Last weekend, four young guys, high school students and month-ago graduates, were involved in a terrible car accident in which two of them died and one of them remains in the hospital. Alcohol was found in the car and at the party which they left. I pray for all of their families; for the parents of the boys who died - I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child and pray for their healing and comfort; for the boys who survived and their parents - they also will need healing and strength and mercy.
I'm not going to talk about the guys and under-age drinking. What I want to talk about is adults at parties where there is alcohol present and under-age drinking.
There are adults, parents, who are of the mindset that "my kid is going to drink anyway so I'd rather them do it at home, with me." I don't agree with that in any fashion, but if that's how you feel, I can't tell you how to parent. Go ahead - do shots of tequila, guzzle a beer, sip wine with your own kid. But when it comes to other people's kids - no one has the right to enable someone else's kids to do things that are not only unhealthy and unsafe, but also illegal.
It's totally irresponsible, as an adult, to host a party and allow under-age drinking. Period.
Those who (1) knowingly allow children - other people's children - to drink alcohol in your home, and then (2) let them drive? I don't and can't listen to any excuses. You don't have that right. You can't even explain enough how you have the right to put my child in that kind of position. And even without the driving - you don't know how a young person will react to drinking or being drunk (you can die or become seriously injured even without getting in a car), you can't predict what situations they will end up in (impaired decision making and teens - not a good mix). You can't do that to other people's children.
But what if the kids snuck it in and the adult didn't know? That's always the other excuse. As the parent of teens, I'm going to say this with the hope that it doesn't come back to bite me in the a$$ one day - I don't believe this. If there is a party in your house, with teens, isn't that something that you should check on? Shouldn't you take a sniff at some of those red Solo cups being passed around, pour yourself a cup of punch for a taste? Additionally, in my state of Maryland, parents (homeowners) can be charged for providing alcohol to minors, even if they claim they didn't know. (I'm not a lawyer, so look up "social host laws" for the exact legal verbiage, if you need it.)
There was a May 2014 Bethesda Magazine article on underage drinking which I've referred many a parent to and even made my own teen read. This makes clear that we're not talking about a kid drinking a beer over the course of an evening. This is about blood-alcohol levels at .12, equivalent to 5 beers, for a guy, or 3 beers, for a girl, in an hour. That's a lot for adults! The attitude that allowing kids to drink is no big deal is amazing. In addition to allowing under-age drinking, there's a few other (bad) life lessons that these parents are teaching.
- Drinking for social acceptance. A couple parents said that they allowed their kids to have under-age drinking parties in their house so the kid would make more friends, to be cool. Ummm - isn't the general message we try to tell our kids "don't do things just to be cool," "if everyone jumps off a bridge..."?
- Maneuver your way out of accepting responsibility. There's a pretty steep fine for allowing under-age drinking, starting at $2500. This is enough to slap even a shot of cold medicine out of a kid's hand, let alone a shot of tequila. But what's bothersome is the parents who get out of it with legal finagling, by making a donation to an organization that teaches about under-age drinking, etc. etc., essentially keeping their record clean and brushing off the seriousness of the incident.
- Wimpy parenting. i.e. Can't say "no." A few parents admitted that they let their kids and their friends drink because they don't want to argue with them about it. Knock, knock, hello. Isn't that one of the basic tenets of parenting - telling your kid "no." Why is this generation of parents so concerned about saying "no" to their kids, I know mine sure weren't? (On a side note, this is also the reason given why McDonald's should stop offering sodas and french fries in the Happy Meal.)
I get it that with teen parties, the easiest thing is to send them all to the basement with a few boxes of pizza and leave them be. We're relieved that we've outgrown the little kid parties where you have to come up with games and activities and be totally present in the party. But maybe things haven't changed that much. As parents, as the adult, we are still responsible for the young people who enter our home. When my kids' friends come to our house, I feel responsible for their safety until they are returned to their parents' care. Whether they get a paper cut, go into sugar overload on cookies, or leave my home drunk - their parents are going to look at me and ask "what happened?" I don't ever want to have to say "I'm sorry" at a kid's funeral. And neither do I ever want to hear those words.
For information on how to have the conversation with your kid about under-age drinking, check out the M.A.D.D. website.
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