I’m pretty sure alcohol makes me a better father between the hours of 6pm and 8pm
I texted this to a blogger friend of mine the other day. His response was so good that it deserves repeating here: “The ‘creature’ has the capacity to make presence ultimately valuable, quieting our peripheral cares and interest in conventions for just a while. To wit, spilled milk isn’t nearly as big a deal after spilled bourbon,” he continued, “And it increases our willingness to involve ourselves with folly, something that children naturally love. If it takes a nip to cajole our minds into enjoying—even sharing in—the foolishness of child’s play, is that not a proper use?”
Proper use indeed!
I grew up around many “improper uses” that usually included some form of neglect or abuse. My mother and various step-father-like-figures never quite grasped the proper uses of alcohol. For my mother alcohol was all about repression and escape from emotional pain. Any contact with alcohol for her literally never ended well. With some of her boyfriends it very often ended in violence.
I don’t know exactly why it is but alcohol has never been a tool of destruction for me. Maybe it’s because I had my first beer at age 34 (at the Guinness factory in Dublin no less, not to brag or anything) and never developed a habit of using it to be a jerk, like so many after first experimenting as teenagers. Maybe it’s because I’m genetically immune to alcoholism thanks to my fathers genes. Or maybe it’s because I’ve never used it as a coping mechanism for pain.
Whatever the reason, me and alcohol make a pretty good match between the hours of 6pm and 8pm. This is the time frame when my 3 year old twins go completely bonkers, like liquored up squirrels, like they’re on meth—literally, like they are congregating on the side of the house and smoking meth just before bedtime every night. One beer, preferably a Belgian quad or a good stout, and 6pm to 8pm is not only endurable but enjoyable!
Their goofiness is no match for me after a stout. They wanna pull their shirts over their heads and refuse to get dressed for bed; they wanna skip in circles yelling their favorite TV show theme song at the top of their lungs while my 6 month old is sleeping in the next room; they wanna run into me full force and fall on the floor howling in laughter, fine, but they know they are in for a tickle attack that will leave them breathless and in armpit and side pains for hours.
Without alcohol this is not possible; there is no tickling. I’m so uptight at the end of the day and up to my neck in worry about the coming day and all that I have to get done with the little amount of time I have between when they go to bed and when I pass out from exhaustion that even the slightest delay in getting to bed on time sends me into a fit: “Be quite your sister is sleeping!” “Turn around and let me get your pull-ups on, seriously?!” “You put yogurt in your sister’s hair one more time and I’m taking away your trains!” “Stop putting your hands in your butt; let’s go wash your hands—AGAIN!”
None of that.
I know, I know, countless people have grown up with parents who turn alcohol into a weapon and have been scarred for life because it. I grew up like that, I get it. Alcohol was the worst thing that ever happened to my mother and it caused irreparable damage to our family. I’m now 39 and for the first time in my life my mother has been sober for 4 years. I never knew her sober for 4 weeks as a kid and God knows how I wished she never discovered the stuff. But in a weird way I feel like I’m settling the score—slaying the monster by restoring alcohol to its proper place in my life.
Alcohol crashed my childhood, but it’s actually enhancing my own children’s childhood (at least for a couple hours a night). My mother used alcohol to smother her pain, I use it to smother my children with play; my mother used it to escape from reality, I use it to escape from child-made agitation; my mother used it to disappear from me and my sister, I use it stay with my children during the hours that I most want to disappear. It’s a beautiful thing.
Let me end with telling you something you already know. If you have a problem with alcoholism or think you might be prone to it, obviously do not attempt to make this work for you. This article is not an instruction manual on how to be with your kids, it’s just a reflection on my own experience. Alcohol has ruined more than a few families and if you are hardwired for alcoholism you’d better stay as far away from it as possible or it will destroy you too.
Thanks for reading!