Saturday, March 6, 2010

Drink As I Say, Not As I Drink

There are aspects of my lifestyle that have changed completely since having kids. For instance, I used to smoke cigars. Now, if I have one on a summer night after the boys are asleep, it’s the exception. I swear less often. Not that I was a sailor-mouth to begin with, but I catch and stop myself pretty regularly. When driving, I try to drive defensively, under the speed limit, and with courtesy toward other motorists. None of these were my main focus prior to purchasing the minivan.

These are all things I’m conscious of not doing in front of them. I realize that, regardless of what I say, they will look at what I actually do. I can’t continue to smoke cigars and then when they begin smoking later in life tell them not to be a jerk like me. It just doesn’t work. It would be like Paris Hilton having kids and telling them to be classy and discreet in their “personal” affairs. (Did I just write “Paris Hilton having kids.” Wow. Sorry to put that image in your mind.) I know neither of my sons will be driving a car or trying to light up a stogie any time soon. Still, they are old enough to form a solid memory of how I behaved when they were younger which they can try to mimic as they grow up.

Though I understand this, one thing leaves me struggling to lead by example: Beer. I am lost as to how to discourage them from wanting to try beer as soon as possible when they see me drink before, during and after dinner. Ok, I don’t do this every night, but often enough that if you asked them what my favorite two things to drink were, they would tell you coffee and beer. Furthermore, no matter how many times they’ve seen me open a beer, I can’t help but react to the first sip as if I finally gave birth after a 72-hour labor.

Sure, right now, I let them take a sip, provided letting the suds touch their tongue and then sending spittle spraying into my face is what you call a sip. And, of course I do it because I know they won’t like it at their age. I can remember my dad doing this and I remember thinking beer was disgusting. How could he drink that swill?

You know what else I remember? I remember my dad teaching me how to nurse a beer if I was at a party and felt like I was being pressured to drink. Then, I remember going to said party and getting plastered. Knowing how I reacted to this approach, and knowing that they have half my DNA, how can I realistically expect that they will want to try beer sooner than I’d like.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss on this issue. I used to come in quietly from those nights and, sometimes, even talk to my parents if they were still awake before going off to my spinning bed. That proved much easier to pull off than sitting through church the next morning.

I suppose I ought to check with my parents to see if I actually was pulling anything off. What looked to me like a normal conversation with a sober, responsible teenager might have looked more like a conversation with a young Jerry Lewis from their point of view (“Hello, Laaadyyyy,” pratfalls, the whole shtick). I can image one of my parents saying to the other, “He’s sauced,” and the reply being, “He made it home alive and is getting decent grades. Let it go.”

But is this what I want? Do I want to be kept in the dark? Is such behavior just part of growing up? Should their reward for being able to stay up on their studies and not being a complete screw up be to let them go out and blow off some steam every now and then and pretend that I don’t know it’s happening?

I can’t answer any of these questions. Come to think of it, the ulcer that I just developed while typing this is telling me it’s best not to try and answer them until the time comes.

I’m going to have a beer. That’ll take it off my mind.

Ooooohhhhh, yeah! That’s the good stuff!

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