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Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2002 / 12 Teves, 5763

Michelle Kennedy

Michelle Kennedy
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Consumer Reports

In defense of moderation | My 6-year-old walked in the door after school the other day and pronounced my husband a drug dealer. OK, he didn't really call him a drug dealer, per se, but it was darn close. It went something like this:

"Hi, Mom and Dad," he said.

"Hey Alex," I replied. "How was school? What did you learn?"

Alex took his proclamation stance, the stance he uses when he is about to deliver his speech on every move he made throughout the entire day. I used to dread the proclamation stance, but now that my 10-year-old simply replies "Nothing" in answer to "What did you learn?" I've learned to sit back and enjoy this verbal romp through Alex's day.

"Well, I learned that smoking is very bad for you," he said.

"Good, good," I said. "Yes, it is."

"And I learned that drinking is bad for you and that you shouldn't do drugs."

"Yes, that's very true," I said.

"And I learned that cigarettes and beer and wine are all drugs."

I was a little caught off guard by this one, I must admit.

"Uh, huh ... um ... OK," I said, trying to be encouraging.

"People who do drugs are very bad people," he said.

"Who told you they were bad people?"

"My teacher."

"Um ... OK," I said.

"And you have to watch out for people who sell you drugs, because they are very bad."

I thanked Alex for his sermon and I sent him to the kitchen for a snack.

But something puzzled me. You see, my husband works in a restaurant, where he serves, among other things, beer, wine and liquor. He has also been known to partake of a beer or two on the weekends. I have also been a bartender, helping to support my family on what apparently was my customers' drug use.

In one day's class, my teacher has elevated my husband, in Alex's eyes, to drug user and drug dealer.

Now, let me say that I am generally in support of all of the efforts our school makes to curb the potential temptations of alcohol and drugs of my 6-year-old, but a poster a child made at the school had me quite angry. The poster said, "Don't do drugs." A pretty standard slogan in our nation's elementary schools these days. But the poster was covered with pictures of beer bottles and cigarettes - not joints and hypodermic needles (not that this is an image I'd like a child to create, but...).

By reinforcing that these items are indeed "drugs" to be wary of, teachers put themselves and the children's parents in a dangerous position.

Don't tell me that there aren't more than a few teachers who drink a glass of wine or beer after a long day of chasing kindergartners around a school.

And do I really want my children to think that their grandfather(s) are no better than the guy shooting up under the bridge when they go outside for a smoke?

What about caffeine? Caffeine has been proven as an addictive drug, yet our schools are full of soda machines. And I had more than several teachers who needed a large cup of coffee to get through a day.

Can we not teach our children moderation when it comes to things that we ourselves are often caught doing? I'd rather make the effort to say that drinking and smoking are not great for you and they are illegal until you get to 18 or 21 rather than rank those of us who like a glass of wine up there with the folks who have a meth lab in their basement.

And don't tell me that the kids will know the difference, because they won't. Certainly not at the age of 6. They are literal. Very literal. And when told that their parents are taking their lives into their hands at Thanksgiving dinner, it leaves some very troubled children, adamant that I please not endanger my life with that glass of champagne.

So, where does that leave me? Thinking twice certainly about drinking that glass of wine in front of the children, but strongly considering taking a long bath where I can hide it from them. Hmmm ... drinking in the bathroom ... sounds like something I might have done when I was 15.

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JWR contributor Michelle Kennedy, who reads and responds to all of her mail, is a reporter and columnist for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Michelle Kennedy