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.
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 the traditional four cups of wine at the seder…