Baby at the bar: Confessions of a “not quite drunk” mom

baby at the barThe moment I found out I was pregnant I had just returned from a crazy all-night keg party at the cottage and was suffering from an epic hangover.

Because our kid might someday read this, I’ll stop the story for a moment to say, “Little one, you were planned and not a drunken accident. But how I came to be doing keg stands while unknowingly pregnant with you was an accident.“

Anyway, when I saw the two blue lines I realized that I hadn’t consumed much more than chips, draft beer and spiked-to-the-point-of-being-barely-recognizable lemonade in a while and ran to get some humus and pita

Then I puked.

Then we called my parents and told them the happy news.

Then I panicked about what I’d done to my kid.

Then I stopped drinking for the next 38 weeks and practically salivated like a camel every time I watched the man drink a James Ready.

Then my kid turned out more than fine despite her in-utero kegger.

Yeah, so the little one pretty much came into our lives with a drink.

I read two things this week that got me thinking about our family’s relationship with alcohol – an excerpt from Jowita Bydlowsk’s memoir Drunk Mom and a Globe and Mail article about teaching your kids to make drinks.

The first got me thinking about my own drinking habits…

I can now readily admit that pre-kid, there were periods when my alcohol consumption was far from healthy and verging on problematic. If I didn’t have a kid and all the responsibility that comes with, I might have been the woman in Drunk Mom, but without the mom part. Before becoming a mom I didn’t do half the things I do now because I was too busy doing Jager shots or recovering from doing Jager shots.

It’s easy for me to see how someone, even a mom, could get there.

The second got me thinking about our daughter…

Parenthood has meant that my partner and I don’t drink as much as we use to…but we still drink fairly often. We made a conscious decision to raise our daughter in a home where it’s not taboo. She sat on her first bar patio when she was about four weeks old. At nine months we took her to Spain, frequenting a playground that had a small outdoor drink stand that sold more than just pop.  We entertain fairly regularly, often have wine or beer with dinner or a happy hour cocktail, and eat family meals in pubs. Heck, one of the appeals of living downtown is that post work drinks are doable without having to sort out designated drivers or cab fare.

Don’t misunderstand.  We don’t drink every day, we don’t get completely drunk with our kid around and we certainly don’t drive under the influence. We can always properly care for our child.

I’m not even drinking right now (although I’m not sure why because it’s been a long day and there’s a nice open bottle of white in the fridge).

But we have been known to subscribe to the part of Tom Hodgkinson, Idle Parent Manifesto that says, “We drink alcohol without guilt.”

We haven’t decided yet if and when we’ll teach our daughter to fix dad a gin and tonic, but she has fetched him and our friends a beer and I assume we’ll eventually allow her to consume a small about of wine or beer with dinner or on special occasions before she is of age. We’ll most definitely be really open about the good and bad of alcohol.

Is some of it a selfish desire to keep parts of our child-free life? Sure. But we also want our daughter’s first exposures to alcohol to be somewhat responsible.

I want her to learn that like all good things (ice cream, candy, Boursin cheese, poutine), alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation. I want her to be able to appreciate and share good beer, good wine and good food with friends. I don’t want her first experiences with alcohol to be all about binge drinking, body shots and beer pong.

I want her to feel conformable talking to us about all of this.

Plus, they (someone, I’m sure) say that relaxed and happy parents make for relaxed and happy kids…and I’m pretty darn relaxed when I’m sitting on my patio in the summer sun with a glass of wine watching the little one happily do her three-year-old thing.

I grew up in a home where parental alcohol consumption was a rarity and it certainly didn’t make me a rare drinker.


But sometimes, like after reading stuff or when my little girl jokingly slams down a sippy cup and tells me she’s finished her beer, I worry.

I worry that our approach is all wrong. I worry that by growing up in a house where alcohol consumption is the norm, she’ll embrace it a little too much. I know that unlike ice cream, candy, Boursin cheese and poutine, alcohol could easily lead her down a dangerous path, beyond that of obesity. I worry that in our effort to get rid of the taboo, we’ll veer too far.

And when I look at her insanely cute and innocent face and think back to the blackouts, regrets, drunken drama, hangover headaches and keg stands, I really really hope that’s not the case.

What do you think?

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