We are on the road, headed to nursery school, when we pass a Corona (La cervesa mas fina) truck. Sophie gets all excited and stutters to get the words out: “Mommy! Look! Is just like what’s on your drink at home!”
And though I don’t often crack open a beer, she’s right. Kevin just came home with a case of Corona Light the other night. Guilty as charged.
After hours, at nursery school, when Sophia gets the run of the place and the toys she’s had to share all day become exclusively hers, she usually plants herself in the housekeeping corner. Often, I’m recruited as a playmate. Sophie hands me a blue bottle of pop, “Mommy, this is your vino.” I blush in front of my mother’s teetotaling teachers. “Sometimes we have wine with dinner,” I stammer by way of explanation.
And then, when I make a pit stop at the Wine Legend to pick up some adult beverages for a party, Sophie looks around the room replete with bottles of alcohol of every shape and size and says, loud enough for all to hear, “MY DADDY LOVES VINO!”
A few passers-by chuckle to themselves.
Sophia is well-aware of our drinking. I have mixed feelings about this. My parents were never drinkers, so I don’t have a positive (or negative) model of how to go about doing this. She has not, and it is my intention that she never will, seen us drunk. Nor will she ever witness me taking a drink and then stepping into a car. (Nor will I do it.) But I have to wonder what is the impact of seeing me engage in social drinking? What messages is she taking away about alcohol?
Is there such a thing as modeling responsible drinking?
Kevin and I have talked about this. We are aligned on this issue…when something becomes taboo, it is that much more desirable. Think prohibition. Think abstinence-only sex education. We don’t want to hide our drinking, as if it is something shameful. But we also don’t want her seeing us come home and have a drink to “unwind.” Even in jest, I don’t want her to hear the words, “what a day, I need a drink.” I don’t want her to perceive drinking as a solution.
By the same token, I don’t want her to think that a drink is necessary to have fun. I want it to be peripheral, not central to celebrations. And 'tis the season for such things.
So what to do? How do we establish such a balance? Research says, talk about it. Eat dinner together. Know who your child is with and, perhaps more importantly, let them know that you know who they are with. All useful (if not commonsensical) findings, and, with the exception of the family dinner, beyond her. Thing is, she doesn’t yet know that the drink has an effect on us. She doesn’t know that we drink it for the effect. And if this is the case, is there a conversation to be had? Maybe not at the present time. But, I know I need to remain vigilant. That I need to be alert to her evolving cognizance, because any day, she might be curious as to why these are adult-only beverages. When it happens, I’ll need to be responsive to her questions and accountable for my actions. And the thing that bothers me most is that I’m not quite sure what I’d say.