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I Drink in Front of My Kids, So Sue Me

Photograph by Twenty20

Whenever my husband brings up in conversation how, growing up, his parents used to make him stand outside for the duration of their liquor store excursions, I seize the opportunity to poke a little fun.

"A lot of good that did," I always say.

It's not entirely clear why they wouldn't let him go into a liquor store, except maybe they thought it might corrupt him. (Never mind that they actually drank in front of him and his dad was also a smoker.) But as it turns out, watching his parents imbibe neither marred him nor deterred him from drinking. Phew.

My parents also drank in front of me, and now I drink in front of my parents. I also drink in front of my kids. (For the record, my daughters, who are 5 and 8, don't drink in front of me, or at all.) Truly, I'm not sure why I wouldn't drink in front of my kids. It's legal, plus, there's only so much I can hide from them. If they found me sneaking sips of wine behind closed doors, I can only imagine their interpretation. ("Mommy's doing something she doesn't want us to see. It must be so bad, it's good!")

Instead of hiding or curbing my drinking, it's more important to show my kids what a responsible adult can look like when drinking.

So, I scratch my head every time I read about someone clutching their pearls when mentioning drinking in front of children. The 21st-century SAHM recently wrote in a Facebook post: "I drink a beer or glass of wine (sometimes in front of my kids!) on occasion." She went on to clarify that, despite drinking—and in front of her kids—she's still a good mom (she also said her friend who doesn't drink is likewise a good mom). I don't know her or her friend, but I have no reason to assume they wouldn't be good moms—drinking in front of their kids or otherwise.

However, over here on Mom.me, another mom, Jill Simonian, recently made a case for drinking less in front of our kids.

"(T)hink about the message we send when we say, 'I NEED my wine.' Our kids are listening and learning, whether we think we're being responsible and educating or not," she wrote.

I agree with Simonian in that my kids definitely listen (to everything), but I don't think I need to stop drinking just because they're taking notes. I've definitely never, ever said anything even remotely resembling, "I need my wine," to or in front of my kids. (Have I ever said it in a text to my husband at whine o'clock? Yes. Yes, I have.) I also never heard my parents say they needed to drink as they shared a bottle of wine over dinner each night when I was a kid. To me, the takeaway was we ate as a family, not that my parents had or needed wine to make it through my incessant mewling about what was on (or missing from) each evening's menu.

Just as I take great pains not to declare that I need to diet or I'm fat, verbal and nonverbal communication is a subject with which I'm intimately familiar, especially as it applies to small children. My daughters and I have frequent conversations about body language, facial expressions and how other people can misinterpret what you mean whether you're saying something or remaining silent. We also talk about how we don't need to try to interpret everything we see others doing or explain everything we do to others.

Instead of hiding or curbing my drinking, it's more important to show my kids what a responsible adult can look like when drinking. Making good choices is not simply rhetoric I impart unto them. I'm forever working at making good choices, and among them is being honest with my kids and letting them know respectfully that adults have more freedom and even more choices than they do.

The bottom line is there's just no such thing as being sneaky around kids. There is such a thing as being honest, though. My kids know they're too young to drink. They know adults can drink. Drinking nightly may not be the healthiest choice, but then again, neither is forgoing sunscreen each time I walk outside or eating leftover pizza for breakfast, which I may or may not have done on Saturday morning.

I never claim to be perfect, and I am forever telling my girls that perfection is not expected of them, either. An open line of communication is non-negotiable, though, and drinking behind their backs is a message I never plan on sending.

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