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Feb 18 2011

Friday Night: A Little Wine for a Little Girl

By at 9:47 am

“No more wine, Frieda. You’ve had enough.”

Frieda is my daughter. Yep, I had to cut off my 2-and-a-half year-old.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t bring her to a bar, although we’ve tried that. (Apparently you can’t actually sit a toddler at a bar. Something to do with underage drinking–seems as though it’s quite frowned upon in some circles, especially when it comes to the under-five crowd.)

Nope, this little interaction occurred at our own dining table, during Shabbat. The girls each have their own kiddush cup, which Frieda carefully holds or tries balance on her sippy cup, while Rosie happily bangs hers away against the table. Usually Josh and I pour some of our Manischewitz into Frieda’s tiny cup, and Rosie gets a taste off of Josh’s finger. But tonight we had run out of the Manny, so we were using a nice dry red instead.

Frieda had a sip out of her kiddush cup (which is usually enough for her, as she is already looking forward to the challah), and then immediately, without missing a beat, lunged for my cup.

Oh lordy.

So, she got a second sip. But then I cut her off at a third. (Let’s be honest, people. She’s a toddler. Between the frequent falls, rapid mood swings, and spontaneous crying that we get most days, she’s worse than a freshman at a frat party. I’m not interested in seeing what she’s like when she’s really drunk. At least not for another 18 years.) At the same time, I’m glad she’s developing a taste for wine, and learning how to drink it. Our decision to give the girls a taste of the real stuff on Friday nights was a conscious one. Part of our decision has to do with keeping a Jewish home–blessing and drinking wine is an important part of how we celebrate Shabbat.

But there is more to it than that. Like so many American families (Jews, too!), mine has been touched by alcoholism. And as a clinical social worker and college counselor, I have seen, far too many times, how dangerous alcohol can be. While it may be tempting to keep the girls away from alcohol entirely, I think we’d be doing them a major disservice. I don’t want my daughters to emerge from their first college party wasted, or worse. They need to learn the effects of alcohol in a safe environment, so we’ll teach them to drink at home. We’re starting with small sips, but I fully expect them to get drunk for the first time at home. (When they’re 18, straight-A students, and in nice, chaste relationships with the sweet Jewish boy or girl who sits next to them in history class, of course.)

So far it’s going well, but after Frieda’s reaction the other night, I must confess that I’m a bit nervous about Passover and theĀ  traditional four cups of wine at the seder…

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

10 Responses to Friday Night: A Little Wine for a Little Girl

  1. I am a (Jewish) philosopher with a five year old girl. Your blog inspired me to write a response in my own blog. I hope you enjoy it, and I would love your feedback:

  2. Bobbi says:

    I just posted a comment re giving wine to children on Shabbat. Mine is the only comment that states it is awaiting moderation. Is it not politically correct to express ones feelings, as others have done, when criticising a parents behavior as being potentially harmful to their children and others? I resent that you feel my words have to be moderated. As a pediatric nurse practitioner my advice to any parent would be the same – do not condone or encourage the use of alcohol, even under the guise of it being part of a religious practice. Any professional dealing with children would say the same. I am also certain that if you ask Rabbis,,the majority who are responsible would say alcohol is not for children. Growing up in an observing home, at all holidays, at any family members home, we sat at the children’s table and had our grape juice for the blessings. We learned that being part of the observance was important, and by the time we came of age, and could have had our Mannishevitz, it wasn’t important. None of us grew up to be “shikas” and our parents didn’t have to worry about “seeing what we were like when we were really drunk”.
    So, therefore, if your editors are responsible, you will publish my Opinion without moderation so that I and my groups of friends can continue to receive what we have felt so far is a valuable website and newsletter,

    • Deborah Kolben says:

      Bobbi, Kveller moderates all comments. That means that a comment won’t be posted until an editor has a chance to read it. We do this to weed out spam and offensive postings.

    • Amy says:

      Bobbi,”shiksa” is a somewhat derogatory name for a non-Jewish woman. Being drunk is called “shicker”.

  3. Bobbi says:

    In this day of instant gratification and lack of self control, parents like you are sadly fostering this type of behavior. Children are not little people. They are
    children who have to mature through a process of development to reach that step. As children, they cannot and should not partake of behaviors that are reserved for adults. This is why we have laws — to protect children who are
    not mature enough to use proper frontal lobe judgement and make their own decisions. Alcohol consumption is one of these laws. Why are you afraid to explain to your children that wine is an adult drink and cannot be given to children, and give them grape juice instead. Better still why don’t you just
    explain the dangers of alcohol and set the example by all of you drinking grape juice. You are rationalizing by your false reasoning as many parents do today – take the easy way out instead of setting behavior limits, establish moral, ethical and value codes and following through to assure that they are followed. Jewish tradition is to set the example and let our children know what behavior is expected of them. Where will you go next year and a year after. Will sips lead to glasses as they will understandably expect? Next will you let them get a “taste” of sex with you so that they “learn the effects of it at home”. Perhaps we have the problem with college students and dangerous drinking due to college counselors as you say you are giving them dangerous advice and supervision.

  4. Marie says:

    I can’t believe you would give alcohol to a child. I know too many families that allowed their children to drink at home and they are now alcoholics. If alcoholism runs in the family you are playing with fire.

  5. Hope says:

    Great article! Funny, though, we decided not to introduce wine on Shabbat (or any other time) because we have been touched (actually, abused) from the actions of alcoholics. We pray everyday that our children will have the wisdom to stay away from or be very aware of the dangers of drinking. Small sips can turn into complete fifths! It’s very scary to be genetically related to addicts of any kind. I realize there is no one right way to do it. Education is key.

  6. Anna says:

    My Grandfather gave my sister a touch too much wine when she was 3 years old. I was 6. I remember my sister running around the house, laughing crazily, and then collapsing asleep. Shockingly, I wasn’t thrilled when my dad offered to carry down the tradition with my daughter. :)

  7. Josette says:

    Absolutely! We give sips on wine on fingertips too. Every Friday our four-year-old asks for his own small cup of wine but then says he’d rather drink his grape juice. :)

  8. lisa says:

    Sounds like a smart approach, Carla. And I love how you cultivate rituals in your family. But you deserve a special shout-out for your openly imagining your girls in “nice chaste relationships with the sweet Jewish boy or girl who sits next to them in history class.” The girls are lucky and blessed to have a mom like you (and not just cuz of the wine!)


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