With high school graduation upon us and with the possibility, albeit “unlikely”, some graduates might inadvertently ingest some sort of alcoholic beverages, I thought I’d give parents some advice based upon what I learned not only as the county prosecutor but more importantly as the father of three boys.
First, one of the reasons that alcohol consumption is illegal under the age of 21 is that alcohol has an adverse impact on brain development. As I stated before, I am the father of three, now grown, boys. They are all very successful and Cheryl and I are very proud of all of them. But when they were teenagers I can categorically state that none of them could afford the destruction of even a single brain cell. From lighting a fire with five gallons of gasoline (which caused a mushroom cloud visible for better than a mile), to driving a car and hitting a “bank” (my dad thought my son hit the Hocking Valley Bank instead of an embankment), to using the garage as the backstop of a driving range (leaving an eclectic array of holes in the dry wall), they really were, at times, a test of our sanity. I’m sure that every parent reading this can think of a story where their teenager has committed an act which I would call “a special kind of stupid”. Alcohol does not help the brain functions of a teenager and should be strongly discouraged.
Second, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Well they are going to drink anyway, I’ll just host a party so they will be safe.” The problem with this approach, other than the fact that it’s illegal, is that if anything goes wrong you are personally and financially responsible. And because they are teenagers something WILL go wrong. Someone gets sick, injured, causes a vehicle crash or worse, the costs are on your dime personally. If you disagree, call your insurance agent and ask if your homeowner’s insurance covers hosting an underage drinking party. So save yourself an embarrassing visit from local law enforcement, don’t host an underage drinking party.
But last and most importantly, use your experience. Not as a parent, but as a former teenager. Your kids believe that you have always been the age you are right now. They have no concept of the fact that you were once a teenager and engaged in the same type of “ill-advised” conduct that they are about to try. I can put this advice in the newspaper because even though Monica Nieporte and Joe Higgins put together a very good edition, the chances of a teenager reading the editorial page of the Sunday Messenger are pretty low. So put your past adventures to good use.
I found that my experience was very valuable when each of my boys, at some time or another, came to me and said they would be out for the night “cat fishing.” Now noting for them that they did not have a fishing license ... or bait ... or a fishing pole I pointed out the “cat fishing” was not a very original dodge. I mean I told my parents I was going “cat fishing”; my parents told their parents they were going “cat fishing”. Abe Lincoln told his parents he was going “cat fishing” when in fact he was going out with friends to engage in the afore-mentioned acts of “a special kind of stupidity.” The details of my adventures I will not mention so as to protect the guilty. So don’t believe the “cat fishing” story, but give you child credit for carrying on a fine American tradition of trying to sell a story that has been used since the founding of the republic.
Now I do have good news. This stage of life passes, often like a kidney stone, but it does pass. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have been to the mountain top.” Hang in there, in a few years you will get your reward. “Grandkids.” They are so much fun you’ll wish you would have had them first.
But seriously, tell your kids to be careful out there. Don’t drink alcohol at all but if they do drink, don’t drink and drive or get into a vehicle operated by someone who has been drinking. Graduation should be the beginning of their future. Unfortunately at times, often due to alcohol consumption, it is a tragic end.
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C. David Warren is a retired Athens County prosecutor after being elected to three terms to serve the post and is a member of The Messenger’s Board of Contributors.