It is my daughter Hannah’s 18th birthday today. We took her to lunch at The Hummingbird, Courtenay Place, Wellington, an award winning restaurant/cafe. The Hummingbird certainly has ambiance and it doesn’t need a jazz band for that. Being Monday, the first day of the school hols, there was no band. But the warm atmosphere, good menu and service certainly made a special day, one to remember.
My wife, Linda, suggested we bought a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. Catriona (14) had a ginger beer, which was her choice and Hannah got her first legal sips from a fine bottle of Morton Estate. She took two hours to sip her glass with the meal. There was no fuss. And she didn’t treat it as something-specially-over-the-top for she’d tasted sips at home from her mother’s wine glass from time to time over the years and sips from my cider glass (I don’t drink beer – gives me headaches).
Neither did Catriona feel that she was left out of it, though she didn’t get her usual sip, being in a restaurant would have made that illegal anyway and the proprietors would have been within their rights to throw us out on the street.
I couldn’t help but admire the mature attitude of our newly 18-year-old, while at the same time feeling some concern for the younger generation of New Zealand over matters of consumption of alcohol and moderation.
New Zealand has a youth-alcohol problem. It’s not helped by the rugby-beer-swilling culture that's so prevalent in that country, and it's exacerbated by a recent return to 18 from 20 as the legal drinking age.
As a parent and a teacher, should I feel guilty about introducing my daughter to the demon drink? Shouldn’t my wife and I have known better than to publicly allow Hannah to booze unashamedly in a restaurant? Shouldn’t I be extolling the virtues of abstinence in the face of a growing youth-alcohol problem in New Zealand?