My husband and I are not big drinkers. My husband mostly abstains because he is convinced every possible health ailment, including hearing loss and freckles, is the direct result of dehydration - and alcohol is dehydrating. I bet the man hasn't had two beers this entire calendar year. I love the occasional glass of wine, but have to counteract my wine allergy with a Benadryl. Or two. So, wine + Benadryl = ...
I'll let you do the math on that one.
Anywho, we don't keep a lot of alcohol lying about the house. If you'd like a festive mixed drink at my house, we'll be forced to open a bottle of whiskey we received as a wedding shower gift 17 years ago. Also, we'd have nothing to mix it with. BYOB, people.
A few years ago, when the girls were about 5 and 7 years old, we were encouraging their increased independence. Little things like fixing their own waffles in the toaster and pouring their own juice out of a little plastic pitcher stored on a reachable shelf in the fridge. They were doing a bang-up job, slapping cereal onto the table and sloshing juice into their glasses like a couple of harried waitresses at a highway diner.
Around this time, my nieces were approaching legal drinking age. Which explains (I hope) why there were lots of questions from my kids about alcohol. "Why can't you drink alcohol before you're 21?" was the favorite query. I answered them as follows:
"First, it's the law. If you are caught drinking before you're 21, you can be arrested and put in jail. Second, if you drink before you're 21, your body isn't ready and you vomit. Usually rather violently. Messy stuff."
Which, if you think about it, is mostly true. How many underage drinkers do you know who practice steady restraint? We were hammering (haha - pun!) this information into their impressionable minds in the hopes that when the girls were a little older (like the ages they are currently approaching), we would have set a firm foundation that alcohol is to be treated with the same respect afforded a sleeping cobra: best left alone, if not feared outright.
On Memorial Day that year, we had a group of friends over for a cookout. It was a lovely day. We milled about, chatting into the evening hours, the kids playing in the backyard doing lovely things like catching fireflies (I can't remember for sure, so let's assume the fireflies thing. It sounds right.) There were hamburgers, and beverages, lots of great conversations and tired kiddos by the end of the night. It was one of those rare occasions we actually had alcoholic beverages on hand and were forcibly feeding them to our guests.
Fast-forward to the next evening. I'm fixing the girls something to drink with their dinner. I pour some juice out of the pitcher front and center in the fridge, only to immediately realize the juice was actually some leftover margarita we'd served the evening before. I said "whoops! That's not apple juice, that's margarita!" and poured the remainder down the sink.
When I turn around, the 7-year-old is doing the silent horror cry. You know the one: face red, shoulders heaving, tears streaming, no sound. "Baby, what's wrong?" I asked.
"Momma, I DRANK THAT MARGARITA THIS MORNING FOR BREAKFAST. I THOUGHT IT WAS JUICE!"
To recap: my second-grade daughter kicked off summer with TEQUILA -- for breakfast.
As you can imagine, I was horror-stricken. Images of my sweet baby stumbling around at 7 a.m. like a height-challenged drunk at a frat party pop into my head. I think I hear sirens, most likely carrying Drug Enforcement Agency officials and Mrs. Hannigan, who will take my children to an orphanage for children whose parents let them consume hard liquor in the morning in lieu of milk and cereal.
"How much did you drink?" I asked, starting to hyperventilate. She was crying like she was coming off a ten-day drunk, so I assumed the worst and prayed she hadn't drunk-dialed her grandmothers before I was even out of bed.
"I took one drink and thought it was rotten, so I poured it down the sink," she replied, dropping her face into her hands and sobbing louder.
"So you only had one sip?"
"Yes ma'am, and it tasted so bad I spit it right out!"
"Oh! Wait, if you didn't really drink any, why are you still crying?"
"Are the police going to arrest me for drinking alcohol before I turn 21??!!" she shrieks.
Now she is genuinely hysterical, a wild look in her eye like she might try to outrun the law if I reach for the phone. I paused for effect, as though considering what path I should take.
"Sweetheart, not this time," I said, giving her a benevolent look. She was quite relieved I wasn't going to have her thrown her in jail. I was able to explain away the "why didn't I vomit?" since she didn't really drink any, but warned her that was awful close. And that I'd make sure I didn't store alcoholic beverages in the same pitchers daddy mixed apple juice in anymore. Ahem.
She remained traumatized for some time, so we'd have to sneak off if we were going to snicker about the situation. The story could only be told in hushed tones. It was a while before she thought it was funny when my sister would call and sing "wasted away again in Margaritaville! Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt!"
So a few weeks ago, when the same child, now 13-years-old, was holding her nose and seeing stars because she'd pummeled herself in the face with a pitcher, I should have probably expected the "what happened?!?" answer:
"I hit myself in the nose because I had to smell the juice to make sure I wasn't about to ACCIDENTALLY SERVE MYSELF A MARGARITA."