Dita De Boni 's Opinion

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Keeping Mum: Everyone's talking teetotal

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When you're a parent you have to pick wine time carefully. Photo / Thinkstock
When you're a parent you have to pick wine time carefully. Photo / Thinkstock

Everyone seems to be talking about being teetotal these days. Between the Hello Sunday Morning campaign, to putting the age limit back up, to walking through the disgusting mess that is drunken revelry on Queen Street of a Saturday night, to even my boss Nicky Park ditching the booze for a while, it's the hot topic of the moment.

My husband abstains, but I like a drink. I don't like heaps - I was never much into benders anyhow - but usually have a single glass of red wine about four evenings a week (less if I have forgotten to pick some up, which also happens sometimes). But I find with young children you have to be super-judicious about when it happens. The best time for the slummy mummy is about 5 o'clock, but it's a bad time for someone in charge of a horde of children. It gives a nice little laid-back buzz for a few minutes but on the wrong days it can sap the energy and turn you into an exhausted heap well before the end of witching hour.

You also have to be careful that you are not going to be called on suddenly to drive a sick child somewhere. I would have thought this was a fairly rare occurrence until this week when, on Monday night, this household had to visit the A&E twice. One child had an asthma attack requiring Redipred.

As soon as she was settled anther - the baby - started howling. Back we trekked to the emergency rooms, to be told he had an ear infection.

I'm far from congratulating myself on my modest alcohol intake, but I do thank my parents for normalising alcohol for me right from a young age where drinking a glass of wine with dinner was nothing special. Even in this scenario there are certain forms of liquor that retain a mystique that a teenager feels the need to uncover, and it would be stupid to claim that all parents serving wine with dinner would mean zero teenage issues with the stuff.

But certainly I feel it should be the job of parents to teach drinking habits. No number of liquor labels, gross tv ads, school ball after-party bans and other legislation can ever possibly do the same job as your parents casually offering you one glass - and implicitly threatening to flay you alive if you made a drunken idiot of yourself.

Perhaps - again - it is getting older and becoming more conservative about things, but I can't help feeling uneasy when I see young children in the presence of people drinking anything more than very lightly. Much of looking after littlies is adequate supervision, and it seems inconceivable to me that you can be doing that when too much liquor is involved. How can people cope with the incredibly early mornings, the vigour and the vim of young children, through the fog of either drunkenness or a hangover?

This applies both to boozy BBQs as well as other scenarios such as this weekend, when I saw a group of young children getting out of a car, and out came an adult male drinking a can of RTD and carrying several more. He wasn't the driver, which was a good start, but I felt a bit uneasy about how things could potentially pan out for the kids. It was only lunchtime. At the least they will be deprived of his company for the day. Hopefully nothing worse.

Perhaps this is a case of 'PC gone mad' too - something people of my age group always fear they suffer from - probably in the 1970s plenty of parents got together for lots of drinks and the kids entertained themselves and everyone's still alive aren't they? Fine? Through much of human history.... etc.

Still, I find raising three children exhausting enough without adding to the strain on my body so perhaps I am just a lightweight, but until the kids really are old enough to fend for themselves it will be a modest glass or two for me. By that time my almost senior-citizen body will probably be too clapped out to have more than half a shandy anyhow.

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Dita De Boni

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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