After seeing the request for blogs with this survey, I had to write. I have a couple of friends who allow their teenagers to have parties. The parents provide the beer as long as no one leaves the house. They tell me, “Well, they are going to do it anyway, so at least they are safe here and not out driving.” I have been trying to determine what I think about that, and my answer on the survey has helped clarify my murky feelings.
First of all, I think we Americans are a bit silly about drinking. We have made it OK to die for your country at the age of 18, but not OK to have a drink until you are 21. So do I think allowing a teenager to taste a sip of fine wine at a nice dinner is a terrible thing? Well, no. However, I cannot condone what my friends allow their teens to do.
As my kids have gotten older, I have learned that I am not the “cool, friend-mom.” I am pretty firm with my boundaries when I do set them. I think in this situation, kids really, really need those boundaries. Here is my reasoning. Somehow, thanks to our culture, many of our kids believe that as soon as they can get their hands on alcohol, they should get trashed as often and as publicly as possible. If a child who is hesitant about drinking has a parent that says, “Sure, invite the gang over for some Miller Lite,” that hesitant kid loses an opportunity to say, “My mom is so lame, but we can’t party here,” and use her parent as a scapegoat so that she can do the right thing gracefully. Since it can take a kid a while to be strong enough to say no regardless of peer pressure, I would rather leave her the option of blaming me for not being able to do something.
Also, I think it’s just too slippery of a slope—“Well, drinking is OK, so how about a little underage sex? I will provide the condoms. Or how about getting a little stoned? It just mellows them out. After all, they are going to do it anyway, right?” Once you give your kids and their friends an inch by making drinking so easy to get away with, they are going to start finding other things to get away with. Hey, they are teenagers, and it’s their job to get away with stuff. Doing stuff parents don’t approve of helps them define themselves. I don’t want to make the path so easy that my kids just continue to go down it looking for something they can finally get away with. Let’s start small—say, with tattoos or really skeezy hair.
I guess my feeling is that, “They are going to do it anyway,” is a lazy cop-out. Yes, they are going to do it anyway, for the most part. I would be a big fat liar if I said I never took a drink before I was 21. But I knew I had to be very careful. I never had a place where it was OK to get trashed and sleep it off. I knew that if I drove after drinking and got caught that my parents would sell my car. Hearing about my friends having sex they didn’t really want to have or puking their guts up in their cars was enough to stop me from wanting to get so drunk that I didn’t know what I was doing. In many ways, I just got lucky, but I was also terrified of the trouble I would be in and the shame I would feel if I let my parents down. The possibility of that shame kept me in line more than most, and I have very few drunken regrets. I hope my kids will look back one day and feel the same way, even if that means I am the least cool mom on the planet.
If you allow your children to drink underage under adult supervision, our friends at Fox 8 News would love to talk to you! Email us and we will put you in touch with the right person. Or if you know someone who allows this – someone who you think would be willing to talk to the news team – please pass this link along to them!
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