Thursday, October 30, 2008

Can Sips at Home Prevent Binges?

Published: March 26, 2008
New York Times

PARENTS always want to share their passions with their children. Whether you’re a fan of baseball or the blues, sailing or tinkering with old cars, few things are as rewarding as seeing a spark of receptivity in the eyes of the next generation.

It usually doesn’t take. Most of the time kids — teenagers, anyway — would as soon snicker at their old man’s obsessions as indulge him. Even so, I can’t help hoping that my sons might share my taste in music and food, books and movies, ball teams and politics. Why should wine be any different?

It’s the alcohol, of course, which makes wine not just tricky but potentially hazardous. Nonetheless, I would like to teach my sons — 16 and 17 — that wine is a wonderful part of a meal. I want to teach them to enjoy it while also drumming it into them that when abused, wine, like any other alcoholic beverage, can be a grave danger.

As they were growing up I occasionally gave them tastes from my glass — an unusual wine, perhaps, or a taste of Champagne on New Year’s Eve. They’ve had sips at Seders and they see wine nightly at our dinner table. With both boys now in high school, I thought it was time to offer them the option of small tastes at dinner.

In European wine regions, a new parent might dip a finger in the local pride and wipe it lovingly across an infant’s lips — “just to give the taste.” A child at the family table might have a spoonful of wine added to the water, because it says, “You are one of us.” A teenager might have a small glass of wine, introducing an adult pleasure in a safe and supervised manner. This is how I imagined it in my house.

But about a year ago, my wife attended a gathering on the Upper East Side sponsored by several high schools addressing the topic of teenagers and alcohol.

The highly charged discussion centered on the real dangers of binge drinking and peer pressure, of brain damage and parental over-permissiveness, and of the law.

One authority disparaged the European model, saying that teenage drinking in Europe —never mind which part — is much worse than it is in the United States. The underlying message was that nothing good comes from mixing alcohol and teenagers.

My wife was shaken. We agreed to hold off on the tasting plan. But I decided to try to get some answers myself.

Click here to continue reading article at New York Times

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