We went to parent-teacher conferences recently at Patrick and G's school. These things are pretty much my only opportunity to say "hi" to the childrens' teachers without feeling like I'm hounding them. Patrick and G came with me. I'm thinking it's their education, and they can hear whatever the teacher has to say about them right then. I think the only exception I make to this is when I'm brainstorming with special-ed teachers about how to handle G's behaviour at school and what kind of incentives to give him. He's just not at the point where he can be rational during these conversations on most days. I'll be including him soon, though, whether he's ready or not when he's a bit older.
In any event, at the PTA tables and the various little stands where they were selling "spirit gear" and the like was a table about responsible drinking. Apparently, in order to promote responsible drinking, parents can be issued large yard signs, T-shirts and other paraphernalia just like the presidential campaigns give out. There is an entire cadre of identically-clad women handing these out to the "responsible parents" who dutifully line up, sign some hokey pledge and join the club.
"Not at my house!" the signs proclaim.
"Yeah," I snickered, "some parents just make you go to the back porch to shoot up." I wondered what would happen if lots of kids started walking by and saying that the party wasn't at their house, it was at "Davey's?" And that "Davey" is too cool? I could just imagine school authorities chasing its own tail, looking for "Davey." When really it isn't their concern outside school hours. They can stick to school safety (yes, please follow up on rumours someone's bringing a gun to school!) and academics. WHY are they handing out yard signs and trying to give me leaflets on how to tell if my teen is stoned? I told the boys I thought the signs were dippy and no way I was getting one.
OK, probably not the best way to instill respect for authority, but HELLO, that is nuts. What kind of mom and dad feels the need to advertize that certain illegal activities are NOT permitted at home? I mean, shall I pick up my "No child abuse at my house!" and "No wife-beating at my house!" and "No drugs for sale at my house!" signs as well? "No murder and tax evasion at my house?" Or, "No, the big screen TV and $2,394 missing from 123 Falley Street is NOT at my house in the living room! Don't bother with that warrant!" I think it's ... odd...
To my mind, and you can disagree with me if you want, but the best example to a child is your own lifestyle. I don't drink. At all. Other than a few alcoholic beverages I took when I wasn't allowed to take painkillers after MAJOR SURGERY, I haven't had a drink in about 16 years. I just don't see the benefit in my own life, let alone in a society if "everybody" did it. I feel the same way about illegal drugs. Sure, doctors ought to be able to prescribe whatever they want and I don't get the big hangup over pot when this "oxycontin" stuff is legal. That doesn't mean I should just grow a pot-patch in my yard and self-medicate. Duuuuude, as fat as I am, how bad would it be if I got the munchies every day?
But what's the point of making alcohol some sort of adults-only thing and instilling the idea in children that booze is the forbidden fruit? Satan's right there, I imagine, telling these kids if they guzzle the whole bottle they will be "like adults" and their eyes will be opened to the cool and avant-garde. Really, though, they'll probably just barf in the toilet and repeat the experience several times until they become of legal drinking age and decide it's starting to get kinda old. I think there are several angels being stretched rather thin protecting these young adults during these experiences. Sometimes bad things happen to these folks who are learning about how to handle themselves in the world.
I'm concerned about underage drinking in that smoking, drugs and gambling are supposed to be "for me but not for thee." Holding it up as one of those things "only grown-ups do, and you're too little" doesn't really bring out the best in people in my opinion. I'd prefer all drinking, gambling and smoking be outlawed, but I know I'm in the minority. If alcohol's availability is a given, however, I'd be in favour of lowering the drinking age to 18 and taking licenses away completely (no plea bargains, no second chances) for two years on the first DUI. Why even bother waiting until people rack up a bunch of DWIs or DUIs before action's taken? No drinking with your driving. Ever.
Problem solved, or at least it's about as solved as it will get when you deal with the larger public. There is always one nut in the bunch that ruins things for everyone. The consequences for drunk driving are too grievous, I think, to be sitting around posting "Not in my house" signs and shaming your teen by showing everyone what an uncool parent you are. How about you leave the sign at the stand, live the "not at my house" lifestyle and expect your teen to do the same?
Good grief. Does this sort of thing bother you as it does me?