Thursday, September 4, 2008

Teens Will Be Teens?

On The Flipside Guest Blogger: Jenn from Juggling Life

Jenn wrote this post in April and has agreed to pull it out of her archives and repost it here On The Flipside. This is a great topic - thanks Jenn!

Teens Will Be Teens?

Since I have three teenagers at home (17, 15, 13), one of my main motherly duties is checking up on my kids. Danger Boy calls it spying; Mr. Fix-it and I like to call it parenting. Big Red is in the final semester of his senior year. He doesn't tell me much of what's going on (okay, he tells me nothing), but I hear things through the grapevine. I've got a friend whose son actually likes to dish! Right now the high school party circuit is in full swing.

What's shocking to me is how many parents accept that teenage drinking is inevitable. If not openly condoned, it is certainly winked at. Don't ask, don't tell is the de facto policy among many of the parents in my neighborhood. "Just as long as they don't drive . . ." "I'd rather have them be safe at home . . ." "We did it when we were kids."

Does this look familiar to anyone?

Yes, many of us did. I am one of the many that started drinking in my senior year of high school. Today I look back on the risks and I took and I cannot fathom not trying to prevent my kids from making the same stupid mistakes I did. I got lucky. Lucky is not a parenting plan in my book. If you need more convincing than the memory of your own misspent youth, check out this Washington Post article.

Big Red and I have a running joke about partying. I tell him "It's your job to try and my job to stop you. You do your job and I'll do mine." The result has been that, although we've had a couple of incidents, for the most part he just doesn't go out much. I was pretty pleased when the phone calls started flying about a drinking party not too long ago. When I got the call asking where my son was, I was happy to be able to say, "Sitting here next to me."

So many parents worry about their kids being made fun of, or of them not being popular, that they let them go to parties when they know there will be drinking. Not me. I will bust your ass in a heartbeat if I think you're stepping off the line when it comes to drinking or any other drugs. And it's not like he doesn't have friends, he does. I'm sure he is sometimes places where underage drinking and other illicit activities are happening--but he can always use the fallback of his overprotective parents and their nosy ways as an excuse not to partake. Of course this means that I frequently have to wake up at midnight on a Saturday night and have a coherent conversation while we stare deeply into each other's eyes and I slyly sniff. It's not just the babies that interrupt your sleep!

I'm sure he's not going to be an angel when he heads off to Colorado State this August. I'm not even sure I want him to be a total innocent. I do think that not having his brain chemistry changed at the age of 15 or 16 by weekend drinking will have left him with a lot better judgement than if he had been chemically altering his consciousness these last couple of years.

BTW, I'm pretty upfront with my kids about my early party days. Not in graphic detail, but just enough so that they know that whatever they might think about doing I already did; and I surely know what it looks and smells like, so don't even try it. Of course, I'm not all reefer madness or anything. My point of view is that no one ever said "Wow, I'm really drunk (or stoned), I think I'll study and get ahead in life."

What's the blogospheropinion on this?

Originally Posted at Juggling Life 01:41 AM 4/3/08

Please offer your honest opinion/answer, whether you agree with Jenn or are On The Flipside. And, remember to follow the comment rules and be nice to Jenn, to me and to the other commenters. And ... please remember to go over to the sidebar and participate in the poll on this topic.

Poll results: How Do You Feel About Teens Drinking? 20 People too poll. 9 (45%) said they don't think teens should drink. 0 said they felt it was okay of teens drink. 2 (10%) said it was okay if teens drink as long as they were around the parents. 9 (45%) said they wished teens would never drink at all.


Brenda said...

This is a great post and one of tremendous importance. I don't feel that underage drinking should be tolerated, at all, under any circumstances. Underage drinking is against the law, and inexperienced kids under the influence, especially since most of them have cars, is asking for trouble or even death, end of story.

Things aren't the same as they were when I was a silly kid and drank a shandy or a glass of alcoholic cider at the neighborhood pub (which was legal when I lived in England). Most underage teens didn't have cars, they either walked or rode a bus.

tammy said...

Totally agree with Jenn. Nothing ever good comes from teens drinking. Having had family members who started drinking at a young age, and later ended up in rehab and worse, I would never let my kids think it's okay to drink.

Brittany said...

Lots of echoes going on here, and I'm just one more. Underage drinking is NOT ok.It's illegal, not safe, unhealthy... just all around NOT good!

forgetfulone said...

Great post. I don't condone underage drinking, and I won't allow it in my home. I'm sure my 19 year old step-daughter drinks, but I'm only sure through things I've overheard. We don't allow her to drink at home. Perhaps a glass of wine with dinner. She has been to England and Ireland where a glass of wine with dinner is common, and the drinking age is 18. Still, I would not allow her to host a party where there would be alcohol. Just think of the lawsuits waiting to happen.

The 15 year old is another story. Her dad and I differ in our parenting styles, and I am afraid that something may eventually happen with her. Perhaps, we've taught her well, though. He just doesn't get as involved in her life as I do in my 12 year old twins' lives. If their social lives suffer a bit, it will be okay as long as they're doing the right thing.

Nancy said...

It amazed me when my kids were younger (now 23 and 20) how many parents allowed "partying" in their homes thinking it was "safer" because the kids were going to "do it anyway."

I can't believe the drinking, sex, and drugs that are allowed in the homes of teens.

I was not like minded and not well liked by my kids friends ... especially the time I showed up at a party my daughter was at ... with the sheriff.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

We loved the parents of friends in high school that let us party in the safety of their home. LOVED IT. Cuz our parent's wouldn't do it. And today? I love and appreciate my parents for it. Cuz when you allow your kids to do it in your home, you are just telling them it is okay to break the law as long as you are smart about it and won't get caught. i know that may seem extreme, but seriously, that is the message we send to kids when we do this.

My kids are only 5 and 6 now, but I give them an appreciation for rules and the law. When I am on the highway, and they hear my say, "oh no, that was a policeman." And they ask, "Mommy are you going to get a ticket?" I will tell them "I don't know. But mommy was speeding and she shouldn't be speeding. It isn't as safe as driving the speed limit, so if I do get a ticket it was because I broke a rule and I deserve it, just like when you get timeout or get grounded."


Courtney said...

I think this is a very important and well written post. I don't think about this stuff a lot because my oldest isn't even in kindergarten yet, so I think I'll just read other comments to get some advice when the time does come.

common mom said...

Excellent post. I'm dreading the day this becomes an issue in our house. I will not condone teen drinking, not one bit. I will be the nasty nosey mother that I need to be. And my kids will still love me, even as they occasionally hate me. I drank and did plenty of other things in high school - my parents did not condone it. I knew it was wrong. I got caught. That sucked! My kids will make mistakes, but not without knowing how I feel about them AND their mistakes!

Are You Serious! said...

♥ It's a great post! I totally agree that I'd rather keep my kids home than to know that they're out partying and getting into trouble! :)

Adrian said...

I am very firm on the subject of underage drinking. I've seen my nieces and nephews go in that direction and we have enough alcoholism in our family tree that it worries me. So, my policy is no way no how until they are 21. After that, they can drink in moderation, although neither of my older boys (19 & 26) show any interest in drinking at all, which I find delightful.

As for drugs, my line is "Have you ever known anyone who did drugs and went on to live a happy and successful life?". I can understand addiction, but I can't understand why they even think to try that first hit. So far, we've been successful in that area as well, but we have a 10 year old coming up fast and I hope he navigates it as successfully as his brothers did.

Mrs. G. said...

I was a late bloomer in the drinking department. I remember the "cool" parents of friends in high school. Even then, I thought they were a bit desperate to "be" cool. I'm with you. Until you're of age, I'm the friendly MOM-not the momly FRIEND.

Jen said...

First off, Kellan, how did I not know you started a new blog?! Great idea!

Jenn, I agree with you that teens shouldn't drink, and I am fine with my son (when he is older) using the "my overly protective mom will ground me for life" excuse.

I didn't drink as a teen, and my husband didn't. But, when my husband was in his 20's he drank way too much and took way too many risks. I think it will be difficult to say, "Yes, I did this, but you shouldn't".

dani said...

as a parent i think the law dictates my belief on this one. the law says 21; 21 it is. having said that, i never drank in high school myself; but i did my fair share in college.
things are different now; the reprocussions are much greater/more severe. i don't want mine nor any under-agers drinking in my house. and, it is AGAINST THE RULES in my house for my 15 year old to drink until she turns 21...
God willing, she won't:)

Andrea said...

I am terrified to raise teenagers in this day and age. My girls are only 3 and 5, but I think about the teenage years a lot, and I only hope they make wise choices.

But I will be the kind of mother who wants to be a MOTHER first, and then a friend.

I have a job that God has entrusted to me, and I intend to do it, regardless of how unpopular that makes me.

Jacey said...

Hmmm. Drinking is a pretty huge issue for parents I'm sensing. :)
Not being a parent, it's difficult for me to say where I'd stand on this... I can say where I *think* I'd stand, but who knows what'll change.
As a teenager, my parents let me go out with friends. If they knew them, if they knew the parents, if they knew where I was going, if they know what time I'd be home, if they knew how to reach me, if they knew that adults would be home if we were going to someone else's house.
I thought it was fair. Sure, I had friends in school who were allowed to run wild, do pretty much whatever they liked, and went off to drunken parties. But for the most part, my close friends were like me. Their parents shared similar values to those of my parents, and all of our parents talked to each other people a decision was made, and the same answer was handed to all of us about a party. Usually, it was a no. That was fine. We did our own thing. As a result, I think that I had a great teenager-hood.... We had a lot of fun having sleepovers, pizza parties, we went 10pinbowling, we went to the arcade, we saw a lot of movies, we went on huge family trips to the beach and the snow. It wasn't that we were coddled, or wrapped in cotton wool - we were aware of a lot of things going on with our friends... but we weren't part of it.

In New Zealand, the drinking age is 18, not 21. It used to be 21, but they changed it a few years before I turned 18. I think it's better at 18, personally. I think that at 18, you're an adult in the laws eye. You can get married, have kids, go to college, get arrested, join the armed forces, go to war.... you should be able to go out and have a glass of wine or a beer if you want to.

I didn't get drunk, or really have a drink in a social (outside of teh fmaily) situation until I turned 18. And then, I became the designated alcohol buyer in my group of friends. They were all only a month or two younger than me, so I didn't find it an issue.

My parents brought me up with a reasonably healthy attitude towards alcohol. As a child, I was allowed the occasional sip of my parents glass or wine or beer. I've been told that numerous times they discovered me in the living room when they had people over and had moved into the dining room, sitting under the coffee table, sucking whiskey off ice cubes. :)
But really, I think they made sure that I knew that alcohol wasn't some kind of banned substance, that it's purpose was to be enjoyed. That wine wasn't to throw back and get drunk on - that it was to savour, to appreciate. That beer wasn't something you drank that was cheap and nasty and at a keg party, that again, it wasn't something to enjoy the flavour of, that it was something to drink or a hot afternoon.

I think I'd probably raise my kids in much the same way. I've seen how parents who raise their kids with the attitude that alcohol is forbidden, often end up with drunk, out of control kids.

- J

Anonymous said...

Growing up, I saw my parents have the occasional glass of wine with dinner. We kids were allowed to have a sip out of mom's glass if we asked. Consequently, I've never considered wine as anything but normal: an occasional glass of wine with dinner.
I had a sip of my uncle's beer at his wedding. I think I was about 8 years old, and I had to swallow it because there was nowhere to spit out its nastiness. That memory stayed strongly with me for many years, and probably kept me from drinking in my early teens---that, along with the fact that I was never invited to the popular kids' parties. (They definitely had drinking and sex happening there. Those 3 things: popular kids, drinking, and sex, seem to happen all together.)
Jenn has my total agreement: nothing good comes of teenaged drinking (and I did do some) AND it is the parents' job to be tough.

I now have 2 teens (with 2 more waiting in the wings). They don't drink, but like their parents, they aren't invited to the parties of the "popular kids."
Dh and I have had the licensed driver teen drive us home from parties. We make sure to comment before the party that "Hey, we have a designated driver tonight!" and then thank him for it when he drives us home: "You know, a lot of folks would just drive home. And while we THINK we are capable of doing so, we also know our judgement is probably compromised. And it is wrong to drink and drive. Thanks for agreeing to drive us home tonight."

This post is a good reminder for me to talk with my teens and give them permission to put the blame on me for why they can't drink.

Shamelessly Sassy said...

Oh, I loved Boones Farm.

Jyl @ MommyGossip said...

I agree with Jenn. My grandma was an alcoholic and my dad still struggles with his childhood. My brother is a recovering alcoholic and started drinking young. Obviously, not everyone will end up that way and many people socially drink and are fine. I just think it is better to make that decision as a grown up. I also think, though, that it is good to provide kids with a healthy understanding of alcohol and not be make it soooooo horrible that they will drink just to do what you are telling them NOT to do. I think it is a fine line.

Rosemary Bogdan said...

If a child of mine came home with evidence of drinking there would be severe consequences-- like sacrifice of the drivers license for a long period of time. We have zero tolerance. I also made lots of mistakes in high school and college and I definitely don't want my children taking those kind of risks.

bermudabluez said...

This is a perfect post as far as I'm concerned. I totally agree with every single word Jenn said. Her teen years sound very similar to my own. My daughter is past all this now...she's been living on her own now for six years. If she has one drink, that's alot. She does not condone her friends driving while drinking and has already lost three very good friends to drinking / drugs / driving. It's a lethal combination. I am so proud of my daughter's reactions to some of the things her friends do. She has managed to talk them into taking a cab home instead of driving. Too many parents have that "I don't care" attitude. Not good. Excellent Post Jenn!!

kim-d said...

I'm here to make it anonymous. Good job, Jenn. Your way is the way it should be. When I was a teen back in the dark ages, parents tended to "look the other way" and it seemed that the biggest concern was not getting stopped by the police, who would "slap your wrist" and send you home. There were a lot of kids in my high school who were well on their way to alcoholism by the time we were seniors. The year I graduated was the year they tried the 18-year-old drinking law. It didn't last long, thankfully. My kids are no longer teens so it isn't an issue for me, but all you younger parents, stick to your guns on this one!


Great post and you make some good points.
And yep, that Boone's Farm label looks all too familiar!

Jaina said...

I know I'm late, but this is an issue I feel strongly about. I was one of those seemingly rare people who didn't taste a drop of alcohol till I turned 21. I am completely against teen drinking. Sure, if they're going to I'd rather they do it in the safety of someone's home. But ultimately? They shouldn't do it. It's horrible and ILLEGAL! It's illegal even if they are at home with an adult. It just seems so commonsensical to me. But yeah, NO to teen drinking.

Anonymous said...

What we approve of and what we get from our kids are often different things. I had my first alcohol in jr. high. That lasted for a few months (not often - but any is way too much)and then when I gave my life to Christ, I never touched another drop until I was of legal age. I drank a little in college but again, not often and any was way too much for good choices. Thankfully nothing serious ever happened, but what if...

My husband started drinking at age 9. His Dad gave him the beer. I'd rather you drink in my house mentality. Can you guess that Dad is an alcoholic? My husband is too. He has been sober 20 years now, but he had a couple accidents and still can't believe he walked away from them. This has been an open topic with our kids from a young age. We want them to know and understand the reason behind our "no" besides the important legal side of things.

My oldest did start drinking a bit when she was 18 (after she met her husband but before marriage). Thankfully she gets ill when she drinks any alcohol so it was short lived. My 18 year old son has never tried, nor does he want to. My 17 yo son on the other hand has drank quite a bit I have been told (by him). Since he is dealing with other legal issues right now, I believe him that he has stopped, but he doesn't see anything wrong with it (can you see where the other trouble may stem from, not necessarily the the drinking but the thinking behind it all?) It makes me sad to tell the truth. Thankfully this son does not yet have his license, but he is not afraid to ride with others who drink. We prevent most of this risky behavior but we have found that even with diligent parenting (and being known as one of the strictest parents in town) we still could not prevent such things from occuring. If/when they are determined they will find a way. So now we pray even harder!

My two youngest are only 9 and almost 8 so hopefully we will have many years before they try any, if at all. I hope not. I agree that nothing good comes from underage drinking. Not much good comes from any drinking as I can see.