Friday, October 19, 2012
Lessons in Beer and Fatherhood
Posted by Patrick Mullin
Handle With Care
You know that pricy Belgian beer you picked up? The corked and caged one that you strapped into the passenger seat, carried into the house with two hands, and handled like your life was on the line? But still, when you finally went to enjoy your first glass, the cork fired off like a bullet and you suddenly found yourself in a frenzy, wiping up foam and trying to rescue as much beer as you could?
Yeah, kids are like that. Just the other day, my daughter and I were outside, and she proceeded to drop a picture that she had colored. Immediately, the wind picked it up and shot it off into the distance before I could grab it. Nearly instantly, her eyes welled up and her cork blew. There I was wiping tears, consoling and doing my best to salvage the rest of our day in the wake of a freak incident. Fortunately, in both instances, keeping a level head and acting fast can make a sudden disaster quickly turn into a distant memory. Handle with care, and when those occasional outbursts happen, don't worry, things will quickly be back to normal if you maintain a gentle touch.
Expensive Isn't Always Better
I remember those first few months of being a parent. Wanting the absolute best for your child and thinking that everything should be brand new, and that if something was more expensive, it must mean that it's higher quality, and that's what my daughter needs. Ah, how times change. Now you can find me rigorously scouring online reviews for the best deals, appreciating second hand clothes (given that a shirt can be too small in a matter of weeks), and knowing that a higher price tag does not equal higher quality.
Navigating my way into craft beer was similar. At first, it seemed natural to assume that the more expensive beer would assuredly be better. But obviously, as time went on, I learned otherwise. That $20 bomber might be an alright beer, but there's plenty of high quality, worthwhile brews out there that won't have you cringing when you run your debit card. Trust me, when it comes to your child, everything doesn't have to be a bottle of DeuS, there's plenty of Hop Stoopid out there that will keep her just as happy and work just as well.
Embrace The Little
Okay. I'll admit it. When my daughter was first born, I had no idea what the hell to do. You prepare for months, anticipating the days of playing, teaching, and influencing, and then suddenly realize those days are far off. I sat there looking at this pinkish blob that could only cry, eat and poop, wishing for those future days of interaction. Now, almost 3 years later, I wish I had appreciated those early days more. Now that she's running, talking (non-stop, really) and being independent, I long for the days where she needed me to rock her to sleep and relied on me consistently to help her get through each day.
Now, while no beer is ever going to need you to rock it to sleep, there's a constant longing by craft beer drinkers to find higher ABV, "bigger" beers. But, there's something to be said about discovering and appreciating those beers that are sessionable and lower in ABV, while equally complex and memorable. Much like beer, don't ever under-appreciate the times when your child is smaller because you're too busy focusing on what they'll be like when they are bigger.
I guess I should immediately preface this section by noting that I'm not referring to duds of children, but rather the occasional day that turns out to be a dud. It will happen. You'll collapse into the couch after FINALLY putting your child to bed (or, at times, still trying to get them to bed), thinking "Wow, what a disaster of a day." It's just part of the process, and it's inevitable.
And of course, this can happen with beer too. We've all had that six pack that we picked up, excited to try a new beer, and upon tasting the first cracked bottle, we realize... "Oh. This beer SUCKS." While you can pawn off the rest of that six pack to your friends, you unfortunately can't pawn off your child to your friends. BUT, the beauty of it all is that while the beer will likely stay unpleasant, the next day provides a brand new opportunity for you and your child, and more often than not, the dud of a day will become a distant memory.
Ignore the Know-It-Alls
Let's face it, there are loudmouth know-it-alls when it comes to almost every topic, and beer and parenting are no exceptions. In fact, I'm tempted to say that beer nerds and obessive parents are some of the loudest out there. So all you really need to do is take everything they say with a grain of salt.
A lot of people will try to tell you the "right" way to parent. This is how you should discipline. This is the right school you should send them to. This is the right daycare. This is how you should feed them, clothe them, and so on and so on. It gets ridiculous.
I think we've all encounterd that beer drinker that somehow has experienced it all and isn't afraid to tell people. That IPA you're thinking about ordering? Oh no, that one's just awful. Especially compared to that fresh hop, limited release IPA they had from a Portland nanobrewery while visiting GABF last year. They've experienced the best, and will always turn their nose up at what you are thinking about doing.
Forget them. All of them. Just like you have your own palate and tastes for beer, you have your own method and environment for parenting. Only you know what's right for you and your daughter, and while many people will try to advise you on how to do things, only you know what's best for your family. Sometimes a simple smile and nod is the best weapon against people who think they're life authorities.
I won't pretend like I'm a parenting expert. I'll never pretend like I'm a beer expert either. But I have some mild experience in both fields, and if I can pass along some words of convoluted wisdom that help in some way, then so be it. Brad, congratulations to you and your wife and I know you both will make fantastic parents. Cheers!