MY Inner puritan didn’t like one of the playgrounds at the new Center Parcs in Longford. (Just so you know, ourselves and the kids got a two-night stay for free, which is a bit of a laugh because I’m about as influential as Theresa May.)
When I saw the play area was next to the pub, I turned to my wife and said, “Handy isn’t it, the mom and dad can get half-cut while the kids run around”, in my best Inner Puritan Voice. Then we sat outside and skulled a bottle of wine while the kids got stuck into a climbing wall.
I like to think I’m easy-going and liberal, but not that deep inside me there’s a DUP-strength puritan, dying to judge parents for the way they raise their children.
He was in the driving seat a few years ago, when it came to drinking in front of the kids. We had this weird notion that if our kids saw us drinking, they’d become alcoholics by the age of seven. There is no proof for this.
The Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research maintains the evidence is largely inconclusive in terms of a link between parental drinking and a child’s alcohol use, according to a report in The Guardian.
My Inner Puritan doesn’t read The Guardian. He’s more of a Daily Mail man. So we’d wait until the kids were asleep on a Friday night before cracking open a bottle of red. I never enjoyed a drink less in my life.
We all know that a child can’t sleep if they think you’re having a good time. The slightest hint of enjoyment on our part and they’ll wake up End-of-Days angry and ruin the whole night. So we’d take these tiny, tentative silent sips of wine, which is a terrible way to try and unwind at the end of another week. I realised something was up when I stopped laughing at the Graham Norton Show.
Before we had kids, Friday night was about a drink or two and laughing at every single thing that someone said on Graham’s red couch. Take those drinks away and it’s just a bunch of multi-millionaires pretending to be human. (Except for Graham, I still laugh away there.)
So I ditched my Inner Puritan, and now we crack open our first Friday drink at 6pm. The kids love it. We dance around with them, we don’t get cross and there is no problem that can’t be solved by showering them with crisps and chocolate. (It’s their Friday night too.)
The bottle might be finished by 8pm. And then we stop, at least for a while.
Here is a thing that drinkers know. The first few are always the best. Any drink after the third one is a lame attempt to recreate the giddy high and warm belly you enjoyed in the first hour. A friend of mine calls it maintenance drinking, the kind of buzz-chasing that will make it seem like there are 450 hours in the following day, kicking off at 6.35am when your kids wake you up to referee a fight over some toy.
I might have another drink when the kids go to bed, or I might not. Either way, there is enough in the tank to get a laugh out of Graham Norton later on.
Back at Center Parcs, we had a nice hour by the playground in the evening sun, bantering away with a few other mildly boozy parents while our kids terrorised each other on the slides.
It was the perfect ending to our action-packed weekend of water-slides, crazy golf, laughing, kayaking and pancake eating.
Like the Norwegian Institute, I don’t really know if our (moderate) drinking will have any impact on my kids. But I’m willing to take a chance they’ll realise there are worse things in life than their parents having a bit of laugh on holidays. Unless my Inner Puritan gene gets passed on and they decide to sue us for being no-good boozers. Kids can be very ungrateful that way.