Booze

There’s a tradition in this area of Jersey that after the prom, the kids go down to the shore for the weekend. The parents rent the house for the kids, hire a bus to get them there, and fill the house with food and refreshments. No adults are in the house. Recipe for disaster? Sometimes.

We went to a meeting of the parents in Jonah’s group to discuss the logistics of this enterprise last night. Who should stock the fridge with food? Which parents would rent a hotel room nearby to check on them periodically throughout the weekend to make sure that nobody has passed out in a pool of their own vomit? How much should we chip in for a common fund for pizza delivery?

Also on the agenda was the issue of whether or not we should provide them with beer and wine spritzers.

With the story of the dead frat boy from Penn State on all of our minds, we hashed things out. Should we buy them beer? Bud Light, after all, is better than vodka. It reduces the risk of them getting caught for buying stuff on their own. But the risk of a lawsuit if something goes terribly wrong was on everyone’s mind. The risk might be small, even arguably very small since all our kids are perfect (not), nobody wants to contemplate losing their business or their house. Would the 18-year olds in the house be liable if the 17-year olds does something stupid?

I think that everyone, including us, has no problem with a seventeen or eighteen year old having a Corona Light at home on a Saturday night. If the kid can enlist and die in a war in Syria, then he/she should be able to have a Corona Light. But the laws are the laws. And there was little confidence that the kids will be slowly sipping their beers at the shore house. So, no beer.

Ugh. It’s all so messy. The kids are up in arms and are battling us over this issue.

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63 thoughts on “Booze

  1. Penn State is just awful all around.

    But we never got alcohol from my parents. Never even thought to ask. That’s what older brothers were for. Also, prom was the least drunken of all the social events I recall from high school.

  2. I know this is a serious topic, so it might be inappropriate for me to inject some humor here, but I will anyway. Can you tell them to develop some grit and figure out how to get beer the way the rest of us did when we were their age?

  3. Wow, this sounds like a completely insane tradition. I know they’ll all be in college dorms soon (and am sympathetic to the legalization arguments) but why not have a parent in the house, watching netflix in the most distant bedroom?

  4. Here’s the thing. Supplying beer does not preclude partygoers bringing and ingesting vodka. It also does nothing to prevent the use of marijuana, cocaine, fentanyl, or LSD. Our state has a social host law. Parents who rent a house for a party, and supplied alcohol, would be liable. Parents have gone to jail for such things.

    It is legal in our state to serve your own child alcohol, but not to serve alcohol to other people under 18, unless their parents consent.

    I personally think the drinking age should be 18, but it’s not.

    1. It also does nothing to prevent the use of marijuana, cocaine, fentanyl, or LSD.

      Do you see a lot of that? The kids into elephant tranquilizers because they have beer?

  5. Carfentanil is the elephant tranquilizer. Fentanyl is often found in cocaine, apparently, although I gather people can also be addicted to Fentanyl.

    Our state has seen a rapid increase in fentanyl overdoses: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/stop-addiction/current-statistics/data-brief-overdose-deaths-february-2017.pdf. (page 3 has a chart.)

    Fentanyl is on college campuses. It is also in high schools: http://www.westfargopioneer.com/news/4026568-west-fargo-officials-say-students-selling-using-fentanyl-schools-crisis

    http://www.courant.com/health/heroin/hc-hartford-swat-sickened-0915-20160914-story.html

    http://www.newcanaannewsonline.com/news/article/Deadly-math-Fentanyl-and-why-the-opioid-epidemic-11142262.php

    I know of this because my kids know it’s becoming a problem at colleges.

    But…

    Compare a party with teens with beer to a party with teens without beer. All the beer does is make the adults less wary about the other substances teens might bring to the party. The dangerous ingredient is teenagers looking to party, at a point when they may think there are no consequences.

    And high school kids do sometimes want to use cocaine or ecstasy, which all now apparently can be laced with Fentanyl: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/party-drugs-increasingly-being-laced-with-fentanyl-1.3412507

    My high school class had an all night party next to the high school, out of longstanding tradition. At that party students were rumored to be using cocaine, pot and lsd. (I skipped it, but judging from the behavior of some of the party goers in school the next day, yes, they were not just drinking beer.) That was decades ago. The supply of drugs to high school students is more reliable than it was then.

    1. I never saw anything but alcohol, and very rarely pot, at any teen party I ever went to. Or college party. Anyway, I’m very certain that beer has caused more damage than cocaine or ecstasy or elephant tranquilizers, but I’m not about to try to do without that.

  6. I told my husband about this, and he said his group of friends rented a cottage after prom, and it was the first time most of them tried cocaine. So one additional story to support Cranberry’s point about teenagers wanting to party being the root problem. Not sure how you can change that though. My parents hosted a post-prom party for my much younger brother – parents everywhere. Yet the kids still managed to get completely trashed. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  7. I am the naive-est mom around, with kids who say they think psychoactive drugs (including alcohol, and of course any other traditionally recognized drug of abuse, but also, sometimes, coffee) are the evil. But, I still think there’s going to be alcohol at the after-prom party unless someone has hired security with the task of monitoring alcohol/drugs.

    I still don’t think parents should supply the substances. At the very least, the teens have a lot less money than their parents do. There’s also the law, and the possibility of losing one’s house.

    In our neck of the woods, at least one school hosts a parent lead, drug free all night prom event to at least disconnect the prom from drugs. Of course, I presume the kids party anyway, but not on the official night of the pseudoprom (which also doesn’t involve dates, and can only be attended by graduating seniors).

    One of the disturbing trends (and, yes, as always, grains of salt) I’m noticing is the tendency of HS seniors to ape what they think are their 20 somethings, but not real 20 somethings, but the ones depicted in tv shows involving 20 somethings who live in hip apartments in expensive cities, spending their time having dramatic relationships (or lots of casual relationships) and hanging out in bars while working in their spare time. When I was a 20 something, I was married and working many hours a day in a lab. I know I was unusual but even the most wild and crazy people I knew had to spend most of their time working.

    1. One of the disturbing trends (and, yes, as always, grains of salt) I’m noticing is the tendency of HS seniors to ape what they think are their 20 somethings, but not real 20 somethings, but the ones depicted in tv shows involving 20 somethings who live in hip apartments in expensive cities, spending their time having dramatic relationships (or lots of casual relationships) and hanging out in bars while working in their spare time.

      I’m not so sure about that. Hanging out in bars wasn’t exactly some kind of exotic habit. It’s what a substantial minority of the adult male population did three or four nights a week and a large majority did on the weekends. Older guys, which is to say people my current age, tended to cut back, but I had classmates who worked 60 hour weeks during the summer and were always ready to go for beer every night after the sun went down. Even at 19, I could never manage that much and only went out a couple of times a week.

      1. I will freely confess to being the kind of outlier who would not have known about the actual people hanging out at he bar.

  8. “Would the 18-year olds in the house be liable if the 17-year olds does something stupid?” Absolutely. Depending on what happens, there could be criminal and/or civil liability. You could be potentially liable as well. What you describe is a terrible idea, and, eventually, a mistake will happen to someone’s kid (maybe not yours) where everybody wakes up and says “You know that was a bad idea.”

  9. I was just reading some of the comments, and I find them interesting, especially with respect to how 20-somethings are depicted in the media. I have never seen a full episode of Friends, even though I am roughly the same age as both the actors who starred on it and the characters they portrayed. It was not my truth, even though I was not married when the show started and only became a parent just before it concluded its run. On the rare occasion when I was exposed to a scene from the show, I changed the channel.

  10. We thought it was/is important to show disapproval. When my wife went downstairs to a party at our house and found a partial half gallon of cherry vodka, she immediately picked it up and poured it down the sink, under the sad gaze of the kids. This is partly because of the legal considerations mentioned above, and partly because damnitall we are supposed to push thoughtful behavior.

  11. Not one family wants to stand up and say no to this craziness? It’s tough for me to imagine parents giving permission for a weekend of illegal underage partying, much less financing it. Besides the legal concerns for every single person involved, it’s not hard to imagine a laundry list of other life-altering, regrettable moments being InstaSnapChatted to the world. And while a bus might seem like it heads off one potential tragedy, DUI, it also prevents an easy escape for any guy or girl who decides they’ve had enough and want out of there.

      1. Speaking of alcohol, I switched from Yuengling to Straub because so far as I know none of the owners of Straub have publicly backed Trump.

    1. OK, I’ll come out and say what I’ve been thinking. I think this post-prom weekend house thing is insane. I can’t control what my kid does, but I can control how much I contribute to it. I assumed there would be post-prom partying and my only contribution was “call me if you need a ride.” I didn’t even say “Don’t be stupid,” because in our house, that goes without saying.

      Of course, I am still mad that she even went to the prom. I don’t believe in proms and think they’re meaningless and not very fun high school rituals. Then stupid Shane had to stupid prom-pose to her. Argh. And just like that, I’m out another $300-400 for the ticket and dress.

  12. I know of one family that tried to, in the words of the mother, “enforce the law.” She said that she was a lonely voice. This occurred in a very wealthy area.

  13. It’s an unusual choice to “swim against the stream” on the subject of teen partying. One school asks parents to call the parent hosts of any parties. I’ve done that–and it’s been obvious that I’ve been the only parent doing that. I can’t explain the nonchalance.

    It could be a class thing? Perhaps there’s the belief that a certain degree of sophistication will be protective? That one will never have a child addicted to things I can’t mention because of the blog’s filter? http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/05/22/class-study-heroin-epidemic/dB9toe4OfISPvTiMwf40ZN/story.html

    I’ve seen again and again the defensive rationalizations when bad things happen to children from UMC families. Most often it’s the assertion that the child or family was mentally ill in some way, depressed or different.

    1. I’m not at all sure it’s the case that cracking down on teen partying is in any way protective against alcohol addiction.

      (For the record, I think it’s a bad idea for parents to serve alcohol at a party with lots of teens. The one time I was at one — a neighbor’s house when both me and their kid were graduating from high school –, we got their dog drunk. Cuddles was really hurting the next day.)

  14. I certainly never thought it was my parental duty to enforce the law, on alcohol or otherwise, especially stupid laws, like the 21-year-old drinking age.. I confine my parental attention to mala in se. That said, I would certainly explain to children, and to anyone else who will listen, that getting caught is in itself a bad thing.

    The girls in my daughter’s high school class drank quite a bit, including at the after-prom party, held at a classmate’s country house. None of them came to any serious harm.

      1. Alcohol and pills remain a bad mix. I’m told even my Aleve is risk when combined with more than a couple of drinks a day. I’m looking into physical therapy to see if I can be free of both ankle pain and Aleve.

      2. Do you mean the pills the parents know about, or the pills the parents don’t know about?

      3. Just yesterday there was an article in the local paper about how people in Ohio are dying from Fentanyl overdoses, but it’s still relatively uncommon here because we have old-fashioned values heroin.

      4. But you do need to worry that anything capable of killing Ohioans is probably also fatal in humans.

  15. I have to vent. I’m upset. I might delete this comment later, but I need to get this out of my system, so I can get work done.

    So, the parents of the kids in this prom house decided to not formally purchase beer for the kids, because of liability issues. But a few parents have decided on their own to buy cases of the beer themselves and transport it down there secretly without consulting the other parents. I’m not pissed that my kid will drink that beer. As I said, I don’t have a huge problem with an 18-year drinking a beer or two in the evening. But I’m pissed that they took away a parenting decision from me. They are providing my kid with beer without checking with me first.

    I’m also pissed off at the privilege that reeks through this whole enterprise. We’ll spend $1,000 on the prom and the prom house/drinking bacchanalia. That’s a lot of money for meaningless crap. The amount of energy orchestrating this perfect evening for a bunch of spoiled rich kids is disgusting. We’re also spending another few hundred to rent a hotel room nearby just so we can make sure that our kid isn’t in danger. So much waste. I feel like someone needs to tell those kids that binge drinking is stupid. OK, I did it. But it was stupid. And to create environments that support and enable it is even more stupid.

    And why are the kids partying like crazy? Why are the parents supporting it? Because there are no consequences for them. Even if the kids get in trouble, the parents will buy them out of all of it with a good lawyer.

    It’s all pathetic.

    1. That’s terrible – it’s not just that they’re giving your kid beer without checking with you (which I suppose they could do in their own homes without too disastrous of a result) but that they are actually doing something that you and the other parents agreed not to do.

      That is a ridiculous amount of money, and those other parents are irresponsible idiots. I vote for declaring Jonah too sick to attend the prom, or having a family emergency that begins at 11:30 p.m. the night of the prom.

      1. He’s psyched for the party and assures us that he’ll be fine. I’m sure he will be. But I still hate everything about all of this.

    2. That’s terrible!!

      Also thinking about what you can do with a grand, I just bought a ticket to spend the summer in Europe. A multi-city flight + several internal flights is costing me about $1,000, and I didn’t try all that hard to get a really cheap flight. With the euro being so weak, you could probably swing a week long trip to Paris in a budget youth hostel for a bit over a thousand dollars.

    3. Yes, terrible.

      In one of our rich kid neighborhoods, in April, at a 100-200 kid party, a 14 year old girl consumed enough alcohol to end up in a stupor and was raped by two 17 year olds, documented on Snapchat. The boy whose house the party was in apparently saw the snapchats, and updated the 14yo, in some perverse simulation of being courteous. He also met her father for coffee to tell him what had happen. The article (I am not personally knowledgeable) ended with a warning that it’s a crime to share the pictures of the incident.

      1. The stereotype is the poor kids from the “bad” ‘hood but in reality, the ones who can afford the drugs AND have the free unsupervised time are many of the wealthy kids. And supply it to their classmates.

        Keep ’em busy…

  16. I remember high school graduation as one of the two or three biggest days of my life. Not that it was actually that much of an accomplishment–most people graduate from high school, and I might have done more difficult or more admirable things since–but given my limited perspective at that age, it meant more to me than almost all later events. So it’s pretty understandable that children would want to celebrate, and adults who remember how they felt at the time might want to facilitate that celebration.

    1. Interesting. I have vague positive memories of my high school graduation; in the evening I went with my friends to the overnight event the school sponsored at an indoor tennis club, which was pretty fun. Dancing, eating, talking to the guy I had a crush on, etc. We were not big drinkers (there was the occasional use of parents’ stashes, though not by me or from my parents – I was a very legalistic teen and not interested in breaking the law. I know, weird.) In the best days of my life contest, I’m not sure it cracks the top 100.

      1. Have to agree. I’ve actually been trying to think, now, about the best days of my life. Graduation/s? Nah. I didn’t even attend my PhD graduation. Wedding, traditional choice, but “best” day? Birth of children? There were pros and cons to each kid’s birth. Defending diss? Maybe. But 1-2 days that stand out to me in recent years are the days I travelled to a small town in Germany and met cousins I had not known of, cousins who took us all around the small town and told us about my their/our family. They also took us to meet another cousin and his wife, whom we also became close to. That cousin passed away this past Monday at the age of 97. So I guess those days have been on my mind.

  17. I feel for you, as I live, as do you, as many people do, in between the two worlds of “Let The Booze Flow” and “Thou Shall Not Touch One Drop Of Alcohol Before 21.” For people living in one of the two worlds, the decisions are easy, as there is either booze or no booze. For the rest of us, there is fretting. I would go with no booze, even if it meant a prohibition from the party. But, I have not had to face the issue.

  18. Also, I do not get a sense that the author of this blog regrets anything that has personally occurred to her as a result of the alcohol in her life. Maybe I am wrong about that, maybe there are things that are not being discussed, even while the blog has revealed underage drinking, with the booze provided by a track coach. In contrast, I do have regrets. Nothing too damaging but still, exposure to danger that, looking back, probably constituted an unacceptable level of risk. I have tried to steer my family away from the alcohol culture, even as we, as parents, continue to drink socially.

  19. I’ve been thinking about this conversation (induced, by a rant of my own, that does not involve alcohol or parties, but consequences to failing to listen about life tasks (i.e. filling in forms, paying bills, deadlines, backups).

    My insight, this morning, while internally fuming and ranting and worrying is that we can’t base our risk assessments for our children on worst case scenarios. I do think worst case scenarios intrude our world view (especially those of us who spend a fair amount of time online) more than they used to, and we have resist trying to defend against them in increasingly restrictive and invasive ways.

    I’m going to try really hard to follow my advice to myself.

    1. bj,

      But what’s the best case scenario here?

      The kids have a good time and nobody gets alcohol poisoning, falls down and dies, gets raped, or gets accused of rape.

      The upside and the downside are way disproportionate, especially as there are other ways to have a memorable good time.

      1. I’m pretty sure it isn’t possible to have a memorable good time while being completely sober.

      2. I’m pretty sure the best times you have are the ones where you get blackout drunk and can’t remember what happened.

        I think this is called “The Binge Drinking Paradox.” Fargo should name an episode after it.

      3. That’s the sign of somebody who has insufficient experience drinking. You just need enough to shut off the part of your brain that worries too much.

      4. I think the best case scenario is that a child has a memorable day, one filled with joy, one that they remember for many years. The experience could help cement ties with friends, friends who many become lifetime friends and sources of support, connections, and joy. These benefits shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, even with the risks.

        Many of the choices we have to make have both risks and benefits, and dismissing the joy and connections and community that come from a frivolous activity is dangerous. Sometimes I feel like we overvalue the risks, especially for our children, since we don’t experience the joy (of, say, the party). The odds that they’ll get drunk and die, or get drunk and rape someone are pretty low. I do worry that the get drunk and get raped risk might be higher than I’m willing to accept, and think that might require the kind of risk mitigation one also uses for get drunk, drive, and potentially get hurt or hurt someone.

    2. bj said:

      “I think the best case scenario is that a child has a memorable day, one filled with joy, one that they remember for many years. The experience could help cement ties with friends, friends who many become lifetime friends and sources of support, connections, and joy.”

      I don’t think that missing one day is going to nuke a solid relationship, or that one day will make people friends who weren’t friends after four years together.

      We just had our 9th grader sit out the class party that was going to be at the kid’s house where they’ve had golf cart jousting in the past and other shenanigans. I just don’t feel confident about the level of supervision and safety there. We also had her sit out the 7th grade and 8th grade overnight trip when we couldn’t chaperone and weren’t confident she could deal with the physical demands of the trip. She seems to be on really good terms with everybody despite all this and we’ve sent her on the 9th grade overnight trip and several other overnight trips over the last year or so. If all goes well, she’ll have a week in Italy with her class senior year as well as a New Orleans trip between now and then. If that won’t make everybody BFFs forever, nothing will.

      1. Missing one event is unlikely to be vital, but missing shared experiences in general does change relationships. That’s might be fine, for someone whose relationship needs are met elsewhere (say, with family, as one example). But others have a need for a broader social group, and building those groups (as opposed to simply getting along) takes involvement.

        I do think an individual faces greater danger from events like post-parties if they aren’t really part of the group, but are trying to use the to try to break in (the 14yo girl who was raped, for example). I’d be more demanding of my kids’ involvement if I thought they were aspirational, rather than having fun with friends. Neither of them are prone to trying to join groups they are not a part of, so it’s not a practical concern, but it is a guide.

      2. That is a very good point that bj makes, that the children who are trying to break into the group may be more at risk. It would apply to victimizers as well as victims, as someone who is trying to break into a group is not the best candidate to restrain the established members of the group from inappropriate activities.

      3. bj said:

        “I do think an individual faces greater danger from events like post-parties if they aren’t really part of the group, but are trying to use the to try to break in (the 14yo girl who was raped, for example).”

        That was also the dynamic in the Steubenville case, wasn’t it?

  20. So many thoughts about this….and most of them come down to “it depends”.

    The kids who are risk takers and impulsive will need more “scaffolding” longer to mitigate the risks around alcohol consumption, as do the kids who have a family history of substance abuse.

    And as to recreational drug use? The milder ones like pot are much more potent/dangerous than back in our day. Other drugs didn’t exist or weren’t available. Out here on the west coast we have a huge fentanyl issue with many many overdoses. From what I understand, it’s a drug whose dosage has very little wiggle room. In other words, the risks are higher than when we were teenagers.

    I’d be quite angry at the parents supplying the beer without talking to all the parents about it.

  21. The “Recent Comments” box right now is all “Wendy on Booze,” “MH on Booze,” “y81 on Booze.” I think I’ll join the party!

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