Stonch’s recent post on under-age drinking has reminded me to post on a topic I almost wrote about a while ago. Is it possible to bring up your kids to drink responsibly and appreciate good beer?
My parents liked quality booze and believed in sharing it. They’d drink a pint of ale with Saturday lunch (usually something like Theakston‘s Old Peculiar) and a bottle of wine on Sunday, and from the age of around 12 upwards, they’d let me have a bit of both. Growing up in the eighties, kids were still banned from most pubs, but I have happy memories of running around pub gardens where my parents and their friends were relaxed and happy; I don’t ever remember them being drunk.
So, I had a classic slow introduction to good quality alcohol and responsible drinking. It’s probably what I would do with my kids, were I to have any.
Trouble is, I didn’t then start drinking “good” alcohol responsibly. When I went out as a teenager, my poison of choice was whatever was cheapest and whatever my friends were drinking. Snakebite and black, alcopops, quarter bottles of Teachers’ Whisky. As a student, I graduated to Guinness when I wanted to be cool but mostly drank keg Tetley’s because it was cheap. So what happened?
I reckon there were at least four reasons why my parents’ admirable attempts failed;
(1) Pure economics. Even if I’d wanted to drink fine wine, Strongbow was cheaper.
(2) Contrariness. Teenagers don’t want to do what their parents do, so will drink what their friends do regardless of how they’ve been brought up.
(3) Immature tastebuds. The fact is, I didn’t really enjoy the taste of ale until I hit my twenties. Ditto wine. I still haven’t really got whisky (how uncool am I?) This leads me to conclude that no matter how much your early exposure, it’s not going to “take” until your tastebuds are ready.
(4) Immature mind. A common theme from reading the session posts is that most people’s early drinking experiences are about getting hammered. I think it’s just a stage you go through. Particularly in Britain, where for whatever reasons, our bingeing culture has been with us for a long time.
Did I really learn nothing from early exposure to responsible drinking? Thinking about it some more, I guess it familiarised me with the concept of ale (or at least, beer that was brown, bitter and had flavour) – – even if I didn’t really like it for years, it wasn’t alien to me.
Secondly, parental influence may not have taught me to drink responsibly, but it did teach me to live responsibly. Even if the primary aim of having a drink for me was to get wasted, I knew that it wasn’t a good idea to go out and get pissed every night.