Giving In To WiningJoel Stein
We give Laszlo wine at dinner.
This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that Laszlo is two-years old.
We started letting him drink when he was ten-months old. We had some friends over for New Year’s Eve and were drinking champagne. My lovely wife and fellow blogger, Cassandra, let Laszlo smell her glass. He demanded to taste it, so we let him have the tiniest sip.
This is what lazy parents do to keep their kids from asking for alcohol again. When I was a kid admittedly older than ten months my parents gave me a sip of champagne and it burned my throat and went up my nose and made me cough and they laughed cruelly. I didn’t drink again until I was 14 and standing on a suburban street corner, peer pressured into mixing peach schnapps and orange juice in a Solo cup. Shortly thereafter, I puked and lost a sneaker in a pile of leaves. Which is how it’s supposed to go.
Laszlo, however, took a sip of champagne and smiled. He cried when we wouldn’t let him drink more.
He is missing the gene that is supposed to make babies hate alcohol. He likes the smell of Macallan’s 12-year-old Scotch. After we let him have a tiny sip of a heavy Left Bank Bordeaux and took the glass away, he bawled for five minutes.
So every night at dinner, while Cassandra and I drink wine, we fill a plastic wine glass with a little grape juice and a lot of water and tell him it’s wine. He gulps it, or spills it, and immediately yells, “MORE WINE! NEED MORE WINE!” It is like living with Henry VIII, if Henry VIII were two and in desperate need of intervention by child services.
On several occasions at restaurants, when he screamed for wine and they had no juice or lemonade to shove in a wine glass, we have relented in desperation to stop the humiliation of our child yelling “NEED WINE!” and given him a few drops of actual wine mixed with a lot of water.
This, after all, is what the French do. And we, being liberals, believe that, other than over-reliance on nuclear energy, whatever the French do is better than what Americans do.
The only thing liberals love more than the French is scientific studies. A 1983 study done at Harvard called “The Natural History of Alcoholism” studied people for 40 years and concluded that kids from families where parents didn’t serve wine with meals but still drank outside the house were seven times more likely to raise alcoholics than awesome parents like us.
So we believe that thanks to our enlightened attitude Laszlo will grow up totally comfortable around alcohol, just like Europeans. When he’s a teenager he won’t be so curious and inexperienced that he’ll risk his life binge drinking, or worse, drinking peach schnapps, which is truly disgusting.
But after talking to some French people, we realize we’re about six years early on the watered-down wine thing. And someone pointed out that a two-year old who thinks drinking wine is totally acceptable is likely to eventually find a full glass around the house and gulp the entire thing. And while everybody loves a drunk baby, preschool is stressful enough without a hangover.
More disturbing: A recent study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research which, ironically, is pretty hard to read sober showed that the younger you are when first start drinking, the more likely you are to be an alcoholic, possibly because it may switch on a gene that making you susceptible to addiction. And the non-Jewish side of Laszlo’s family, like the non-Jewish parts of any family, has some history of alcoholism.
Like all parents presented with new information, we are too lazy to actually fix our behavior. The only adjustment we’ve made is to inform Laszlo that the red or white stuff is “juice in a wine glass” and not actual wine, which would make him sick. He, in turn, does not acknowledge this, pointing to the wine bottle and saying “NEED THAT WINE!” At which point we switch the topic.
Thank God we don’t smoke pot.