Beer and Babies: Raising Kids in a Beer Loving Home
Five years ago we became parents, and soon after we became home-brewers. Our kids have only really known their dad as a home-brewer and us as beer lovers. They have attended beer festivals, toured many breweries, and joined us for happy hour at the local taproom so often our oldest even requested to have his fourth birthday party at "the beer place."
Some frown at us, shaking their head, irritated that we would dare to raise our kids among -- *gasp* -- alcohol. Oh no, not that! Or perhaps they're just annoyed that we bring our kids to pubs and taprooms all over the country. Regardless of the reason behind the stinkeye, the point remains -- people often don't understand, or may downright disagree with, our decision to raise our kids around brewing and beer. However, there are several lessons we can teach our kids by doing just that.
1. Patience, Patience, Patience
Home brewing hones our patience. It takes time to brew, and then to ferment, and then to age. The process teaches us to wait, and to wait patiently. Rush through any part of the brewing process, and the beer doesn't turn out. Rush to taste it, and you'll find yourself with a glass of flat "meh". This also teaches them life involves less-than-fun, but still vastly important, tasks -- I mean, really, I know few (if any) brewers who think the sanitization process is the highlight of brewing.
2. Less Touching, More Listening
Certainly there are ample opportunities in parenting to teach our kids about the importance of listening -- cooking, cleaning, going out in public. Brewing is no exception. There are hot burners to not touch, chemical solutions to keep away from, and boiling wort to avoid. Kids love to help with brewing, but they must learn to listen carefully to instructions, lest they touch something they shouldn't or sneeze into the brew. Ew.
Even if you aren't brewing, having kids at brewpubs and taprooms helps them learn not to touch mom and dad's pints.
3. Messes Happen, Clean Up and Move On
All parents know messes happen, and any parent who also brews or takes kids to pubs knows this all too well. Whether you've had an airlock pop off the carboy -- spraying beer all over the walls and ceiling -- or you've just had tasters spill across the table at the pub, you have probably cleaned up your share of beer. What does this teach kids? Messes happen. We don't get angry (or we try not to). We don't throw tantrums (though we might want to). We simply clean it up. We apologize if needed (especially if it involved broken glasses at a pub or taproom). And we move on.
We all make mistakes. This is when we can teach our kids how to handle these appropriately, so the next time their lego creation topples over, or the train tracks don't cooperate, or their little sister screws up their drawing, we can point them to that time our wort spilled and we (hopefully) handled it well.
4. Restraint... and when needed, Repentance
As Christians we aren't to venture into the realm of pietism, as if alcohol (among other things) are in themselves evil. Even God's good gifts can become corrupted by our sin - and they often are - but this is where Christian freedom is key. God did not make alcohol to be evil or sinful in itself, but our abuse, misuse and obsession with alcohol is where that sin and evil comes to play. Raising our kids in a home where alcohol is enjoyed, but never to excess, teaches them it can be consumed with restraint. We show them that a pint or two doesn't mean drunkenness and that a bottle here and there doesn't lead to debauchery.
But we may still make mistakes. We are not perfect, and just as with every other sin, we may stumble and have a bit too much. When and if this happens, we have the opportunity to explain to our children the need for repentance, that our errors and our slip-ups do not separate us from Jesus, but that He forgives us all the same.
Obviously these lessons can be learned without beer or brewing, and by no means should everyone raise their kids around alcohol. Whether one wrestles with alcoholism or simply doesn't like to drink, there is no reason the above lessons can't be taught in other ways. Just remember, though, the next time you see a home brewer posting pictures of their kids helping stir the wort, or you see parents sharing the latest from their family trip to the beer festival, try to keep the eye-rolling and criticism to a minimum.
Because beer and babies isn't always a bad combination.