10 Things That Made My Childhood Different Because My Parents Owned a Bar

I’m pretty sure childhood in the late 80’s was vastly different than it is today. There are so many things that were okay in school, social circles of parents, and overall society that just aren’t the same. I also have this very unique view on alcohol and bars and children. Not because my parents were alcoholics, because they weren’t. Instead, it was because they owned a bar. My childhood memories often involve the deep-fried, kiddie-cocktail, quarters-for-pinball experiences that are often reserved for comedy movies with a quick jab about kids in country bars.

Flaherty's Bar

You have a baby! In a bar!

Except that I was a baby in a bar. And it wasn’t a bad thing. It gave me some insight into the world that most kids don’t get.

10 things my 80’s childhood wouldn’t have been complete without

1. Bottle caps were a thing

On Day 100, all the kids in the younger grades were charged with bringing in 100…somethings. some kids brought buttons or toothpicks or pennies. I brought in beer bottle caps. (I mean they were washed and shit! No biggie.) This was in the late 80’s, and no one seemed to mind as much back then.

2. My parents knew my teachers…and what they liked to drink

This started in kindergarten and didn’t end until my teachers were professors in Peoria at Bradley. I’ll never forget St. Patrick’s Day my junior year of high school. I was bussing tables and washing dishes to earn my keep, when I looked up and saw my chemistry teacher, his Bud Light and a caramel-colored liquid in a shot glass.  across the bar, a mere two feet from my face. We made eye contact and it was all awkward from there. “Hi Mr. Johnson.” Long pause “Hi Chrissy.” The following day at school was no less weird. It’s not like he didn’t know my parents owned the bar…he just wasn’t expecting to see me behind it.

3. St. Patrick’s Day was like Christmas

We woke up on St. Patrick’s Day morning, and there were often little green presents on the dining room table for us. Little trinkets and fun beer-logoed freebies from the bar so we could blink, sparkle and shine at work. Back then, no one cared in there was a beer advertised on my blinking buttons. By the time I was in high school, everyone and their mother cared. Times, they did a change.

4. We played Bartender instead of House and dreamed of the day we could be waitresses

My best friends and I used to play bartender at the home bar we had in our living room. And we’d practice our mad skills with trays full of drinks while on roller skates for the day we would become Flaherty’s waitresses and roller skates would become a thing. We were mini marketing geniuses. Tell me you wouldn’t want to hang out in a bar with roller skating waitresses. Just try.

5. Quarters were king. And they came for free

There’s something about an adorable gaggle of kids trouncing around a bar that makes grown ups want to give them money. We cashed in on this as much as we could. Sometimes, it was our parents. Sometimes, it was one of the many “aunts” or “uncles.”  And other times, it was a random stranger with a few quarters to spare. They’d play a game of pinball as we watched with awe and admiration…and then they’d leave the remaining credits in the machine, telling us to each take a turn.

6. Few things in life were more exciting than a stolen shopping cart

When you’re a kid at a bar, you can convince patrons to do almost anything your little mind could dream up. We managed to get shopping carts from the grocery store across the street on a somewhat regular basis. We’d race each other around the back alley or the empty part of the parking lot with a freedom that a lot of kids don’t get these days.

7. I learned to hustle grown ups at pool

When I was about 9, my brother and I received our very own pool cues. We’d bet quarters and dollars with some of the local patrons and then pull out our special cues. We’d surprise the hell out of them and kick their butts. I’m pretty sure my pool skills peaked at age 11.

8. I created my own drink and named it. After myself. Obviously.

By the time I was tall enough to reach the pop gun, I was behind the bar mixing my own kiddie cocktails. My favorite concotion was the Chrissy Cocktail:

  • 1 part grenadine
  • 1 part Squirt
  • 2 parts 7up
  • 2parts pineapple juice
    *Add ice and 5 straws; then stir

(Yes, that was a lot of grenadine. I was a kid in control of the cherry juice. Duh.)

(Yes, in college I added 6 parts vodka and the original drink became the Virgin Chrissy Cocktail.)

9. I mastered the jukebox like a boss

Not only was I a pinball wizard and a pool hustler…I was a jukebox hero. We were often given dollars for the jukebox too. We rocked out to Bon Jovi, Guns n’ Roses, Aerosmith, Ugly Kid Joe, Nirvana and more. There were patrons we need would get up and be foolish during certain songs and we owned the shit out of it. We were mini DJs on the dance floor.

10. I learned not to become an alcoholic.

This is the serious part of the list, but I feel it’s important to be said. Because I was able to witness so many different people over the years, I learned the difference between social drinking and alcoholism. I’ve been to more wakes/funerals and known more people who died from alcohol-related diseases than many typical 29(okay fine…31) year olds. My old boss (the one with no filter) once told me “you sure go to a lot of funerals” after a particularly depressing few months of deaths.

I enjoy cocktailing, but I try to avoid drinking to excess.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was never in the bar past 10pm (and that was ONLY on non-school nights after one of my dad’s softball games). My parents didn’t get drunk and drive us home. Usually, Mom was working behind the bar or waiting tables and Dad was holding court (this is what bar owners and their children do when they hang out in their bar. It’s a thing) or vice versa. When things started getting rowdy, we were hustled out of the bar and didn’t witness anything too inappropriate for our young eyes. Nothing your parents and their friends wouldn’t have done at home with a few cocktails, really.

What was your childhood like? Do you think parents were more lax in the 80’s and 90’s than they are now?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Shit I’m Really Glad My Mom DIDN’T Do

There are some things that I see and I think, Seriously?  I look back on my own childhood and thank the world that I had my mom doing things the way she did things.

Sometimes (not always, of course) I feel like my mom’s a little too hard on herself. Even though there are definitely times that my mom drives me or drove me up the wall…I think she did a fucking bad ass job of raising a couple of relatively normal human beings. So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for the shit she didn’t do. Because I am a better person for it.

Things My Mom Didn’t Do

Call alcoholic beverages “mommy juice”

Please. Please. Please for the love of God. Stop. Your children will eventually find out that you’re a lush. Calling it “mommy juice” doesn’t make it any better. It makes you sound silly. And drunk.

Now, I grew up surrounded by alcohol, without having alcoholic parents. My parents owned a bar. I knew alcoholics. I knew I didn’t want to be one. So I knew what booze was. I even knew when my parents were drinking it. Big fucking deal. Get over yourself. You aren’t the first parent to need a glass bottle of wine after a rough day. Call it what it is. Wine. Vodka. Beer. Whiskey. Name your poison…It’s okay, I promise. Your kid will thank you one day. Besides, I think I turned out okay.

Make alcohol seem taboo

I was allowed to taste everything, including, but not limited to wine and beer. I hated alcohol. It tasted gross. Children’s taste buds don’t actually LIKE booze (unless you’re drinking the super fruity stuff that tastes like candy. Don’t share that with the kids.) It’s the idea that it’s forbidden that makes so many kids experiment.

Sure I made jokes about drinking when I was a kid… When told I should drink MGD when I grew up, I told my older sister, Deven, that I would “drink Bud Light like my Daddy.” When she later told me that she would take me to a college party (at the age of 9) and get me a beer, I responded with, “I prefer cocktails.” In kindergarten, I drew a picture of a bar for what I wanted to be when I grew up. Instead of playing house or grocery store, we played bartender. But I’m almost 30 years old and I drink MAYBE once a week. So I think I’m alright on that front as well.

Give me a time out

Nope, I was never given a “time out” and asked about my feelings. Instead my parents would slap me on the ass and tell me that what I did was wrong. Seriously. Just like Pavolv’s pup, I knew when I did something bad and when I did something good. I was praised for good behavior, and taught not to be an asshole. I grew up with a healthy fear of punishment. Which is part of the reason I was such a Stepford child.

When I was an education major (twice), all of the books for child development were saying that you need to ask children about their feelings and why they did bad things. This pissed me off to no end. I even wrote a paper for Argumentative Writing in favor of corporal punishment for kids (when combined with a lot of affection.)  Mostly this pissed me off because I know kids who had that kind of parent…and I know kids like me who had parents who actually punished their kids, and you know what? We were the teenagers who didn’t end up drunk off our asses and naked in the middle of a public street…(Yes, this actually happened to someone).

Let Me Run Wild

Whether in a restaurant, the grocery store, or even a kid-friendly locale, my mother had us on strict orders to behave. We weren’t allowed to run around like assholes, we had to ask to leave the table at a restaurant (even to go see the lobster tank at Red Lobster), and we had to stay close to her in stores. In other words, we were well-behaved little assholes. Most of the time.

I remember being pulled out of a restaurant and getting spanked in the parking lot, after which we returned to the table, and I was a silently crying, but sitting and not yelling, little girl. Another time, I remember playing in someone’s basement for 20 minutes, and mom thought we were outside. When she couldn’t find us, we were no longer allowed to go to the pool with our babysitter that day.

Consequences. There were consequences to running wild. I see too many kids who dominate their parents, and the parents look frazzled and unsure of what to do…At which my point my mother would look at us and say, “I am the parent. You are the child. When you’re the parent, you can do what you want. Until then sit down and shut up.”

For the record, my dad’s pretty fucking awesome, too.

My first legal shot with my parents. (Isn't my mom short and adorable?)

My first legal shot with my parents. (Isn’t my mom short and adorable?)

What about you, Blog Friends? What are you glad your mom did or didn’t do? Will you do the same for your kids?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Security Blankie

Everyone has that one object from their childhood that was with them through it all. Whether it was a blankie, a stuffed animal, a toy, or something else entirely, you are probably thinking of yours right now.

When I was a baby, I received a simple baby blanket that became my bankie. Throughout my infancy and childhood, this blanket was more than just my favorite thing in the whole world, it was a part of me.

I was a thumb sucker, and required my bankie to suck my thumb. There were several very important things that I needed from bankie in order to suck my thumb, though:

Most importantly, it needed to be cold. So after a while of sucking my thumb and my blankie warming up, I would put it in the freezer to cool it off. In the winter, I would even voluntarily let the dog out into and back in from the yard so that I could hang blankie in the wind for that icy chill.

Of course, it also had a certain blanket smell that could only be kept intact so long as bankie stayed not clean. When my mother would wash it, I would freak out. A lot. To find the blankie in the dryer after a good washing was the most horrific thing in the world to me. But in all honesty, it was probably pretty gross, so it makes sense now.

So I would hold bankie in my left hand with my left thumb in my mouth, while I pushed the blankie up to my nose in order to smell the blankie smell and feel the cool blankie feel. It was like Heaven to me.

I remember having a puffy spot on my thumb that I thought would never go away. One day while I was on the bus heading home from school, my next door neighbor Greg, who was a year older than me, was teasing me about the puff. I was in third grade and far too embarrassed to admit it’s origin. Thankfully, the puffy spot disappeared within months of my final thumb suck.

Often, the blanket would lose pieces of the edge, slowly shrinking a once large baby blanket. At one point in the life of bankie, it ripped into two pieces. One of which I tied into a knot. Both pieces traveled everywhere with me. One in the freezer; one in my hand. Switch. Repeat.

Regardless of my disdain for a clean bankie, there were definitely times that my blankie needed to be washed…or partially disposed of. One hot summer night when I was in second or third grade, I was spending the night at my aunt’s house. I had snuggled up on the living room floor in a pile of blankets, with my head laying off onto the carpet. In the middle of the night, I became violently ill, and the un-knotted piece of bankie was the unfortunate recipient of my stomach’s wrath (as was the carpet and one of the blankets.) I spent an hour trying to clean up my mess, embarrassed and unnecessarily afraid to tell anyone.

But the blankie was a mess. After mom tried to wash it, the stains would not come out and I was forced to part with another piece of my beloved blanket.

So, yes…I sucked my thumb. Until the 4th grade. When my mother took bankie away. She told me that she had no idea where it went. She promised to look for it. My gram bought me a replacement, but it was worthless to me. The bright seafoam green blanket was scratchy and unfamiliar. It was hardly worthy of my doll’s comfort. I found that no matter how hard I tried, I could not suck my thumb without my blankie. This proved to be the perfect solution to my mother’s fear that I would never stop sucking my thumb. But it was a sad time for me.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!