How do I keep my kids away from drunks at the BBQ?Ceridwen Morris and Rebecca Odes
We’ve both had experiences with well-meaning, loving friends who get a tad inebriated and want to toss, wrestle or otherwise swing our child from the rafters. In the heat of the moment (drunk “uncle” twirling rapidly, baby legs swinging above, hysterical laughter) everything can seem so wild and wonderful. To everyone but the parent, who’s hovering with her finger on the phone to the volunteer fire department. Disturbing drunken child play doesn’t have to be physical either – weird stories with scary or otherwise inappropriate elements may be told. Or what was meant to be a quiet “good night” visit before bed can turn into a veritable circus of stimulation, often of the ticket-to-tears variety.
Sure, sometimes a drink is great for getting adults to actually bust out their pirate voice or engage in endless peek-a-boo. But if things get weird, it’s an awkward situation. You don’t want to embarrass your friend. And you definitely don’t want to scare the kid. But, if drunkenness impairs driving reflexes, it can certainly impair baby-catching or child-swinging reflexes. If you’re thinking that the person may not be on top of the safety situation, you should absolutely intervene. And there are ways of doing this without causing a huge scene or calling your friends’ judgment into public question. You can try simply redirecting one or the other’s attention elsewhere, removing the child off to some other improvised activity or into the care of someone else. Then you can gauge whether a direct discussion is necessary.
If an explanation is called for, you can take the beloved boozer aside and say, friend-to-friend, that you just feel weird/bad/incredibly anxious when anyone’s had a bunch of drinks and gets crazy/rowdy/intense with the kid. If he calls you a worrywart, you can remind him that you haven’t had the benefit of quite as much liquid nervous-system depression. And if he protests, he’s responsible for whatever scene-making ensues. You can consider suggesting you take up the convo when you’re both in roughly the same sober state. If you’re not the confrontational type, you can also make a mental note to avoid bringing your kid around that person when the drinks are flowing.
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