Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Price of Coolness

I have a confession to make. I was an underage drinker. In Connecticut, in the mid to late '70's, the drinking age was eighteen. As a high school student going to summer theater cast parties, I was offered liquor and I drank. That's what you do at cast parties, right?

But I never ordered a drink in a restaurant, even when surrounded by friends who did, in places that reliably served underage drinkers. Why? Because it was illegal.

Yes, in my muddle-headed teenaged brain, it was okay to drink in someone's home, but not to order liquor in a restaurant.

I raise this issue this morning because of a post by Dr. Clarence Lam on Facebook this morning.

"Great discussion tonight sponsored by HC DrugFree at Wilde Lake High School on how parents can take an active role in reducing teen alcohol and drug use here in Howard County! Of note to parents: parents can be fined up to $2500 for providing alcohol to teens."

Do you want to pay to be the cool parent?

Several years ago there was a tragedy right here in Howard County that involved underage drinking, driving, and death. It has weighed heavily on my mind ever since. A $2,500.00 fine is nothing compared to the burden that will be felt forever by the adults who must have somehow enabled the use of alcohol that evening.

Will a monetary fine be a deterrent? I truly hope so.

My daughter will turn thirteen in November. I worry about so many things: self-image and self-confidence, body image and eating disorders, the smart phone culture of selfies and texting, bullying through social media, dating and the possibilities of sexual harassment and date rape, teen drivers and driving safety.

Now just add alcohol to that mix. Do you see what I am seeing?

My parents never talked to me about alcohol. They decided to let me learn my own lessons. I got really sick a few times, but overall I was lucky. I wish my parents had talked to me. I wish they had shared their concerns and their values with me. As a teenager, I probably wouldn't have been remarkably receptive. But it would have added to my developing concepts of what is safe and what isn't.

I needed a compass. I didn't have one.

As a parent I am determined to be honest about my concerns and values with my daughter, and committed to keeping her, and her friends, safe. I'm glad that HC DrugFree is around to support and educate in our community.

Let's redefine "cool."

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