Thursday, January 10, 2008

Warm Beer and Cold Pizza for Breakfast

...a third of the mothers
and half of the fathers
whose children have sipped alcohol
are not aware of it.

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about today. I'm wondering about young children's experiences with alcohol.

And I'm remembering so many mornings rushing to beat my brothers to the leftover cold pizza crusts and cans with warm beer left in them. I can't say for sure when we started that, but my earliest memories put me about 7 or 8, which would have made them 5 1/2- 61/2 and 4-5. Mom and Dad worked swing shift (4-12). Then they "closed" the bar and brought home pizza and beer. They sat at the table smoking, eating, drinking and arguing until they staggered off to bed. Whatever they left on the table was fair dibs for breakfast for the first kid there.

Sometimes that was only a sip in every can. Other times a lot. And sometimes it meant a nasty surprise of a mouthful of soggy tobacco if one of them dropped a cigarette butt in it. The pizza leftovers usually had cigarette butts crushed out on them, too, but at least we could see and eat around them. We sipped from beer cans any time they were open and available...which was most of the time. They gave us sips. Their friends gave us sips. On Saturdays and Sundays when they took us with them to the bar, even strangers gave us sips, along with the chips...and ocassional slobbery kiss.

We started smoking around that time, too. First we just lit the crushed out Raleigh butts and puffed on them. But Mom and Dad each smoked two packs a day so when leaving the house they often took new packs them. That left packs lying around with just a couple in each, there for the easy taking. Eventually smoking more meant taking new packs which got us in trouble, but my brother figured out if we took two packs at a time and moved the others forward, they didn't notice.

In our house, beer was the preferred drink, but hard alcohol was there, too, for running out of beer. It also served as a useful way to make us sleep when cranky, soothe painful gums when teething, treat cuts, numb sore throats, and later treat the many toothaches resulting from poor dental hygiene and lack of dental care. Most of all, alcohol was simply a way of life.

Sadly, it turns out our early experiences weren't that unusual. Consider the following recent research:

Children are Introduced to Sipping and Tasting Alcohol in The Home
Findings indicate that the introduction to alcohol occurs long before adolescence, and it is an experience that occurs in the home.

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at Risk for Alcohol Problems
"Two new studies help to confirm that ADHD is a risk factor for alcohol problems; adding that parental alcoholism and stressful experiences in the family play an important role in this risk...for example, 42 percent of those children with ADHD who also had serious, persistent behavior problems [later] had alcohol abuse or dependence by the age of 18 to 25."

Access to Alcohol Among Middle School Children
"The proportion of alcohol users is also disturbing; 17% at the start of the 6th grade and more than twice as many, 41% by the end of the 8th grade. The study reminds parents that they need to consider their positions as role models at the crucial time when their middle school children are likely to have their first serious encounters with alcohol."

Underage Drinking Starts before Adolescence
"...a new study finds that parents and teachers should pay attention to alcohol prevention starting as early as fourth grade."

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

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