Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My 2 Year Old Thinks About Wine too Much

My oldest daughter is 2 years, 4 months old. She's a precocious little one with plenty of her own ideas. I never thought that I would ask this question, but is it possible that she's getting too much exposure to wine?

Why do I ask?

Earlier this week I was holding a glass of sparkling wine and talking to my wife who had just gotten home from work. My daughter had been playing by herself in the living room, but then walked over to me and said "What are you doing Daddy?"

"Drinking a glass of wine with Mommy," I replied.

"No Daddy, that's Champagne," she said.

Hah, that's cute, isn't it, that my 2 year old knows the difference between still and sparkling wine. We decided simply to laugh it off and enjoy her bright little mind.

And then tonight, as I was snuggling her during her bedtime ritual, she was drinking from her water bottle. She looked at me and said "This is my wine Daddy."

I just smiled at her and didn't pursue it, but wow - that's a lot of wine in the mind for a 2 year old, isn't it? Should I be worried about this?


Vinogirl said...

No, my 22 month old niece, in her cute little girl voice, "swirls, sniffs and tastes" her wine (watered down black currant juice) from her own plastic wine's wine education. Hopefully she will grow up to be a viticulturalist like her auntie.

gretchen said...

I think it. is only a problem when the two year old knows the difference between Champagne and Prosecco

ned said...

Be honest, respect their intelligence. Your example will be the key. Wine is an adult beverage that is part of enjoyment of good food. Of course an expressed curiosity would allow for a taste in the appropriate circumstances.

wineshlub said...

BG, this is possibly the only area where I'm actually in a position to give you advice. My children are both grown, one is a college graduate, the other is in her Junior year in college. This is a subject I wrestled with as they were growing up. I ended up being relatively open about it, and my kids were exposed to wine at a relatively young age. It's a small data sample, but in my case it looks like the results turned out okay.

Let's start with the basics. You have a choice: Either you can teach your children about how to enjoy alcohol, or you can leave the job to their (yes) Middle School and High School classmates. I think the choice there is obvious. Furthermore, what matters more than what you tell your kids is the example you set. If they see you drinking responsibly, enjoying wine as a food to be consumed with food, that goes a long way.

In my case, I let my kids take small tastes of wine at the dinner table at a relatively young age (say 10 or 11). As they got older, I educated them about what you should look for in wine. I stressed the importance of never, ever, getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking (or riding with anyone else who has). And while I was open and relaxed about wine at the family dinner table, I was very strict in other contexts. Other people's kids were never allowed to drink at our house. Parties with alcohol were out of the question. (I hope both of these things sound obvious, but to a frightening number of parents they are not.)

Unlike their father, who would never have done such a thing at their age ;), I'm sure both my kids were drinking in social situations in high school. I didn't like that, and if they had ever gotten caught there would have been hell to pay, but you can only control what you can control. The boundaries were clear.

In any event, I believe both of my kids have grown into responsible drinkers who know the rights and wrongs of alcohol. One of those moments that made me think I might have done something right occurred recently when my daughter told me she didn't really enjoy drinking without food. Ultimately, each kid is different and each family is different. For example, the way I raised my kids would probably be a huge mistake if there was a history of alcoholism in the family. You have to find your own way, stick to your values, and trust your judgment. But running away from the subject and hiding it from them is a huge mistake in the long run, IMO.

Anonymous said...

As long as she is only stealing your everyday bottles. I'd start worrying when your Lopez de Heredia and Selosse starts going missing.

Weston said...

some wine in a wine glass topped off with water, its very european isn't it? and Im sure it would actually build their palate, then when they are old enough you can relax and never order wine off a wine list again ahh the peace of mind hah

Peter Liem said...

I agree with wineshlub that teaching children about drinking (as opposed to letting them find out about it themselves, like most of us did) encourages responsible drinking. And yes, it's wine, that you drink in moderation with meals and that you engage in a larger social, cultural and intellectual context beyond just getting plastered, and she'll pick up on that.

Two stories: one of my Portland friends, much like wineshlub, encouraged his two young daughters to taste small sips of wine and to understand that it was a responsible adult thing that they would eventually learn more about. One of them has embraced it—she has her own special little glass, she swirls, sniffs, comments on aroma and flavor. (I have an indelibly-etched memory of her when she was maybe 9, taking tiny sips of Krug in between laps around the backyard on her bike. Perhaps we do need to talk more about drinking and driving.) Her slightly older sister, after a few years of tasting, decided for herself that she wasn't going to taste anymore right now. She understands what it is and is often inquisitive about it, but has simply decided that it's not her thing for the moment. Kids will do what they want.

Second story: when I was a stagière at the Domaine de l'Arlot, we would have blind tastings every night at dinner, involving phenomenal wines from around the world. Jean-Pierre de Smet's daughter Pauline, who was 12 at the time, participated along with everyone else, and she often had extremely keen comments—her guesses on grape varieties and regions were generally right up there with people three or four times her age. Wine was something that she had learned about in a larger context as she was growing up. It wasn't just all about alcohol, as we too often treat it in America. The context is valuable.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about it. You sound like a reasonable Dad. When we go out to dinner and the waiter comes to the table for drink orders my 4 year old immediately says "I'll have a coke and my mom would have wine please."

Anonymous said...

I don't think you should be worried about that. Growing up with a French mother I was surrounded by wine and even began drinking small glasses of it at a young age - this was only in France mind you, at about age eleven.

Being exposed to wine then, and seeing it as such a normal part of most meals, honestly made me the normal, healthy drinker I am today.

I NEVER got into the whole binge drinking, key party thing in high school or college. It just never interested me. Because in France we didn't sneak around to drink. A bottle of wine was as normal for me to see on the dinner table as salt and pepper. The forbidden fruit factor was nonexistent.

I think we'd have less problems with underage binge drinking in this country in particular if more people grew up the way I did around wine.

I think your daughter will probably turn out the same. A healthy, respectful wine drinker.

Keep up the good work.

peter said...

My son gets either finger dips or tiny sips from whatever we're drinking. He's almost 5. I think it's fine, and as others have said, context is all. He helps me cook, garden, etc. so it's all of a piece.

Either that, or we're both terrible, terrible Fathers.

Brooklynguy said...

Wow - thank you for these insightful and thought provoking comments. Some of you have never commented here before, and it's really nice to hear from new voices too.

My wife and I are firmly in the "teach through example and talk to your kids openly" camp, so i'm not all that worried, really. i think my kids will grow up appreciating food and wine, and hopefully will be good decision makers about alcohol and other dangers.

I was just thinking that 2 is kind of young for this kind of talk - all they can really do is imitate parents. perhaps i was therefore more worried about myself.

Asher said...

One ugly downside is that in a divorce context, this could all be used against the parent. I've seen matrimonial lawyers attempt to gain leverage by twisting facts and portraying an oenophile as an alcoholic, exposing the child to alcohol, and unfit to parent.