The time has come for me to choose a career for my eldest child. Like most humans, I realise that each life we bring into the world is really just another chapter in the eternal Groundhog Day of our DNA – we just keep repeating a life until we get it right, and then when we do we presumably ascend to some sort of 2001: A Space Odyssey-style monochromatic Versaille in the sky. Part of this endless loop is ensuring that your kids follow all those paths you didn’t explore, the dreams you never chased, to see if that would have led to the perfect life – that singularity of knowing that your path is the one you were always meant to be on. With our firstborn about to be consumed by the Leaving Cert cycle, the time has come for me to ask myself – which one of my dreams should I force her to live out?
Sadly, while I was busy asking myself whether I would rather her be a graphic designer or playing lead guitar in a grindcore band (or both, she could design the album covers!), she went ahead and chose a load of science subjects for her Leaving Cert, leaving me in no doubt that she didn’t want to follow in my footsteps into the low wages and general depression of a career in the humanities. When I asked her if she was sure she wouldn’t like to work in communications, ‘I’d like to own a house some day’ was her snappy retort. So, despite feeling more than a little rejected – compounded by the fact she openly tells me she doesn’t want to be poor like me – I decided to change lanes and try to find some form of science that both she and I can enjoy. Naturally, I found alcohol.
In the past four months we have visited four distilleries and two breweries, all in the name of science. Some might say that this is terrible parenting – indoctrinating a 16-year-old into a culture of alcohol – but our trips aren’t about drinking, but rather the chemistry of it – how different styles of alcohol are made, why it has the effects it does, how it is marketed and sold, and why it deserves our respect. I drank a lot in my youth, and it’s only in the last ten years that I have actually started to ask – what the hell am I drinking? Where did it come from, what went into it, how does it work? I would like all my kids to ask questions about alcohol rather than adopting the classic few-naggins-be-grand approach of my generation.
Ten years ago I probably thought I would be one of those cool parents who allow their kid to drink at home, thinking it made them more mature and me seem more French, as they shotgun day-glo alcopops in the kitchen before vomiting rainbows in the back garden. Now, I’m not so keen on laissez faire parenting. I know she takes a drink, but I don’t want her doing it right in front of me. In the final confirmation that I have turned into my dad, I am of the mind that it’s my house, and therefore it is my rules. And rules are the most important part of alcohol – creating the stuff is a very precise science, so consuming it should be too.
I accept that she is a teenager and is going to drink with her peers, and don’t want to make it a secretive, hidden thing, but I want her to see that there are rules around it for a reason, even in our home. Whether my slightly oblique approach will work, only time will tell. There is, of course, a cold mercenary aspect to our booze research trips – there are careers out there for people who understand booze – how it is made, how it is marketed, and how it is sold. If she can combine an understanding of alcohol on a chemical level, with an understanding of human nature, then maybe chemistry with a dash of humanities is the recipe for success (provided she extends her staff discount to her dear old boozehound dad). Of course, by the time this goes to print, she will probably have jettisoned the idea of chemistry in favour of training to become a yoga teacher or a garda, but at least we will have the memory of our road trips to the booze factories of Ireland.