Raising a coffee kid

As a parent I find I’m in a bit of a transition zone these days. My kids, aged 7 and 10, are in the in- between years. They aren’t little kids anymore but I’m not ready to treat them like big kids either. I notice it more and more every day. Especially with my 10 year old son. You can almost see the inner struggle on his face. His hormones are wreaking havoc on his impulses. He’s not sure whether he should indulge his desire to cuddle with me on the couch, play Lego, or stomp to his room, hide under his headphones and listen to loud music. But he’s growing up. There’s no denying it.

As if his new body odour issues weren’t enough evidence of this fact, he recently came home with a query that I wasn’t prepared to handle at such a young age. He asked me if he could start drinking coffee. Like any parent, my immediate response was, “No way.” “It’ll stunt your growth.” “You won’t like it, anyway.” Now, I’m sure I had the same conversation with my own mother at some point and I probably rolled my eyes and sulked but then accepted her response and it ended there. But parenting is different now. Our kids don’t trust us to be the all-knowing authority anymore. They trust Google.

So, off he went to do a little research and a short while later approached me with his evidence. If he drank decaf coffee, it would be 99% caffeine free which amounts to about 3mg of caffeine per serving, or less than what would be found in a chocolate bar or hot chocolate and far less that would be in a can of cola (a rare indulgence at our house but not absolutely off limits either). Additionally, without added sugar, he argued that a cup of coffee could actually be better for him than a glass of juice. “Oh, and mom. That whole ‘stunts your growth’ thing is a myth,” he said.

What was a mom to do? I showed him additional information about the decaffeination process until he agreed with me that only naturally decaffeinated ‘Swiss Water Process’ decaf was acceptable. I had to admire his research abilities and willingness to logically argue the point, so I did the only thing a parent of questionable ability could do: I took him for coffee. But secretly, I was still sure he wasn’t going to like the taste.

It was important to me that his first time to be with someone he knew. So we went to Home Ground Coffee & Roasting House, where I work part-time and am being trained as a Roaster. I know the coffee is organic, fairly traded, roasted and served with love. He chose an organic Peru decaf which he verified was Swiss Water Process decaffeinated. He filled his cup and we sat down. He took the tiniest sip and decided it was too hot so I told him he could put a little milk in it if he wanted. I was careful not to draw attention to the sugar. Anything can taste palatable to a 10 year old if you put enough sugar in it. He added milk and joined me in the arm chairs by the window where he casually sipped his coffee and I gaped at him.

I searched for the involuntary face scrunch that someone gets when they don’t actually like something but are choking it down out of pride. Nothing. Instead he asked me about the coffee industry in Peru and how the fruit becomes the bean and how it is roasted. We had a lovely conversation and before I knew it he’d finished his cup and declared his love for it.

For a few reasons, I almost cried. 1) Proof of genetic similarity. He may be the spitting image of his dad but finally we have proof that he is mine. I now know that at least one of my offspring will share my enthusiasm for this beverage. 2) Shame. What are people going to think when they find out my son drinks coffee?? There goes my Mother of the Year award…again. 3) A mix of Nostalgia & Fear. My baby boy is growing up before my eyes. What happened to the little boy who not that long ago only drank milk from a sippy cup and didn’t know where Peru was? If I keep him from coffee, will he stop growing up? But I didn’t cry.

His first cup of coffee was just one of many firsts he’s going to experience in the coming years and I only hope that he approaches them like he did this one. May he always make his decisions based on facts; only follow through because he wants to not because of what someone else wants; and may he continue to include his mom in the decision making, if not the experience. I look forward to years of future coffee dates with my baby boy. P.S. Since his first coffee, my son has decided that he prefers to drink his coffee black and his favourite brewing technique is a slow brewed pour over. That’s my boy.

2019 UPDATE - My boy is now well into his teen years and no longer drinks decaf. He is now gets caffeine withdrawal headaches if he misses his morning cup, just like the rest of us. His first paid job was with Rebel Bean Roasters. He still makes choices based on facts (even some bad choices) and still discusses them with his mom.