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April 04, 2012

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I love this post. Thank you for sharing. I am in the same boat, as a (fairly) new parent. My twin boys are now 16 months old and I sincerely hope they will grow to love and appreciate good food and wine. I grew up with a family who openly and casually drank (though not wine) at dinners and family get togethers. I was usually offered sips here and there of the drinks. It was never something that was forbidden to me, and as a result I didn't become a binge drinker in college. I hope that by introducing wine (and alcohol in general) openly and safely to my children, that they will learn a sense of appreciation as well.
You never know what the future holds, and being a parent is quite often terrifying. But with good intentions we can only hope for the best.

I think you're on the right track with your planned approach to food and where wine and other alcoholic beverages fit in the mix.
As you pointed out, demonizing something is sure-fire way to make it attractive to portions of the demographic.
Despite your best efforts, the influence of peers and general societal mores will be strong.
Parents, in a way, are rebelling themselves when they choose to take a tack that will reveal a break with 'normal' child-raising scripture. The great mass of people simply ape whatever they were taught by their parents. It takes a critical thinker to examine and challenge 'accepted' behavior.
In the meantime, enjoy the ride. It will be over in a flash.

I had a mixed blessing. My son grew up witnessing his father's decline into alcoholism (we were separated so my son didn't have to live with it) and he didn't want to have anything to do with alcohol, even to the point of refusing, when he was 16 years old, to enjoy a celebratory drink of champagne when I finally got my master's degree. Now that he's 21, he is testing the waters with hard ciders and rum mixed with cola, and because he has a fascination for good food I am sure he will eventually try wine.

I believe the key is to be a model of responsibility and sensibility. Anything we make taboo will only arouse their curiosity more and push them toward experimentation.

I can't say that Bryan and I have ever had an actual conversation about how we're going to deal with alcohol and our kids, but there's certainly no mystique surrounding it in our house -- and I think that's pretty much the key. Wyatt is two and a half and is well aware that wine is a big part of our lives - he "helps" Bryan make his wine(adorable) and we even ask him to smell it for us and tell us what he thinks. He knows what beer is and has been participating in toasts since he was old enough to drink out of a sippy cup. I think as long as he sees it's something to be enjoyed in a healthy way, we're way ahead of the game. We don't plan on being hypocrites and telling him he's forbidden to drink as he gets older, either. I just think you have to arm your kids with the tools to make the right decisions, let them know you'll always be there should they need, and then hope for the best.
As far as instilling an appreciation of food, well...you just do your best on that one too. I breastfed our son until he was 13 months old and made all of his baby food from scratch (and still cook virtually every night as well), but I can't remember the last time he willingly ate something green. We try to make sure he eats well and offer him balanced meals, but we don't ever make him eat something he doesn't want (it's literally impossible to do that anyway). We also don't rigidly withhold sweets and we do allow him indulgent snacks every once in a while -- and trust that he will eat what he wants and stop when he's done. We believe that it would be counterproductive otherwise.
It's hard not to second-guess a lot of the decisions you make as a parent, but we've learned that a lot of it is common sense and relying on good old instinct. The rest largely takes care of itself. But whatever you do, enjoy this fleeting time with your boy, and trust in your ability to guide him the right way. When people say that it goes fast, they're speaking the absolute truth. Congratulations to you and your wife!

Another well written, and well thought out, article Evan. This resonates with some conversations we've been having amidst our membership recently, where a local elementary school class (attended by children of at least one winery family) has been told in no uncertain terms that to make wine literally means to be a drug dealer. Purportedly the educator chose to use all material from this group- http://www.thegreatbodyshop.net/- in their classroom, which is where this wildly deranged opinion stems from. This irks me personally and professionally on several levels. I've made wine, and I'm no meth chemist, and I take vast umbrage with some weak minded dodo even implying otherwise. Furthermore, they're doing an extreme disservice to their students who will presumably grow up thinking their dad, who is maybe a home brewer, is analogous to a heroin dealer. It makes the real drug dealers either look not that bad, or the wine and beer makers look far worse, presenting those malleable minds with a truly warped view of the world.

Evan, Morgan, we agree wholeheartedly with your endeavor. My husband and I had two very different sets of parents. Doug's parents allowed their three children to enjoy wine when they did, and taught them to appreciate it. My husband grew up with that appreciation and hasn't ever been inebriated. I grew up in an abstinence only household, and binged on Budweiser in college until a good friend introduced me to Trappist ales. I was redeemed! I have an acquired appreciation for wine, aperitif and digestif alcohol, and good beer. When you love and appreciate something, and you share that with your children, they will love and appreciate it too. With appreciation comes respect. Exercise prudence and discipline, and your influence will carry on with Rhys.

...but don't forget that it takes a village. We're all here to help!

I agree with Patty that removing the mystique is key. My father- and brother-in law both brew beer, and our three-year-old son has already "helped" with the process by stirring and smelling the batch as it progresses. I hope to share with him my love of wine. I don't pretend to believe he won't over-indulge at some point in his life, but I'm hoping the temptation won't be as strong.

I was born and raised in France and went to a private school where the nuns would give us a little wine to taste a lunch time. In the countryside, kids as young as 10 would have some wine mixed with water during meals, on occasion, or sip off their parents's champagne glass just to try and I am no alcoholic today. I let my 9 year old and my 21 months old try a drop if they want to but it doesn't make me a bad parent. Forbidding will irrevocably lead to temptation and secrets... I completely agree with this article.

Evan,

First off, congratulations once again to you and Morgan (and both of your families) on his arrival. He wasn't late... he was just on Dawson time.

I think I can speak for Nena when I say that we're honored that you'd mention us as any sort of blueprint. Mostly, we've just done what seemed natural and made sense along the way. We've made mistakes, but -- so far at least -- we think we're doing okay. I won't pretend that Jackson eats what we eat every night and doesn't eat an awful lot of pasta, but he's probably eaten more local and organic food in his life than I have. We've made it an even bigger priority for him than even for us (especially on the organic side of things). That's one thing I feel very good about.

As with so many people who are commenting on this post, wine is a big part of our life here in the Thompson house. Jackson's first trip "out" after he was born was to a local winery. Heck, he even worked at a winery when Nena was pouring there the summer she was pregnant with him. Anna, who is 4 months old as of tomorrow, has already made a few visits to tasting rooms with us.

We've let Jackson know that wine (and beer of course) are adult beverages, but they are by no means off limits. He often smells what I'm drinking and asks about it. I mean, how could he not when he sees his father with a case of open bottles on the dining room table with a glass, spit cup and notebook?

Now that he's five, I offer him sips and for now he has declined, but I know one day he'll try and probably even like it. He's already shown a preference -- aroma-wise -- for sauvignon blanc and riesling over chardonnay. He makes me proud.

Two funny things that you probably have to look forward too.

One -- almost from the moment Jackson was using a non-sippy cup, we've periodically seen him swirling his milk or water and putting his nose in the glass.

Two -- he hasn't done it recently, but on more than one occasion we've been at a winery, tasting through some wines only to look over and see Jackson spitting his water into the dump bucket. That's easy to understand of course -- spitting of any sort is cool to a five year old, right?

I have no doubt that you and Morg are going to do great in this realm. Good luck and we can't wait to meet him.

Evan, as a mom of three teenagers I think you've got the right attitude. Kids live what they learn and Rhys will have great role models in you and Morgan. You eat well, but with common sense. You exercise and take care of your bodies. You drink good wine not to get inebriated, but to enjoy some of the "good things" in life! If Rhys learns that wine is meant to be enjoyed, not to make yourself falling down drunk, it's a great lesson learned. (Though you might refrain from packing it in his lunch box! LOL)

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