It seems like only yesterday that I was having arguments with my girls about orange juice. No, they couldn’t have orange juice on demand, at any moment of the day or night, I used to tell them. My position was that it was bad for their teeth and water is the best drink anyway when you’re dying of thirst, which of course they always were. Yes, they could have it with meals, but not in between. It doesn’t sound draconian – unless you listened to the girls, who strongly believed they were being held in conditions which would make Sparta look like a luxury spa. Every now and then, my outpost would come under even more rabid attack than usual, when the girls returned from playdates with friends, who all seemed to have fountains running with freshly-squeezed juices or swimming pools full of, yikes, Fanta.
How I miss those battles now. We are just entering the much more complicated arena of alcohol. I know that some parents of girls Child One’s age now buy their children alcohol to take to parties. Child One herself has been to parties where there is beer or wine. She’s had the odd sip of wine at the dinner table since she was a small girl, just to taste, usually accompanied by a face scrunched up tight in disgust. I know we are soon going to get to the point where she wants to take a bottle to parties. A large part of me wants to cross this bridge only when I come to it (and even then, I wouldn’t really mind a blindfold) but I know that’s not helpful. I really don’t mind her having the odd drink. I do mind, though, that she will, inevitably, one day, sooner or later, have too much to drink. We’ve all done it, maybe once, maybe often, but it is inevitable, I feel. And the consequences of drunkenness seem so much worse now than when I was that age – date rape drugs, unscrupulous rugby players, even packs of half-dressed girls lurching, stiletto-clad, all over town centres, embarrassing themselves and making our country an international laughing stock.
Alcohol is much more directly marketed at teens now than in my day. Then, if we were lucky, we could afford one of those vast brown plastic bottles of Thunderbird cider – which was absolutely horrible, and did cut down the amount anyone could bear to glug down. Now, you can get alcopops, caffeinated energy drinks with booze added, ready-mixed cocktails in handy cans and even trendy lagers and beers. It just all tastes a lot nicer, and it’s probably cheaper too.
If you’re worried about what to say to your teenager about drinking, pop along to Drinkaware – they have a lot of helpful advice that, with any luck, will keep all our children out of A & E on a Saturday night.
Bring back orange juice, I say.