Thursday, April 19, 2012

On Booze

Kind of based on an email conversation with So Midwestern earlier today...

As we have established, my sister is 17. She is smart, popular and very social. She does the things that most 17 year old social butterflies do. In about a year and four months, she will leave me for college, at which point she will likely do all of the things that 18 year old college freshmen do. Frankly, her popularity with older kids has meant that she has done a lot of the things that 17 and 18 year olds like to do since she was about 14.

Wrapped up in all of that, of course, is alcohol. This may come as a huge surprise to many of you, but a lot of teenagers spend a lot of time trying to come up with stuff to drink, EVEN THOUGH THEY AREN'T OLD ENOUGH TO!!!

Without a doubt, I benefit from being her sister and not her mother. She doesn't do things without telling me (often to discuss it, at length, beforehand:-)) and I am about 99% confident that I know all of the times and places where she has been presented with such libations, and her reaction to every one of those instances. I will spare you the details...and this isn't really about that.

What I have for you are two questions, neither of which I will answer in this space ('cuz I am paranoid) but which I would encourage discussion of and will gladly answer off-line.

Question 1: Many parents choose to let their kids drink a little bit at home. This could mean a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer watching a football game or something similar. Such consumption is, in most states, legal and the arguments in favor are largely wrapped up in demystifying alcohol, encouraging responsible behavior and helping to kind of "learn" how it works. Arguing against, it could be seen as a tacit permission to partake in consumption outside of the house in less legal and more dangerous circumstances. As this applies to me, please discuss your approval or disapproval of allowing Munchkin to have a drink or two with dinner, or possibly a delicious sunset cocktail on the beach...

Question 2: Is it my obligation as a big sister to get her absolutely hammered at least once before she leaves for college? Or my obligation as her mother to discourage that as much as I can?

OK, go...


Lpeg said...

My sister used to come to college to visit and we'd get drunk, so I cannot judge. And I am completely okay with letting them try it out with a glass at dinner, etc.

Some states, like we've talked about it before, even allow a minor to have a drink with adult consent in the restaurant!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I grew up in a house where I was always allowed to take sips of my parents alcoholic drinks (sometimes multiple sips), but I never was allowed my own drink. To be honest, I'm not sure it taught me much of anything. I still got rip roaring drunk when I went away to school (and probably would have even if I was allowed a whole drink or three for myself). The thing is, it's more than just drinking. It's the social experience of drinking with your peers. So, even if you do introduce drinks to your sister at home, that doesn't define or clarify what it's like to drink with friends or to drink at a party or when you're in the presence of that really cute boy you have a crush on. =) I'm not sure how we'll personally handle the decision for our own offspring. But, I do know that I'm going to be more concerned as a parent that I have taught and encouraged open communication ... I may not be able to control everything that goes on in his life, but at least we can talk about it. Clearly, you've mastered open communication with your sister, so maybe that's the most you can ask for.

laurwilk said...

I was in the middle of a very lengthy comment and it disappeared.

This can be a gchat discussion. Ha.

Lori S-C said...

In My opinion,
No and no to supplying alcohol to her at home or you getting her hammered before college.
That said, perhaps having a little bit of wine at a holiday festivity that you are not hosting, or a sip or two of a beverage while in Europe or on an island somewhere might be okay since the laws are different there.
Odds are that she will drink, but don't provide it at home or nearby. I don't think you should enable drinking for a minor, but instead, let her know that there should be boundaries for when and where she drinks it, especially as a minor.
In my opinion, you don't have to dissapprove of this, you just need to remind her of there being a time and a place for everything and that her safety is really important. So, if she does drink, you will always be ready to come and retrieve her so she can get home safely, with no questions asked and no judgement made. She needs to know that if she overdoes it, her safety and possibly her future options will be compromised. I'm sure that you have witnessed many situations of young girls making stupid choices regarding behavior while intoxicated. That is going to happen regardless. But for a girl who looks older than her years and is as beautiful as Munchkin is, she may be easy prey for older guys. Clearly she is mature for her age, but she doesn't need to be more vulnerable than is necessary.
I've done my share of retrieving inebriated teens who've been partying, and back in the day, did my own share of partying. (no comments from you, Laurwilk).... I just don't believe that it should be facilitated under the situations discussed.

Lisa said...

I'm all for de-mystifying alcohol.

I think you and your sister have established a kind of trust that is a great basis for her checking out some influences of alcohol before she's off to college.

I think it's much safer to get to know some of its side-effects like oversharing information or behaving silly at home.

I think no parent wants its child to first taste alcohol miles away from home, surrounded by strangers. If they're lucky, those strangers will look after when she's had a sip too much, if she's unlucky she won't.

I guess if you're having some conversation about it, maybe paired with a "light" drink, you could tell her some of your college horrorstories concerning alcohol. I think she'd benefit from that

Talking Thirty said...

I wouldn't stress too much about this because no matter what you do, I'm guessing she'll drink her fair share in her college years. For most kids, that's a major part of the college experience.

Thinking back to my own college years (hard to believe it was 10 years ago...eeks.), I had a lot of friends who were serious partiers (despite going to a nerd school (but not MIT)) and they each had very different experiences with alcohol leading up to going away to college. Some had been drinking for years, and others had never touched the stuff, but they all ended up with similar partying/drinking habits. I think her behavior will be largely shaped by the group of friends she meets when she first gets to school.

Oh and of course whether or not she joins the Greek system. :)

Kathleen said...

I think given her maturity level a drink with dinner or special occassion seems appropriate but I am never a fan of getting hammered with people I am an authority figure for. :-)
That being said, I agree with you on the prolific use of alcohol among youngsters these days and think she will probably partake of her fair share. I feel like my parents were pretty blase about alcohol and definitley let me drink around them to some degree. I still got drunk in high school, college and after plenty but feel like it definitely demystified it and now feel like I hardly have more than the occasional cocktail with a special occassion/dinner just like they taught me....

sab said...

Being Italian, drinking was not something I was ever prohibited from doing. My grandmother would put red wine in my coke at dinner on Sundays. (Til this day red wine and coke is a favorite cocktail.) Likewise, i was permitted to drink at family functions if I felt like. So alcohol was pretty de-mystified for me. But college drinking is really about "partying" - meeting boys, being social - and not just "drinking for the sake of getting drunk". I don't think her drinking at college will be affected too much by whether you permit her drink now or not. I do think having some experience with drinking will help her gauge her limits and understand whether, and how, she wants to involve it in her life. When I married my husband and acquired his pre-teen kids, I was always blase about their drinking at home with family during their teen years. Now they are in their 20s and though they drink socially, none of them are crazy drinkers and never have been. (And their mom was a raging alcoholic so I know they make a conscious choice to be social drinkers and NOT abuse alcohol. I like to think I showed them by example, an alternative way.) I think it is important to teach her "how to use alcohol" and how not too. There is an advantage to getting her drunk enough to have a hangover and feel sick (puking would be a bonus). One, you can control the circumstances under which that occurs and two, you can witness her misery and remind her in the future that she probably does not want to do that again! In all honesty, it sounds like Munchkin IS mature enough to have an experience and determine whether it is for her or not. And if you are there for that experience, you can help along the decision making process. I wouldn't be surprised if Munchkin ultimately decides that drinking is okay, but drinking to excess is pretty unnecessary (and a colossal waste of time and energy!). Besides, if you do not let her drink before college, how will you ever teach her about the "spacer"? You know, that every other drink is a glass of water or other non-alcoholic beverage. No one need know about the spacer... but while her friends are quietly getting smashed, she will have drunk half as much AND keep her wits about her while it still LOOKS like she is drinking along with them. Drinking is an activity that is ingrained in our society, not only in college, but in business (esp. advertising, finance, etc.) Better she learns how to cope with alcohol use early. (Oh, and while you are at, don't forget to warn her about leaving drinks unattended...not to be paranoid but getting roofied is not uncommon.) I think the whole point is to make her a bit street savvy before sending her off on her own.