on giving up my appetizing, stimulating tonic for Lent

Two nights ago at bedtime, I settled in to read the boys a few pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I have been reading it to them since July. We are on page 510. Only 380 pages to go. Can you sense my enthusiasm?

I settled into the armchair by their beds to start back in where I had left off, using my best Nymphadora Tonks voice (for which I draw most of my inspiration from Jennifer Saunders on AbFab). But then Seamus piped up:

“Mommy. Why do you always drink a beer?

Okay, coupla things:

  1. Yes, I had a beer nearby as I read. But it was like 8:15.
  2. I don’t ALWAYS drink beer. First graders are way too literal. If I overimbibe anything, it’s coffee.
  3. I was thisclose to being over the bedtime finish line. Maggie was already asleep. Why not kick back with a Mich Ultra while I read aloud?
  4. What the hell is wrong with me? Swigging beer in front of my kids? What, couldn’t I wait another fifteen minutes? Nice work, Mom.

I’m mostly sticking with number four. If one of my kids thinks I “always” drink beer, then I am not happy about that.

Beer for mothers didn’t always have such a bad rap. My 92-year-old grandmother always insisted I work more Guinness into my diet while my babies were nursing. “It’s good for the milk,” she’d say, and she was a NURSE all her life, so who was I to argue with an elder who was also a health-care professional?

“A case of Bratz Beer means much to the young mother, and obviously baby participates in its benefits.” Obviously! They’re both totally chillin’ and plump, nourished by the malt, appetized and stimlated by the hops. Right?

However, I have not nursed a child since 2008, and while my hard is kinda hard right now, my need for a “pick up” is perhaps not quite so medically indicated.

And the cliché of the carefree wine-swilling soccer mom has gotten less funny over the last few years, especially since Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who literally wrote the book on the subject, became sober and started hosting Don’t Get Drunk Fridays on her blog. One would certainly have to admit that it wouldn’t be worse for your kids not to see you drink, ever. Hmm.

Lastly, there’s Lent, which sort of sneaked up on me yesterday. I am not the most practicing of Catholics, but I love Lent and the opportunity it gives to examine something that I love too well. In past Lents, I’ve given up Facebook, gossiping, clothes shopping, chocolate, and yelling. I did great with everything except the gossiping and the yelling. This year for Lent, I’m giving up my bedtime-celebratory cocktail. I might still have a glass of wine out of the house; I won’t have one at home, in front of my kids or not. I think this will be a little bit tougher than the chocolate. On the other hand, that’s why I’m doing it.

(vintage Bratz ad, original source unknown. But as far as I can tell it’s real. I’ll ask my grandmother if she remembers Bratz Beer.)

Do you make it a point not to drink in front of your kids? What are you giving up for Lent? 




{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Meredith L. February 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I’m not giving up anything for Lent, because I am Jewish. *hand on forehead* Haven’t we suffered enough?

…unless you count giving up being pregnant for Lent, because my baby is due in two weeks. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week!

When not gestating a baby the size of King Kong in my poor petite and fragile womb, I do drink in front of my existing child. Several reasons: one, so it does not become this secret, forbidden THING that will only serve to fascinate him into sneaking behind our backs to try; and two, so he can see me – and my husband – enjoying something we like in moderation, specifically, this grown-up drink that can easily be abused. He sees us drinking a glass (or two) of wine because we like it, not because we need to get drunk or sloppy.


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Interesting point, Meredith: the modeling of moderation. I like that. 


the mommy psychologist February 28, 2012 at 4:57 am

I went to graduate school in the deep south and nearly all of my Southern friends grew up around drinking. It was very commonplace and most said that as kids they had learned to recognize drinking in moderation from drinking too much from watching those around them. I really like the idea of modeling moderation. 


Rachel February 23, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I completely agree with Meredith L.!  I don’t mind drinking a dinnertime/evening beer or glass of wine in front of my 6-year old son.  I am completely at ease with my moderate drinking and have nothing to hide from my child (or anyone else). 


adkeif February 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I agree with Meredith.  My parents used to keep beer in the fridge and one whiff and I thought is was so gross!  Now when I crack open a Corona and insert the lime wedge, I am transformed from my chaotic kitchen to a beach  vacation.  It relaxes Mommy.  And then I am a happier Mommy.  I think it’s also good for kids to see their parents drink if they are doing it responsibly.  Sadly though, there are parents that get sloppy drunk around their children and that is no good.


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I am definitely a happier Mommy- and a better Harry Potter reader- with a cocktail in hand.


Shannon W. February 24, 2012 at 3:53 am

Like others, I drink in moderation in front of my kids and I grew up with parents that did the same. I think it sets a good example about drinking responsibly. I do not state that “I need a beer” or “I need a drink” (wine to deal with the whine) in front of my kids, because that would set a bad example.  I just have a beer or a drink.  


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm

good point.


Liz Slater February 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I agree with everyone else here, moderate drinking in front of your kids is fine. My husband and I have wine with dinner most nights, and I think showing kids that alcohol is something that can be drunk responsibly sets an important example. I also believe that as the kids get older it is important to teach our kids to drink responsibly – letting older teens have a glass of wine or champagne on special occasions. My oldest is only 7 now so it’ll be a while before I do this, but I think making alcohol completely forbidden makes kids more likely to try it on their own and go overboard.


CLKSH February 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I grew up in a home where adult beverages were commonplace. My parents entertained frequently and my father is a connoisseur of single-malt scotches.  (My husband has developed the same taste, but says that makes him sound too old, so he says, “single malt guy.”)  Seeing my parents drink responsibly and socially set me up to think that it was just something that grown ups do occasionally, not a big taboo. When I went to college, the kids who went bonkers were the ones who had been raised to think of it as a mysterious or dangerous vice. I want my children to think of it as the prerogative of adults, because adults or usually most capable of making responsible choices (not to drive, not to drink to excess…)

All of that being the theory, of course. Yesterday, my eight year old got a bottle of hard cider out of the wine fridge and opened it at 3:00, and said beaming pride at me, “I thought that you looked thirsty!” HORROR! I tried to explain that adult beverages are usually limited to consumption in the evenings, and aren’t for satisfying hydration needs, and shouldn’t be something that children have to think about, and please don’t go into the wine fridge because there really isn’t any kid friendly stuff in there, and mommy doesn’t have a drink every day, or even every week, and alcohol is boring so it isn’t even something worth discussing, and let’s have a veggie smoothie, and oh look, we bake some cookies in the shape of star wars vehicles… It pushed the same button in me, apparently a button I never knew I had…


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm

interesting right? Maybe wine fridges shouldn’t be glass-front and at kid-eye-level. I just don’t want my kids to think adults have to drink on a Tuesday night. 


Anne February 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm

You put us all to shame reading an 800 + page book to them with your accents and enthusiastic voice, real or not! Geez,if you give up the beer now how can we regular moms who thrust the kid into the bed no Harry Potter (and sometimes even turn a tv on for them) live up to you:)) I think you might need extra chocolate to make up for the beer…I will get on that for you.


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm

thanks Anne!


Courtney February 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Moderate drinking in front of the kids is the best way to go. They learn what it looks like to drink responsibly and it is a privilege of being an adult, in my opinion. Plus, I am an adult, not just a mom. If I want a glass of wine at 6:00 on a Friday, then I will have one.  Will I have a bottle of wine in front of my kids and slur my words and fall down? No. There is obviously a line I will not cross. But one here and there? Why the heck not!


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I’m with you. If only my son had said “Mom, why do you drink a beer here and there?” instead of suggesting I literally knew how to do nothing else.


Mollie February 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm

 I think you mean “Blatz Beer.” Although the days when Bratz Beer is marketed to kids are surely not far away.


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Um, yes. BLatz Beer. No wonder nothing came up in my Google search. 


Charissa February 24, 2012 at 9:55 pm

When I was young, my dad would occasionally drink beer at home.  One day, when we were driving in the car, we passed a billboard that was advertising beer. My younger brother saw it, and said, “Daddy, that’s what you drink!”.  

It greatly upset my dad that that was the image his son had of him. That Lent, he decided to give up drinking. After those 40 days, he decided it would be best to permanently give up drinking. He hasn’t had a drink in over 20 years. 

Through the years, he received pressure to drink, teasing about his convictions, and advice from friends that he should teach his kids how to drink moderately. However, he never wavered in his belief that he was doing the right thing. 

My dad taught me discipline, perseverance, and self confidence. He was an excellent role model, and I respect and take pride in his abstinence from alcohol.


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Thanks Charissa for your honest response. It’s good to hear from someone whose parent stopping drinking really resonated with them, as a child. Food for thought.


Anonymous February 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm

and by the way I hope you’ll be modeling moderation again very soon! Good luck!


the mama bird diaries February 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I really love this post. That said, I felt a little guilty when I read it. I am not a big drinker but I do like to have a half a glass of wine when I read to my older girls (once I’ve gotten my toddler twins to bed). I guess it’s just a relaxing time of day. I have some wine, they eat their dessert and we enjoy books together. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it and I do agree with the majority of the commenters that alcohol shouldn’t be this big secret.


MarinkaNYC March 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm

It never occurred to me not to drink in front of my kids.  Well, except in the mornings.  But I was at a parent-student event at school and there was wine and one of the parents said that she didn’t want to have the kids see her drinking. I can’t relate to that at all.

Why shouldn’t they see me drinking in moderation?

Oh, and once we were at a bar/restaurant and they saw someone very, very drunk fall off the bar stool.  That made a big impression.


lillamy March 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm

My husband and I also gave up all alcohol for Lent, him really just because he wanted to be supportive and not sit and swig beer in front of me. And I agree, picking something to give up for Lent SHOULD be something difficult. To me it’s a way to, in some ways, exhibit self control. But it can’t be EASY. And if it is really hard to not drink for 46 (or so) days, then that tells me something too about myself. Even if it is something I don’t really want to know. 

Growing up in the 70s my Mom had the occasional party & drank wine & beer in front of me. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I waited until 20 to have my first beer, it just wasn’t important for me to try it when I was young. 

I don’t mind my 2 year old daughter seeing me drinking a beer. I mind her seeing me drunk. That is the difference. Knowing when to stop.


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