I'm glad I came up with the idea. It means I don't have to worry about thinking up themes or titles for a few weeks. After five months and 177 posts, all the inspirational fluid has been drained from my brain. Of course, the problem has just been displaced. I still have to think up the words to fit the title.
Let's start with an easy one: parenting tips for beer obsessives. I like to think that I have a gtreat deal of useful personal experience in this area.
- Catch them young. I started taking my kids to the pub before they could walk. That wasn't too bad. The trouble started when they could walk. Andrew had a habit of running off down Gravenstraat when I took him to Cafe Belgique. At first, it freaked me out. Would he disappear into the crowds? I used to chase after him down the street, until I realised that was what he wanted. Then I just used to let him run. He always came back eventually. As he became older and lazier, gave it up.
At 9 and 11 my kids are completely used to pubs. And beer festivals. I don't have to drag them along any more - they come willingly. Sometimes they are even keener than me. "Can we go to the pub please, dad?" What more beautiful sentence is there in the English language? It makes all the initial effort seem so worthwhile.
- Buy them food. Food is a great way of bribing kids. It's even more effective than money. Something that takes a while to eat is best. They longer they're chomping away, the more time you get to drink undisturbed. Germany is good. The Brauhauser of Cologne and Dusseldorf always have chips and sausages. Amsterdam pubs don't offer much in the way of food, but there's always a bakery close by stuffed with doughnuts and eclairs. As are the kids after an hour or two.
- Talk to them. Not paying attention to your kids in the pub is just asking for trouble. That's why I usually don't meet with anyone else while they're along. When they realise that the pub is a good place to get quality dad time without him being distracted by his computer, they get much enthusiastic about pub visits.
- Go to the toyshop first. It gives them something to fiddle with while you sneakily order a jenever to complement your beer. Though lego is unsuitable. I know. I've been down on my hands and knees searching for an errant piece amongst the fag ends.
- Let them try your beer. Kids don't like the taste of beer, so they'll soon give up asking. Well, all kids except Alexei. He got a real taste for Tripel Karmeliet when he was a toddler. Though I never let him drink more than half a glass. I have a 50 euro bet with Andrew that he'll drink a whole glass of beer before his 18th birthday. We both think that we're onto a sure thing.
- Teach them how to play spoof. It's a great way of keeping them entertained that costs nothing and needs no special equipment. It doesn't interfere with your drinking much, either.
- Drink strong beer. Then you don't have to spend as long getting to the point where you don't care what they do. Or go in for two fisted drinking - strong beer plus jenever. That gets you to the don't care zone quicker than you can say "kidnapped toddler".
- Don't live in Britain. Trying to work out which pubs in Britain allow kids is a nightmare. The majority don't. Thankfully, I live on the Continent and can take my kids along to any pub.
As you can see, I've managed to seamlessly combine beer drinking and responsible parenting. "I'd rather drink a beer than be father of the year." That's my motto.