Friday, 9 November 2007

Parenting tips for beer obsessives

Today is a momentous day. It's the day I start working through my list.

I'm glad I came up with the idea. It means I don't have to worry about thinking up themes or titles for a few weeks. After five months and 177 posts, all the inspirational fluid has been drained from my brain. Of course, the problem has just been displaced. I still have to think up the words to fit the title.

Let's start with an easy one: parenting tips for beer obsessives. I like to think that I have a gtreat deal of useful personal experience in this area.

  1. Catch them young. I started taking my kids to the pub before they could walk. That wasn't too bad. The trouble started when they could walk. Andrew had a habit of running off down Gravenstraat when I took him to Cafe Belgique. At first, it freaked me out. Would he disappear into the crowds? I used to chase after him down the street, until I realised that was what he wanted. Then I just used to let him run. He always came back eventually. As he became older and lazier, gave it up.

    At 9 and 11 my kids are completely used to pubs. And beer festivals. I don't have to drag them along any more - they come willingly. Sometimes they are even keener than me. "Can we go to the pub please, dad?" What more beautiful sentence is there in the English language? It makes all the initial effort seem so worthwhile.

  2. Buy them food. Food is a great way of bribing kids. It's even more effective than money. Something that takes a while to eat is best. They longer they're chomping away, the more time you get to drink undisturbed. Germany is good. The Brauhauser of Cologne and Dusseldorf always have chips and sausages. Amsterdam pubs don't offer much in the way of food, but there's always a bakery close by stuffed with doughnuts and eclairs. As are the kids after an hour or two.

  3. Talk to them. Not paying attention to your kids in the pub is just asking for trouble. That's why I usually don't meet with anyone else while they're along. When they realise that the pub is a good place to get quality dad time without him being distracted by his computer, they get much enthusiastic about pub visits.

  4. Go to the toyshop first. It gives them something to fiddle with while you sneakily order a jenever to complement your beer. Though lego is unsuitable. I know. I've been down on my hands and knees searching for an errant piece amongst the fag ends.

  5. Let them try your beer. Kids don't like the taste of beer, so they'll soon give up asking. Well, all kids except Alexei. He got a real taste for Tripel Karmeliet when he was a toddler. Though I never let him drink more than half a glass. I have a 50 euro bet with Andrew that he'll drink a whole glass of beer before his 18th birthday. We both think that we're onto a sure thing.

  6. Teach them how to play spoof. It's a great way of keeping them entertained that costs nothing and needs no special equipment. It doesn't interfere with your drinking much, either.

  7. Drink strong beer. Then you don't have to spend as long getting to the point where you don't care what they do. Or go in for two fisted drinking - strong beer plus jenever. That gets you to the don't care zone quicker than you can say "kidnapped toddler".

  8. Don't live in Britain. Trying to work out which pubs in Britain allow kids is a nightmare. The majority don't. Thankfully, I live on the Continent and can take my kids along to any pub.

As you can see, I've managed to seamlessly combine beer drinking and responsible parenting. "I'd rather drink a beer than be father of the year." That's my motto.


Boak said...

Great post. Great idea with the list too. They´ve just started showing "Llamáme Earl" in Spain.

Stonch said...

One of the best yet.

I was lucky enough to be taken to the pub when I was young. My dad was a folk singer and used to take the family to festivals in towns and villages across Southern Scotland and the North East of England. He always used to be buy me some kind of toy I'd happily play with as he waited his turn to sing and got gradually smashed. Like me he's a happy drunk so seeing him in a state - a rare occurrence - was always a pleasure.

Knut Albert said...

I know I have mumbled about kids in pubs recently, but this was a great post. I take my sons along to pubs and bars when we are abroad, and I even have a few extra points:

-Take tham one at a time. One may hope for some tolerance from the locals when you bring one well behaved child along, but two siblings fighting does not belong in a pub.

-Pick a place with a beer garden, a terrace or some green areas around to play on. It is not always an option, but when you can choose, I would opt for outdoors drinking with the kids along. Then they can mess with ice cream without you worrying as well.

-A place with good snacks is always great. My oldest loves to go with me to tapas bars. He orders ice tea, I have whatever beer available and then we tuck into cured ham, cheese and whatever.

-Make sure they get a soft drink with ice cubes, a slice of lemon, a fancy straw, an umbrella and everything else that can make it an event.

-Colouring books are great

-Book holiday hotels with good pubs in the immediate neighbourhood. Makes it easy to pop in for a beer on your way in or out, with or without the kids.

-Make sure you have some family meals in places with a good selection of beers if possible.

-As you say, it is a matter of staring early. When I enter a new cafe, restaurant or bar with my kids, they will point at the bottles on display, hoping they have found a new scoop for me.

Brendan said...

A great post, entertaining as usual. I actually had my daughter with me last afternoon as I grabbed a pub lunch. She's too young to run about, but she still managed to charm the staff and patrons.

mhaugan said...

In the SW part of the states, I go for places that have tortilla chips. My daughter can eat her weight in tortilla chips and I can sit and drink in peace. I have also worked hard at introducing her to all forms of American sports, and she can find herself at least somewhat entertained by that as well.

Ron Pattinson said...

mhaugan, my kids love tortilla chips, too. They always ask for them in De Beiaard.

Unfortunately, the pubs I go in mostly don't have TVs. No chance of s sport distraction. But a good suggestion.

Ron Pattinson said...

stonch, I hope I'm giving my kids dad memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I never got to go to the pub with my dad.

Ron Pattinson said...

knut, I recognise the voice of experience. Very good advice.

It's a sign of my dedication to training my kids that I'm now able to take both along to the pub. Even whole day events like Bruxellensis (top-rated festival by my kids - they loved the food).

Andy said...

Great blog Ron!

I have expanded the idea to cover my wife as well. The arguement runs something like this:

A brewpub (we can argue about the definition of a brewpub later) is a great place for us to have lunch as a family on the grounds that anyone who goes to the trouble of bewing their own beer is likely to do everything else well as well (ie food, location, etc.).

My wife now argees with this principle and will usually have a beer as well.

I have also been training my daughter in beer appreciation. Luckily in England we have some good milds and I don't think a sip of a beer at under 4 percent will do her any harm. Now she asks when I have a beer "Daddy is it strong beer?" If I say yes she doesn't ask to taste.

Now the trouble with allowing her to taste beer is getting it back again!

Loren said...

Oh this was priceless. Very nice. As a father of two boys, 3 and 5, this really hits home and made me nearly spit coffee out all over my computer.

Thanks for the great blog Ron. Now, can you please leave the BJCP alone. Thanks.


Ron Pattinson said...

Loren, I'm surprised how many fellow parents there are out there. Or maybe it's just me who bangs on about them.

sapphie said...

Excellent post Ron. My two were going to beerfests and pubs in their pushchairs. If we were at a pub and they started fussing, acting up etc. we left. I love seeing kids in pubs being taught about responsible drinking, but not left to run around and cause havoc.
My kids are now 16 and 14, and it's great to hear those words 'Are we going to The Gfove tonight mum?' They both have Nintendo DS's and headphones and that keeps them quiet, although taking homework down is fun too!!
In Huddersfield there are about 4 or 5 real ale pubs that we can go in, and it's a real treat for my son of 16 to be taken on a 'pub crawl', he drinks lemonade, eats crisps til they come out of his ears, and helps me on the quiz machines.

Lew Bryson said...

I've got two myself, 13 and 16 now, but they've been going to pubs and brewpubs with me since they I think Thomas, the elder one, was in a brewpub when he was 8 months old. I know we took my nephew to one when he was about 6 months old (which means my wife would have been...three months pregnant with Thomas). Mine always read books or drew, still do: give them a sketchbook, pencils, and tortilla chips or pretzels, and they're happy for hours, even now. We did the handheld games for a while, but they got broken, one got lost, and were never replaced...and don't seem to be missed.

And dad has another half-liter of pils, thanks. Going to be time for Thomas to have some soon.