Teenage Drinking

Dear Robin:

I am absolutely fuming. My 16-year-old 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 who lives down the street.  They have been friends since early grade school and I like the kid but now I’m not so sure my son should hang out with him.

The (unmarried) dad bought them a 6-pack and they all watched football together. 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. 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?

Single Mom in Portland

Dear Single Mom:

Thank you for your letter, which combines my two very favorite subjects: drinking and anger!  

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Robin’s Daily Tangent that Eventually Gets to a Point:

I used to have a boss who drank a lot.

At work.

Every day.

This boss used to have a favorite expression 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 hoarder’s lair of an office.

Why am I telling you this seemingly-unrelated story? Because conversely to my own history, this dad is wrong, but for the right reasons.

Let’s call him Morel because he sounds like a helluva Fun Ghi.  I’ll use bullet points because readers tell me they help break up the page into more readable tidbits.

Why Morel was Right:

  • When Morel realized the boys were aiming to go out to a party, he probably surmised there would be underage drinking at the event.
  • In his effort to keep them safe he did the first thing that sprang into his head: he convinced them to stay home by giving them some beer.
  • Morel is likely well-aware of the dangers associated with teenagers drinking in groups and made the game-time decision (literally!) to avoid those dangers.

Why Morel was Wrong:

  • 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 issue from his own loins was both stupid and illegal. 
  • Morel should not have given your son alcohol without discussing it with you first. That was a major fuck-up and he owes you a heartfelt apology accompanied by flowers and a bottle of wine Starbuck’s® gift card.*

Lest Ye Forget: It’s all About Me

When I was in high school, my father would sometimes buy beer for me and my friends.  On those nights we would stay home, talk about all the boys who wouldn’t give me the time of day, compare breast size development, 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.

Safe.

On other nights we were taking moronic risks and flirting with disaster.  I’m often amazed we all made it out alive.

Car accidents are the leading 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, pregnancy (it’s hard to get a condom on when you’re wasted), arrest, and if a child plays a sport: suspension or expulsion from the team.

Do I think Morel should have given your son beer without your permission?

No.

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.

That’s just downright punitive and though your son 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 Nordstrom®.**

DO NOT report him to the police. Not only will you look like a gigantic bitch, the cops have bigger things to worry about.  

Take a deep breath and clue him in on the law. I’ve done your research for you.  Please feel free to send me $20 for the effort.

Oregon Law Regarding Underage Drinking

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, legally 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! 

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*Dear Starbucks: This is product placement.  The first one is free.  I look forward to your call.

**Dear Nordstrom: This is product placement. The first one is free. I look forward to your call.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Keith Stone

    Robin,

    I like your feedback on this situation. Morel probably did the best he could, givin the situation…. like we all get sometimes… “situations.” There’s no perfect answer, but your well rounded advice is without peer.

    KS

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