My 16-Year Old Son Drank Beer at a Friend’s House


Dear Robin:

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?

-Single Mom

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!


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. YouCanLeadAHorticulture

    I think that teaching your children how to drink responsibly and know their limits is a very important life lesson. The parents that make alcohol seem like forbidden fruit are the ones whose children usually binge drink once they go off to college. When you take the mystery out of alcohol, and you model the acceptable behavior by getting a nice buzz, but not getting sloppy drunk, your children are less likely to become drunks as adults in my opinion.

  2. Mark Elias

    Totally agree with YouCanLead….. My father and mother allowed us to drink at home under the proviso that we could not leave for the night after we popped a top. As a result we had a respect for the Devil’s brew and never had an episode. We passed that on to other kids and it has prevented any trouble from popping up through the years

  3. Mark Elias

    to add: all the kids with restrictive parents have gone on to be able to recite the twelve steps with varying degrees of success.

  4. Tamara

    My mother who is now passed also used to furnish me and my best friend alcohol with the rule of staying at home. She also had another agreement with me that saved me from a very bad situation. She told me to trust my instincts and if I ever felt uncomfortable to call her and she would come get me no questions asked. I called her. She came and got me. My friend who wouldn’t take the bus home with me got raped. I know your child is a boy, but there are a lot stronger drugs in the high schools now than when we were young. For your son’s safety, he needs to be able to tell you when he needs help. If you overreact this time, do you think he will call you when It could be life altering choice?

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