On his 21st birthday my oldest child left the house for a bout of day-drinking with his mother while I stayed here to work.
Had you told me that on the day he was born, when day-drinking on a Monday was very much a part of my repertoire, I would have laughed in your face. Though probably not, because I was an absolute wreck on the day he was born, when they whisked his mother from a routine doctor ‘s appointment to a hospital room across Prytania Street, cut her open, pulled him out and handed him to me.
The booze, the bar and all their accoutrements occupied most of my waking hours in the years before he was born, and for many of them afterward. I was a drunk. He says he doesn’t remember; I know he does.
We are not perfect parents. None of us. We all leave our scars and dings on our kids; we cannot protect them from our own shortcomings. And ultimately we cannot protect them from this world — at best indifferent and at worst openly hostile towards young people trying to find their way.
I was pretty banged up by the time I hit my 21st birthday, barely halfway through college, romantically unstable, with no plans beyond finishing my degree and working my way up to weekend bartender. I was stupid enough back then to think I had it all figured out. I had already been day-drinking for many years.
He’s better than me: smarter, taller. He sees things more clearly, processes things more deeply. He’s not a drunk, which I’ve learned can be a big advantage in life. He’s doing his very first piece of day-drinking today, right now, on his 21st birthday. It’s supposed to be fun.
I am deeply uneasy about my son’s first bit of day-drinking, similar to the way I felt about his first day of school, his first overseas plane trip, his first breakup. In my mind, this road is fraught with danger, lined with bad choices and paved with the names of all my friends who took this path and were never able to get off, the ones whose lives ended too soon, one way or another.
But I’m the one who’s a drunk, not him. My mistakes are mine, not his. And I’ve already paid the price, so he doesn’t have to.
That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.