It’s A Crime:
Underage Drinking is a crime.
That’s the law and we all know it.
This is my daughter’s senior year of high school — the goodbye year many affectionally term it. It’s sure to be filled with bittersweet memories and heartaches.
I’m already having a hard time letting go and we’re only one two weeks into the school year.
With so much to worry about: college applications, scholarships, graduation, homecoming, maintaining her GPA, I also want to treasure every moment with her, teach her how to handle herself once she’s on her own, all without smothering her. At times I want to climb in her bed and snuggle the way we did when she was little. I find myself lingering as I tell her goodnight, reaching for her hand, smelling her hair, trying to capture and freeze the moment. Unfortunately, this is the time she wants to let go, test the waters, test her parents, push the limits and pretend she’s all grown up — a little before she really is all grown up. My daughter wants to do new and exciting things for the first time in her life. As her mom, I should be all for that. Right?
I’m not an idiot. I’m also not one of those parents who’ve miraculously lost their memory and don’t remember what “senioritis” was like.
I know that most seniors are going to drink alcoholic beverages at one point during their senior year. I also live in Lousiana where parents seem far more lax with the rules than any other place in the US.
From the time our kids entered high school there seemed to be two very distinct sets of parents. One set (I belong to this set — no judgment please) I will call Group A: Got together and came to the very real, realization that our kids would probably drink at some point. We met with our kids and had them sign a contract with us that basically stated they could call any parent in the group if they had been drinking and we would pick them up from wherever they were, e.g., a party, a football game, if they had been drinking.
No questions asked. No punishment involved.
They in turn agreed to never get behind the wheel of a car if they consumed even one sip of alcohol. They further agreed to never ride in the car with anyone who had been drinking. I eagerly and readily signed the contract as did my daughter. I never imagined having an issue with her. Turns our I never needed the contract. Damn! How did I get such a good kid I kept asking myself.
My kids have heard the horror stories through the years told by my parents, my sisters and me. I lost two brothers in two different drunk driving car accidents.
I lost my brother Stan Sugar in 1982. I think of him every year during the Olympics because gold medalist and announcer Rowdy Gaines never fails to mention the name of his good friend, Stan Sugar from Auburn University, who could have made it to the 1980 Olympics. Stan held an all time record before Ian Crocker beat it then, Michael Phelps beat Crocker. Stan hurt his shoulder and it took him out of the qualifications. He became the team manager while his shoulder healed and he would have to wait and qualify for the 1984 Olympics (the first Olympic games at which only two swimmers per country were permitted rather than three). He never made it. He was killed in a car accident in 1982. Rowdy Gaines went to the 1984 Olympics for the USA. Stan wasn’t drinking, but was killed by a drunk driver.
My brother Blake was killed in a drunk driving accident in 1990. My daughter, Blake — the high school senior I’m referring to, my only surviving triplet girl is named after him. He was the drunk driver and he killed two other people. So, my kids know I have a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. I’ve ingrained it into their minds from the time they understood language.
So far we have not had an issue. but, I know it's bound to happen. I know kids are going to drink.
Is it better to take safety precautions like the contract?
Should a parent strictly forbid their underage child to drink?
My fear is that the parents who forbid the child to drink are the parents who are at the greatest risk of having something go wrong. I’m afraid these are the kids who are sneaking out to drink. They are the kids who are drinking in dangerous places — parking lots, alleys, parks, stadiums, lakes, ponds, and other known teen and high school hangouts.
When I was in high school things were much different. The drinking age was 18. Now it’s 21. So these kids, who are 17, 18 and 19 are still a few years from the legal drinking age. I could debate the issue if given enough time and the proper forum on whether or not we, (you, me, us) believe the drinking age is appropriate or whether it should be lowered to 18 again.
I could argue that if a person is old enough
Die for their country while serving in the armed services
Be tried as an adult for committing a crime
Be executed by lethal injection if found guilty of committing a capital offense
They should be old enough to have a beer
I could also argue the other side with as much passion.
But I’m fighting for my child’s life, safety and welfare.
No. I don’t want her chugging booze at her prom, homecoming dance or graduation party.
But, I also don’t think I’m doing myself, her or anyone else any good by burying my head in the sand and pretending it’s not happening. I can stomp my feet and demand she not drink. She’s a good kid. She’d probably follow my rules and obey me and we’d make it through the homecoming dance in October.
Whew! Dodged a bullet. She’d obey me … until she didn’t.
You see … she’s a kid after all. And guess what. My parental advice and guidance is only going to go so far and sooner or later peer pressure is gonna kick in.
It’s human nature.
It’s a fact.
Sadly, what I’ve seen (here come the tomatoes you’re pitching at me through the computer), but from my personal experience of having throngs and throngs of kids at my home every weekend for the past eight years. You want to who the wildest kids are? You want to know who goes crazy wild when they get away from their parents?
Yup, you guessed it. Kids with really strict, overbearing, helicopter parents.
Kids with ministers, preachers and often police officers as parents. When they are at other kids home or when they go off to college they go wild.
No, not all of them. Some kids are raised well and will always be great kids. I’m just giving you an opinion of what I’ve personally witnessed, as a high school student, a college student, a law student, a parent, a prosecutor, and as a criminal defense attorney.
I’m not advocating for kids to drink. Please don’t misinterpret my message or question. It’s sort of like the question of whether or not you should put your daughter on birth control if you believe she will soon become sexually active. One side believes in being proactive and keeping them safe from STD’S and unwanted pregnancy and the other side believes it condones and even encourages the teen to engage in sex.
So the question I pose to you is this.
If we know that our teenage kids are likely to drink during their senior year in high school do we:
A: Strictly prohibit it and impose serious consequences if they break the rule.
B. Admit it’s going to happen and have a safety talk with our senior and set up some kind of agreement/contract. “Call me if you’ve been drinking and I’ll pick you up, but if you drive while you’ve been drinking you lose your car and will not take it to college.” In addition hold serious talks about the danger of alcohol poison and how little it can take for someone to become intoxicated.
Any ideas? I just want to keep my child safe. I know she’s going to drink her senior year. I can pretend all I want that it’s not gonna happen, but then I’m just ignoring the obvious and hoping I don’t find out about it. Does Anyone have any real ideas that might serve as a wake up call to a young girl who believes drinking is all fun and games. I wonder if I could take her somewhere and show her people who have been negatively affected by alcohol. Would that even work? You know kind of like a scared straight thing.
I don’t know why I’m so worried. She’s a great kid. cheerleader, homecoming court for three years, prom court, student counsel, Z club, 3.8 GPA, soccer team and more. She didn’t miss a single day of school last year or the year before. She’s organized and has already made application for early admission to the colleges she wants to attend.
I guess I know that she can fuck all that up in a second. One poor judgment call. I know from past experience. I lost three brothers. I’ve lost two children and I couldn’t bare to lose another. She knows that. But she’s a child and her brain doesn’t function like an adult.
The gift/blessing and problem of a child who confides in you, doesn’t keep secrets and doesn’t lie is double edged. It means I now have knowledge of her past drinking experience. Sure it was only once, but I know. I can’t erase it from my memory.
So, how can I enter this year of Woo Hoo We’re Seniors and We’re Gonna Party Like it’s 1999 (no that was my slogan) — We’re Seniors — We’re Dreamers. We’re Gonna Party Like it 2525. We Will Survive.
What’s your position on this? Do you have kids in high school? Do they drink at their senior prom? What do you do to prevent it? Can you truly prevent kids from ever drinking? They will be off at college in a year and still underage — what can we do then? We can’t be their watchdog then. Is it better to teach them safety tips than it is to just strictly forbid drinking and say End of Discussion!
Because it won’t be the end of the discussion. That’s my fear. They will have the discussion with someone else and their lives will be in danger.