responsible as two people in charge of keeping tiny humans alive.

Following Aussie police recommendations for legal driving limits, a man of average size should have no more than two standard drinks in the first hour and one per hour thereafter. A woman of average size should have no more than one standard drink per hour.

So a drink with dinner? Fine.

A drink after dinner while you watch The Masked Singer? That’s fine, too.

Slamming three mixed drinks and two beers while the kids take a bath? Yeah, not okay.

The Quicky host, Claire Murphy, speaks to a woman about how she identified her alcoholism. Post continues below.

Listen, drinking a glass of wine with dinner is about as normal in Australia as a sausage sizzle or chicken salt. And while it’s not appropriate to blame your behaviour on a cultural norm, it would be silly to ignore the fact your child will be raised around a fair amount of drinking in their lifetime in Oz.

Hiding your legal behaviour from them, though honourable, isn’t necessary. In fact, it will give alcohol an unnecessary mystery and unhealthy reputation. This will, undoubtedly, do more harm than good.

So if you’re like me and can have a glass of wine (or two) each night and feel physically capable of taking care of your children, then I think it’s totally fine to proceed with your drinking habits.

If not, it’s probably best you rethink your approach.

Ask yourself: If I needed to, could I drive? If I needed to, would I be in the right state-of-mind to take care of my injured child? If asked, could I explain why I’m doing what I’m doing?

And most importantly, is my relationship to alcohol healthy?

Our actions have the potential to massively impact our children’s relationships to not just alcohol, but both stress and appropriate parenting techniques. Because of this, it’s critical that you treat your drinking with as much weight as any other aspect of parenting. Sit down with your partner and devise a plan.

You did it for sleep training. And potty training, too. So just think of it as drink training. Because that’s what you’re doing, right? You’re training your children on what is an appropriate way to behave as an adult.

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