This week my 7 and 10 year old sons got on the booze. They ordered it off a restaurant menu, and just slammed it down. Opened the hatch. Tipped it back.

Like most Kiwi dads I'm not really into my pre-teens getting on the turps. In fact I'd prefer they stay off the beers as long as possible. But sometimes you can't stop it.

Their first time was a simple clerical error at a kid's birthday party. No fault of the boy's parents or the boy. Lovely people.

It wasn't even the fault of waitress who served the drinks. She was just completely unaware limoncello is booze. Next thing you know the kids are on the wees. Luckily they hated it.


"Yuck, Is this medicine?" one of my boys complained. "Gross it's alcohol?" yelled another.

Which raised some alarm bells. How does my 10-year-old know what alcohol tastes like?

Anyway, pretty soon a waiter steamed up the stairs freaking out, grabbing vessels off kids and apologising profusely to all. You can imagine his stress.

These days you'd assume parents would murder a restaurateur for serving booze to their super precious little ones.

Instead we were very understanding. We were cool.

Then out of the blue things escalated. My youngest son hearing the news he had been served alcohol, cracked up laughing and shoved the whole cup in his face.

I guess he thought he'd get stuck in before it was taken away, this being his last chance to taste booze for a decade or so. I had to wrestle the vessel off him. Something my friends have kindly done to me many times over the years.

But no harm done. A couple of sips of low level booze isn't going to hurt anyone. Not as much as the nail my boy stood on the next day anyway. Which I believe is a rite of passage for young Kiwis. It happens to everyone, like chickenpox.


In fact it was a good thing. It meant he couldn't go to footy practice and instead we had time to go to the Wonder Woman premiere. Which is a great film.

My other boy was literally singing the praises of the nail that went through his brother's foot. "I'm so glad that nail went right through Charlie's foot because we can go see Wonder Woman tonight at the movies," he belted out repeatedly to the tune of The Neverending Story theme.

But the kid booze nightmare wasn't over for me. The next day my limping son asked "Dad why aren't kids allowed to drink alcohol?" Which was a harder question to answer than you might think.

"Maybe it's because children act drunk all the time. Running around doing stupid things with no thought of the consequences," I tried. But that wasn't logical and he knew it.

"If we act drunk, why can't we actually be drunk?" he reasoned.

So I came up with "Because your brain is still growing and drinking might damage it". He was wise to that too.

It's our job as parents to set a good example around alcohol. Not to normalise it.

"Does alcohol damage your brain, Dad?"

"Not as much."

"So I can drink heaps when I'm older then?"


"But you do."

"Um ... shut up and eat your ice cream."

So what is the answer? Why aren't kids allowed to drink? We just take it as given that they shouldn't. But what's the science behind it?

When E.T. got on the beers while Elliott was at school. It went pretty well. He saved some frogs from dissection and kissed one of his classmates causing her to lift her leg up like an actress from the 1950s.

But that was of course an alien/human psychic link. Elliott didn't consume the booze directly.

If he had drunk it straight, research suggests the ethanol could have led to low blood sugar and not enough glucose in the juvenile brain could lead to seizures and a coma.

Which is far more likely to happen in children than healthy adults.

So it turns out you're right to keep your kids off the booze. I wish I had known the proper explanation when my son asked. But in the end every action is a lesson.

It's our job as parents to set a good example around alcohol. Not to normalise it.

That's what I plan to do. You need to be honest and open. So crack open a beer and really talk it out with your young ones.