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Four weeks ago we discovered a brewery fairly close to our house that not only allowed children, they actually seemed to encourage it. It’s a small brewery with a familial feel that encourages patrons to sit and enjoy their beer, hanging out all day if desired. Because of the tough permit laws in NJ, they also allow you to bring in outside food. Apparently this also means they can allow dogs inside as there is no kitchen. Because of all of these, and their great beer, we’ve been there with the boys 4 weeks in a row, or 33 percent of the weekends in their lives. Is this irresponsible parenting? I don’t think so, and here’s why.
The boys get to see mommy and daddy enjoying beer in a responsible way. Rather than the stigma and mystery that otherwise surrounds alcohol consumption in this country, the boys see it demystified and made normal by their parents. Rather than it being some forbidden illicit behavior made exciting by the allure of it, it becomes boring because their parents make it common and dull. No, we won’t be encouraging them to drink, but by seeing how we partake slowly and with a measured safe approach, hopefully we set them up to be responsible themselves later in life.
The boys adapt to their parents’ lives, not the other way around. Much has been made of the French style of parenting with promises of independent happy children and happier, less helicopter-parenting adults resulting from it. Who knows if this actually works, but I admit there is some appeal to the idea of our little mini-mes adapting to our lifestyle. By bringing the boys to the brewery, they are getting used to getting out of the house with us and ideally will not protest when older when forced to do what their parents want. My wife and I aren’t the kind of people who will just sit at home and we don’t want the children to be either. We don’t want to be parents that revolve around their children either. I feel that sometimes having to do things I found boring or weren’t for me as a child helped shape me now, and want the same for the boys.
It’s a good way to get the boys out to see family and friends. We’ve already met my parents there and have plans to meet friends as well. Sure, the boys would see them anyway at some point, but this is a good excuse to get the boys connected to important people in our lives. Plus, this gives more reinforcement on the responsible drinking aspect. Spending time with family is a critical part of development and growth for children. Some of my earliest and fondest memories as a kid are spending time with my family with our extended family, and yes, some of these were visiting breweries.
The boys get exposed to dogs. As a dog friendly brewery, and one with a brewery dog always there, the boys get to spend time with a variety of dogs beyond just Hershey. I think an under-appreciated developmental opportunity for kids is learning to love animals and to be relaxed around dogs. Growing up with a dog certainly helps, but interacting with multiple dogs and learning how to deal with different dog personalities is not that different from learning to handle different people. It’s also important to learn the warning signs of an unhappy dog though we haven’t encountered this yet at the brewery. No, they don’t need to learn about interacting with cats.
The boys get to socialize with a variety of people. There are the questionable health benefits; studies have shown both the benefits of being exposed to people and the potential harm of being exposed too early. Just like with people, being exposed to a variety of different dogs may also result in lower chances of allergies when older. There are also the more critical social and cultural benefits to the boys as well. Exposure to people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, ages, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds has shown to lead to children who grow up to be more accepting of others and have fewer inter-personal issues than those who aren’t. I want the boys to grow up into adults who are outgoing, get along with others, and can empathize with people different than them.
The boys learn to be comfortable outside their comfort zone. The boys are fairly comfortable at home. Whether in their crib or rock and play, they are happy as clams at home in familiar surroundings. But we don’t want to raise homebodies afraid to venture forth. If nothing else, I want the boys to never be afraid to try new things in life. Some of my greatest joys are the places I’ve traveled and food and drink I’ve discovered. I want the boys to have the same, if not even more exciting experiences. By getting them out of the house and into different settings, especially ones as vibrant and with as much energy as the brewery, I hope they will get comfortable being uncomfortable. For the same reason, the boys won’t be getting phones to occupy them until they are older. Being bored is an important part of development.
Some might question the amount of time we spend with the lads in a brewery and that it might be a bad influence on them. To them, I say the benefits far outweigh the concerns. If we can raise kids who have restraint, aren’t afraid to try new things, live their own lives, and adapt to mommy and daddy’s lives, I think we’ve done quite well. Plus we get to enjoy some tasty beer!
Tyler Lund is the editor of Dad on the Run.