Don’t drink and parent

2010-12-24 00:00

MORE kids end up in hospital, kidnapped, or go missing over the festive season than the rest of the year. And the reason apparently has to do with the increased intake of alcohol among parents during this time of the year. We all know the perils of alcohol abuse — impaired judgment and memory in terms of driving.

It would seem that South Africa is finally getting in line with other countries, like those in Europe for example, with a zero tolerance of drinking and driving. Many more people will be spending Christmas and New Year behind bars due to driving under the influence of alcohol. And so it should be. And what about parenting under the influence?

Surely this is as serious a situation as driving intoxicated? I remember attending a New Year’s party many moons ago when the parents of a little three-year-old were ticking nicely at a party at their own home. They thought it cute to feed the little boy sips of beer as a little party trick. Later on the toddler decided to climb up onto a three-foot wall and do a balancing act. Shortly thereafter he had to be rushed to hospital after deciding to head-butt the concrete floor. Mum and Dad soon discovered a lightning-fast way to sober up, in the process.


Choosing to parent sober

Another more sobering experience which has stuck in my mind ever since I experienced it involved a young couple I knew in my twenties. They had had three young children in quick succession. They were working their butts off to make it in Johannesburg after moving up from Cape Town. I remember them being hard-core party animals in the Cape, always the last ones standing.

My first party at their house was strange. It just felt different. I could not put my finger on it until the next morning when I realised that neither of them had been drinking the previous night. And this continued until all of their children were old enough to survive Mum and Dad in party mode.

I did not understand their decision to quit alcohol during parenting until I became a parent myself. In many ways parenting is a 24-hour-by-the-second job. You need eyes in the back of your head which can rotate 360 degrees at the best of times. And the need to become more observant and to stay focused becomes more acute when the temptation to party on looms large.

No doubt there will be many additions to the statistics of accidental injuries or deaths of toddlers due to alcohol-induced neglect this festive season. I pray that you and yours will not be among those. If you have to party hard and you have a partner, try the buddy system, and take turns to dop. One party for her, the next one for you. Or pay the extra money it costs to get a babysitter. Or if all else fails, try staying sober through a rip-roaring Christmas or New Year’s party. You’ll be surprised at how amusing, scary and downright embarrassing your friends can be when you are the only one sober. —

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