Monday 26 September 2016

Parents getting drunk on holiday with kids is an act of selfishness

Published 01/08/2016 | 21:24

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Every time the sun comes out I want to sit down with a glass of chilled white wine or a cold beer.

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I think I'm on holiday. Holidays mean drinking.

What is it about holidays which makes me want to drink?

It marks the end of responsibility, that's what.

Don't ask me for anything, I'm on my holidays.

Life is full of deadlines and worries. Holidays are about getting away from all of that - and drink gets you there fast.

One of the best nights I remember in the West of Ireland was when a friend found a horrible bottle of bubbly plonk in the boot of her car and we drank it quickly.

I cycled home singing all the way.

Where were the children while I was quaffing my plonk? Can't remember. Somewhere else.

That's the problem. You don't get holidays from being a parent.

You're still responsible for them as long as you're with them.

Alcohol Action Ireland says alcohol is a factor in a third of all child deaths.

That doesn't surprise me one bit.

I remember being at a frightfully middle class gathering around a big table weighed down by gallons of wine while a tribe of children minded themselves beside the adjacent river and lake. I couldn't do it. I stayed by the water.

But it was only as I was cleaning dropped pizza off the floor the other night - after throwing down two big glasses of bubbly wine on an empty stomach - that I realised how careless I've got since my kids have got older.

They're at the age they'd take a boat out or go pier jumping in the dark. They're at an age - some of them - that they could start drinking themselves.

How in God's name could you blame them, if the message they get from their parents is that good times mean drinking?

Changing that culture is exactly what Senator Frances Black is talking about as chairwoman of the Oireachtas cross-party group on harmful drinking.

You can have all the "Alcohol Awareness" programmes you like in your schools. It doesn't add up to much if their parents are teaching kids you have to be blotto to be happy.

The saddest part of all is the kids working out that their parents don't want to spend time with them, they just want to escape.

"They just chose alcohol over children," as one child told Alcohol Action Ireland.

That's a bit strong, isn't it? Not really. Not when you start to see yourself from the point of view of someone who is stone-cold sober. In this case, your child.

"They become a different person and have no control over what they do," another child told Alcohol Action Ireland.

Surely that rings a bell with most of us.

Scraping the pizza off the floor under the sullen gaze of my children I had a sudden realisation that I can't get drunk when I'm in charge of the kids even when we're on holidays.

I have a job with no time off.

In fact, getting drunk when I'm on holiday with my kids is one of the most selfish things I could ever do.

Being together is the whole point of the holidays, isn't it?

We want our kids to come on holidays with us as long as possible, don't we?

Even if they go to college, we've promised ourselves we'll try to get away with them every year, even if it's only for a few days.

Do we really think they're going to want to do that if their memories of their parents on holiday are of them getting drunk? There's no nice way of saying this, but one drink a day is enough when you're minding kids.

Savour it, that cold beer or that glass of plonk.

When you're old and grey and your kids don't want you anymore you go can go on an all-inclusive cruise on a slow boat to China and no-one will care.

But right now you have kids and if they're not more important to you than drink then you have a problem.


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