Friday, April 27, 2007

Binge Drinking

So parents are to banned from shoving alcohol down the throats of their five year old children.

Well, if Alcohol Concern have anything to do with it they will. Not only that, the dissolutes involved will be prosecuted for their wicked and wanton behaviour.

In one fell swoop this will solve the problem of binge drinking among teens apparently.

Apart from the rather surreal image this conjures up of parents up and down the land appearing like characters from the Rake's Progress forcefeeding their children gin, it did make me wonder what planet the people in Alcohol Concern live on.

I don't think I know a single person who gives their five year olds alcohol. We have a five year old. We drink alcohol. But so far she seems unsullied. Indeed, she's never even wanted to try it. The two older ones on occasion have had a sip of their dad's beer, and now they've made their first Holy Communion they get to taste the communion wine (hmm, will churches up and down the land get prosecuted?). And get this. They don't actually like it. So us letting them have a sample isn't so far leading them into the path of dissolution.

The whole notion that the State should yet again have the power to interfere in people's homes in this way should be completely abhorrent in a free society. Yes, there are feckless irresponsible parents out there, who for all I know are freely plying their offspring with drink on a regular basis, but it isn't up to the State to go marching into their homes to prevent such behaviour, nasty and all as it might be. I am getting rather tired of do gooders telling me how I should behave. It's as if no one trusts us anymore to make up our own minds about how we bring up our children, and how we act in our own homes.

Rather then encouraging teenagers to be heavy drinkers, I think having some alcohol around in the house and being introduced by your parents to it in a responsible way, is a much more rational approach. From the age of 13 or so, I was allowed a small glass of wine with my Sunday lunch. I didn't then go haring down to the local park with my mates to finish the bottle. When I was a bit older I had my first taste of drinking/getting drunk in my late teens. My parents probably knew I'd had a drink (though laughably Mad Twin and I used to walk up and down the house several times eating mints in a frantic attempt to sober up), but they didn't make a big deal of it, so consequently we weren't driven to do it more in order to shock them. The people I came across who drank to excess the most at university, tended to be the ones who'd been kept on a very tight rein at home. Once let off the leash they went mad.

I'm not claiming virtue here. I did my fair share of drinking in my youth, and am still probably far too partial to red wine, but....

Prosecuting me for giving drink to my children under fifteen is going to make no difference to binge drinking in this country.

The rise of binge drinking as far as I can tell has been as a result firstly of the dratted alcopops, which look all shiny and nice and fun - just like lemonade but with a bit of a kick. As teenagers everyone I knew used to drink cider because we naively thought it wasn't that strong. Now I know we'd all be drinking alcopops because they look so pretty, and we'd be kidding ourselves that they were just like fruit juice.

Secondly, although I agreed with the change in the licensing laws, given that our cousins on the Continent seem to manage drinking all night without the scenes of debauchery that now regularly occur on Saturday nights across the nation, I think now it has been a mistake. The fact that it has been coupled with a rise in the number of licensed premises being opened, and the double whammy of the drinks industry insisting we have to drink much larger measures has been disastrous. Whether or not teenagers drink at home is irrelevant, if once they get out in the big bad world, they can go out to bars, where they can drink for hours on end, and with three glasses of wine consume the best part of a bottle. Beer is stronger now and so is wine. No wonder we're turning into a nation of pissheads.

Thankfully, it does seem the government seem to at least have the sense to realise that Alcohol Concern's proposal isn't the way forward, so it looks like Spouse and I won't be going to prison in the near future for corrupting our young.

But, jeez. Wouldn't it for once be nice to read in the paper that the majority of parents are doing a pretty decent job bringing up their kids (against increasingly difficult odds), and that actually, we're quite capable of making responsible decisions about our childrens' welfare?

Despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail to persuade us otherwise, I think in the main it's true.

Shame the powers that be don't think so....


Anonymous said...

Good post.

I was only 2 when I had my first taste of the stuff: our neighbours were a lovely Portugese couple who invited the family over for drinks regularly. From then on, my parents were very open, and throughout my childhood I drank what and when I pleased. They even had to *make* me drink Guinness because of the iron content; and just the whiff of cider/white wine/white rum can take me back 20 years (I'm 27 now).

I suppose having the mystery of it taken away so early on meant that I never felt the need - and still don't feel it necessary - to overindulge. I agree that's it's all down to early and responsible socialisation.

Drink can be enjoyed responsibly, but teens need to know you can also have fun on a night out without getting trashed - a radical idea, I know :-)

Jane Henry said...

I did manage to get through most of my teens without getting drunk. I did more then make up for it at university though... but I agree teens can have fun without getting drunk.

Nic said...

Having an alcoholic uncle always helps to remove the glamour of booze from a teenager's eyes...

But I agree. All the really bad binge drinkers of my generation I have met came from "drink shall not darken our doors" parents.

And the generation drinking now seem to have a very different set of values regarding self respect.

Sue said...

I agree with you and the comments.

We constantly hear about how different the children are these days, but it's no surprise when, as parents, we have our shoulders constantly looked over.

I am fed up of being told what I should or shouldn't be doing.It's bad enough having comparisons in the playground without the 'big brother' attitude.

Cathy said...

I was brought up in a teetotal house. I couldn't wait to get out into the world and have my first drink of cider.

My son has been brought up in a house where we drink wine or beer from time to time, but in a rsponsible way. He has been allowed to try a little of both but so far, at 15, likes neither and is not really interested in drinking.

Jane Henry said...

Hopefully... good sense will prevail. After all this was just trailed by Alcohol Concern and not a government policy. But they seem so keen to jump on health bandwagons it wouldn't surprise me if this one comes back...