I am absolutely fuming. My son came home from his friend’s house this morning and I could smell beer on his jacket. When questioned, he admitted he had spilled a beer the night before when he was staying the night with his friend, because apparently the friend’s dad bought them beer!
He said that the dad bought them a 6 pack and they all watched football together and stayed in all night. He said they had intended to go to a party in a neighborhood park but when his friend’s dad heard that he promised to buy them beer if they stayed home.
He swears he only drank three but he isn’t very big so I assume he was drunk and he doesn’t look all that great today. So, my only child was given alcohol by a neighbor I barely know and without my knowledge. He is unmarried so there is no mom to set rules at the house. I want to report him to the police or do something and I do not want my son spending any more time at that house.
My son says I am over-reacting and is not happy with my threats to expose this crappy parent. What are your thoughts?
Dear Single Mom:
Thank you for your letter, which combines my two very favorite subjects: drinking and anger!
I used to have a boss who drank a lot. At work. Every day. This boss used to have a favorite saying for me when discussing legal matters or checking my work on those days he was sober enough to read it:
“You’re right, but for the wrong reasons.”
When I would inquire what exactly that was supposed to mean, he would grumble incoherently in my general direction and shuffle back off towards his hoarding lair of an office.
Why am I telling you this seemingly-unrelated story? Because conversely to my own history, your son’s friend’s dad is wrong, but for the right reasons. Let’s call him Morel because he sounds like a helluva FunGhi.
Why Morel was Right:
When Morel realized the boys were aiming to go out to a party, he probably surmised that there would be underage drinking at the event. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for him to forbid them to go, so in an effort to keep them safe he did the first thing that sprang into his head: he lured them into staying at home by giving them some beer.
Morel is likely well-aware of the dangers associated with teenagers drinking outside the home in groups and made the game-time decision (literally!) to entice them to spend the evening at home.
Whether or not he can or should give his son the occasional taste of the Devil’s Juice is one thing, but serving a minor who did not spring forth from your own loins is not smart or legal.
Why Morel was Wrong:
Morel should not have given your son alcohol without discussing it with you first. I can understand your anger and frustration because this is a major trespass against your rights as a parent and he owes you a very heartfelt apology that comes with flowers and a Starbucks’ Gift Card.
When I was in high school, my father would sometimes buy beer for me and my friends and we would stay home, talk about all the boys who wouldn’t give me the time of day, and collapse into a puddle of giggles and tears by 10:00 p.m.
Key point: we were collapsed in a puddle of giggles and tears at home.
Car crashes are the number 1 cause of death for teens, and about 1/3 of those deaths are alcohol-related. I can understand why parents are resorting to actions like Morel’s when struggling with how to keep their kids safe.
Besides drunk driving, there are other things to worry about like sexual assaults (and misunderstandings) plus being subject to arrest.
Do I think Morel should have given your son beer without your permission?
But unless he is just a pathetic loser who didn’t want to be at home alone on a Saturday night, I understand why he did.
I think you need to give this man a break and talk to him about what happened. If you don’t want your son being served alcohol make that clear, but don’t cut your kid off from this relationship with one of his oldest friends unless and until this happens again.
That’s just downright punitive to your son, and though he shouldn’t have had the beer without talking to you first, remember this is a 16-year-old Man-Boy we are talking about. They are as likely to refuse beer as I am to refuse a free shopping spree at Zelda’s.
I strongly discourage you from reporting him to the police. Not only will you look like a gigantic bitch, the cops have bigger things to worry about so just take a deep breath and clue him in on the law.
In Oregon, parents can give alcohol to their minor children but only in a private home and only if they are present. You cannot transfer this responsibility onto another parent, so even if Morel had asked you if it was OK, technicality it wasn’t.
Morel should be warned that his actions subjected him to pretty dicey legal repercussions and unless he wants Johnny Law coming down on him (and possible forfeiture of his property) he shouldn’t serve alcohol to anyone but Morel, Jr., a.k.a. “Little Mush.”
Talk to your son, explain why this is unacceptable to you, but consider in the meantime that this could be an occasional safe alternative for your kid so long as you and Morel supervise the beer drinking together.
Who knows – maybe you and Mr. Mushroom might hit it off? I’m just saying – your sons are friends and you are neighbors. Sounds like an Instant Family: Just Add Beer!