Last Christmas, I got very drunk at a family party. I don't remember leaving my sister's house, but I do remember telling my husband to pull the car over so I could throw up. I've been that drunk before, although not for a while, but the difference this time was that my two sons were in the back of the car.
The next morning, I was surprised by the lack of a hangover (the adrenaline from the hotel fire alarm going off at 3am seemed to have sorted that right out), but I felt guilty that the boys had seen me in such a state. My guilt was compounded when, back at home the next day, three-year-old Joe asked, "Are you still sick, Mama? From the wine?"
According to new research from alcohol education charity Drinkaware, nearly half of 10-14-year-olds have seen their parents drunk. The charity has launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the issues around children and alcohol, and is encouraging parents to consider the impact their drinking has on their children, as evidence shows what children see and what they are told are both influential in shaping their understanding of 'normal' or acceptable drinking behaviour.
While my children are much younger than those surveyed - they were three and eight when the above took place - I did talk to them about how it wasn't a good idea to get as drunk as I had.
They weren't upset, they seemed intrigued more than anything, and (understandably) confused about why an adult would do such a thing to themselves.
It has definitely stuck in their minds though - every time we go to visit my sister they point out the spot where I vomited - but I still drink in front of them and will continue to do so.
I hope that the boys will see alcohol as something that's fine in moderation, but something you don't want to take to extremes.
For years, mum of five, Melissa MacFarlane, didn't drink at all in front of her children. "I came from two parents who were serious alcoholics and used to hate seeing them drunk," she says. "Sometimes my dad would have finished off a 3 litre bottle of cider before I'd even set off to school and it has had such an effect on my experience of my teenage years.
"However, I soon began to realise that by avoiding alcohol completely on front of the children I wasn't able to show them that it can be consumed sensibly and that it is possible to drink responsibly. I will have a glass of wine at home with the kids now but won't allow myself to get drunk. I'm glad that I have relaxed about the situation and feel that it will benefit them in the long term."
There's a big difference, of course, between social and dangerous drinking. If I was regularly drinking myself insensible in front of the children, that would be an entirely different matter, but I don't see an issue with having the odd drink of an evening or getting tipsy on occasion.
"I actually want my kids to grow up feeling comfortable being able to drink with us," Vivienne Dacosta says. "My parents were very anti drink, so I learnt to drink behind their backs which normally ended up with me being very sick. So my kids see us drink, but I try not to get too drunk."
Mum of two, Marnie Riches agrees. She says, "I never feel embarrassed to drink in front of my children and I have a small glass of wine or a G&T almost every day, usually with my meal or after they've gone to bed.
"But I've never been properly drunk in front of them, they've only seen me merry, which is fine. Stigmatising the idea of an adult drinking in moderation is not on my agenda."
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my parents and other family members "merry" - I liked seeing them relaxed, having fun and being silly. It was good to know they weren't always responsible, they could let themselves go.
I remember getting up to go to the bathroom one night and finding my mum asleep on the floor, her arms around the loo. I was baffled at the time, but I think about it whenever I've overindulged and it makes me smile.
I have children, but I'm still an adult, capable of making my own decisions and (usually) knowing when I've had enough. I do take into consideration being safe around the children - my husband and I rarely drink more than a glass of wine each in the evening, in case we're called upon to drive during the night, but other than that, I'm happy with the example I'm setting.
But I'll definitely be taking it much easier this Christmas.
What do you think about drinking in front of your children?
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