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April 03, 2008


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Hooray! for you. I hope to be as hard-lined vigilant when I hit the teen-parenting years in the not-too-distant future.


I'm not sure exactly when my son tried alcohol the first time, but I know he must've turned 17. About 6 months later, he came home one day and we had the following conversation:
Son: Oh BTW I'm going to the Music Festival in X with Buddy and his older brother in two weeks.
Mom: Over my dead body!
Son: But aah Mom! Why not?
Mom: Because of all the reasons we've already been over before - your age, my responsibility yadayada....
Son: But Mom, EVERYBODY else....
Mom: No way! Besides, why is Buddy allowed to go?
Son: But he's going with his brother!
Mom: Right... And he's a paragon of virtue!

This arguing and screaming cariied on for quite some time - ending in one extremely upset Son who slammed doors for the next two weeks and didn't talk to me. We walked past each other, only saying what was absolutely necessary, but I steeled myself....

Three months later over dinner one night, he told me what had happened to some of his friends at this Festival. One was beaten up, another picked up by the police for being disorderly and a third for being dangerously intoxicated. He also told me it had been 'kinda good being able to blame his STUPID MOM when he couldn't go along to the Festival'

Keep it up, is my advise!
We're not supposed to be our kids' best friends, trying that is doing them a big disservice. If we can prevent their first piss-up with even just a few years, we may have saved their brains if not indeed their lives. It's our job to be the stupidest person walking the face of this Earth, making impopular decisions in the face of tears, rants and slammed doors.


Way to go, Jenn! I'm all for the "my stupid mom" as a gift we can give to our kids. My oldest 2 aren't a problem...yet, but watch out when HJ and SnakeMaster get to be those ages!


I couldn't agree more... with just about everything you said.

My older son (21 tomorrow.. yikes!) has always been incredibly mature. He never started drinking until he began his officer training at age 19, which is legal drinking age here in Ontario. I have no worries that he'd drink to excess. He's just too smart and career-focused for that. And he's quite outspoken about the "idiots" that do.

My younger one (soonish to be 18) on the other hand is a much more typical teen, and the one that I knew would challenge me throughout his growing years. I know he's spent at least one party night that wouldn't have happened had I known parents weren't home. This resulted in a rule that I need to connect with parents and know they'll be home if he's planning to spend the night at a friend's place. That in itself is often more awkward that it's worth for him. I also know it's not enough to allow me to be complacent about what he's up to.

He knows where I stand despite where I've stood at his age. He knows how I feel about the differences between an adult brain indulging in drink or smoke and a growing brain doing the same. I get a lot of eye-rolling and oKAY-ing, but I know that some of it has to be sinking in.

As stated by Trudie above, it's not our job to be their friends. It's our job to see around the corners for them until they're mature enough to predict their consequences more reliably. We're here to get them safely to adulthood.

Great post, Jenn.. and great mom!


That's fantastic! My family is in a small town (about 5,000 people), and there isn't much to do for teenagers around here. I have been telling my oldest for years (he's in his second year of Middle School) that school is not about making friends with everyone, and there will be so much more of life after high school! Good grades will get him a lot further than being popular. On the plus side, his class (of 45 total) have all been pretty good kids so far. It's the next one I worry about more. Wish me luck!


My daughter starts high school in the fall and this is exactly what I'm afraid of. She's a good girl now, but I feel like she's the type of girl who would be a partier if it weren't for me! I don't even want her to go away to college. I may just bribe her with a car to stay, and a laptop, and an internship with my husbands employer. My cousin, whom my daughter adores, just went away to college and got into trouble. Some mistakes you make as a kid will haunt you forever. It's scary.

Don Mills Diva

"It's your job to try and my job to stop you. You do your job and I'll do mine."

I love this - I was a bit of a wild child in my day and I may have emerged unscathed but that was LUCK and I agree with you when you say luck is not a parenting plan - I do not want my child relying on luck...


Hmm. Not representative here. I was in the nerd herd, the accelerated crowd, the national honor society. We bought cases of beer and a dime bag each and smoked and drank beer in the basement of one of her friends' houses-- her parents said that if we weren't having sex, doing anything besides weed, and walked home or got a ride, they would leave us alone. We all have master's and Ph.D's now.

teresa (maggiegracecreates)

I am a realist with my girls. I also believe in demonstrating a responsible drinking pattern. Saturday night I had two margaritas with my dinner and made the senior in high school drive back to the hotel.

They know there is not a whole lot they can get by with. Small town - loose lips - great for keeping up with the kids. Plus mom has really good instincts.

Honesty openess and integrity all are good things - and being ready to be the one blamed is just a part of my duties. I kinda like being refered to like this "my dang mom won't let me."


So far this hasn't been an issue for us, but when (if?) it ever is, we will be after them like white on rice. I have extra worries about the drinking because of the alcoholism floating around in their genes...it's a scarey thought for me.

We live by "trust, but verify"


Terrific post! I feel exactly the same way. We aren't there yet, but those days are coming and I think it is good to know how you will handle situations before you have to face them.
thanks for your insights.

Life As I Know It

We aren't there yet, but I will try my hardest to be a lot like you!
I'm the youngest of 4 and I think my parents just got tired by the time I hit high school. So I did a lot of partying and noone seemed to notice. I was lucky nothing catastrophic happened.
I'm going to try and keep a much closer eye on my kids...and talk to them more.

Green Girl

GOOD FOR YOU!!! (yes, I yelled that.)

Green Girl

GOOD FOR YOU!!! (yes, I yelled that.)


I plan to be the mom who "is too strict and won't let me go" too!!


I don't want my kids to drink too early - like I did in HS. I'd like for them to feel they have experienced some of it before they go off to college, because I think it would be better for them to have tried it then to feel they need to spend time experimenting at college, etc.. It's so hard being a parent - so hard.

Have a good day Jenn - see you soon - Kellan


Sounds to me like you are doing a great job! I dread having to deal with this. I never drank in high school, but drank heavily in college and it got me in some trouble. My husband was no saint either. We also have alcoholism in both families, so we will have to really inform our children about the dangers they will face. I tend to strictness and will have no problem marching into a party to get my kid if I find out there is drinking going on. I'd rather them be embarassed then dead after driving drunk.


Just keep doing what you're doing, looks like it's working! And yes, that looks VERY familiar :-)

Tootsie Farklepants

I'm in complete agreement with you. Yep I did some really stupid things as a teenager but the point is to LEARN from your mistakes and try to see that your own children do not repeat them. And if they want to call me a hypocrite for that, then that's fine by me. I'd rather be a hypocrite than a mother to a dead child.


I am pretty sure between my husband and me, our kids can't get much past us we didn't try ourselves. We both were pretty hard partiers and don't want our kids to share in THOSE experiences.

We were just talking about that this morning. Right now, my kids want to have friends over HERE all the time. At ages of 5 and 6, I encourage this so when they are teenagers, they still want to have friends over HERE and I can know better what they are up to.



"Lucky is not a parenting plan in my book."

Damn Jenn, that's so simple and yet so powerful. Well said.


I actually did not drink in high school - partly because of a very strict dad & a mom who somehow knew everyone & everything, and partly because my friends & I just naturally wanted to do other things. *cough*GEEK. I know.

I did, however, flunk myself out of the university my freshman year because of partying. Dumbness. I believe it was the result of not having actually communicated with my parents about drinking & carrying on - I guess they assumed since I stayed out of trouble in high school, I'd do the same in college. But I hadn't learned any real information or gained any skills...

I think now, as a parent & teacher of teens, the best stance is clear expectations (YOU WILL NOT DO ILLEGAL & DANGEROUS THINGS AND LIVE TO ENJOY PRIVILEGES), frank talk (yes, I was a partying idiot, but I FAILED SCHOOL and WASTED MONEY and LOOKED LIKE A LOSER and had to CLAW MY WAY BACK), willingness to be the mean, stupid old person (check), and unconditional love (make mistakes, I will still hug & kiss you. In public).

All of this to say: You are a brilliant parent, keep it up :)

Jennifer H

My kids can count on us being strict about this when the time comes.

You're doing a great job...well done.


I love this post. You go girl! My kids are young -- but we are a few years away from this. I say be hard core. let them know how it is. They have one shot and bad things happen out there.


Im with you on this one!

The Introvert

It hasn't been too long since I was in high school (10 years), and I can honestly say I didn't drink. But even those of us who steered clear of partying in high school tended to give it a shot in college (no pun intended). It's natural to see what the big deal is when there's no parents around to check up on you. But I quickly found out that partying is highly overrated. There are some lessons you just have to learn for yourself.


My daughter was lucky enough to get in a car with her friends and a few blocks later, pulled over. Funny, her friends let her drive and she had no drivers license! Bad daughter! Turned out to be a good lesson though. She got pulled over and the car had booze in the back seat and she had no idea. She got to watch her friends fail the breathalizer, get patted down, handcuffed and hauled off to juvie.

The cops called me and I went down the street to pick her up. They told me they were very impressed with her honesty and especially her 0.0 on the breathalizer! They gave her a ticket for no license and let her watch her friends lay face down on the street and get patted and cuffed.

Her eyes were so big that night. You could tell she learned more lessons than I could have talked into her. And those kids aren't her friends anymore. She made her own decisions about that. And she paid her ticket out of her savings account.

Some lessons are best learned by observation.

mike golch

Boones Farm,you bet I remember that,and lets not forget the maddog 20/20.

aaryn b.

I'm not there, yet. But I do think the best thing we can all do is keep the lines of communication open with our kids, give them the proper tools to make the best choices, hope they make the best ones more often than they stumble and to support them to the best of our abilities in both sets of circumstances.

That being said, I fall more in line with bipolarlawyercook's comment up above and don't take to the idea of being the super strict parent. Not that I judge you for it by any means; just that it isn't my style.

Also, I totally have to disagree (respectfully) with Maria. Bribing your child to stay behind is to deny her her own personhood. A parent's job is to bring our kids up with love and guidance and then set them out into the world to become who they are, not guilt them because we're afraid of the experiences they might have.


I'm scared to death of the teenage years. I'm pretty naive and am afraid what they'll try to get away with. Boarding school anyone?


Good on you Jen! I applaud your stand. I was the most devious little boy who knew how to party and how to get liquor, how to get fake id and steal my mom's car at night. I will save my son all the trouble that I got in and teach him from my experience. I grew up when I turned 35 and got married, got smart and decided to work on myself, my career, and my bank account. I wish I had grown up 20 years latter.


Good on you Jen! I applaud your stand. I was the most devious little boy who knew how to party and how to get liquor, how to get fake id and steal my mom's car at night. I will save my son all the trouble that I got in and teach him from my experience. I grew up when I turned 35 and got married, got smart and decided to work on myself, my career, and my bank account. I wish I had grown up 20 years latter.


Good on you Jen! I applaud your stand. I was the most devious little boy who knew how to party and how to get liquor, how to get fake id and steal my mom's car at night. I will save my son all the trouble that I got in and teach him from my experience. I grew up when I turned 35 and got married, got smart and decided to work on myself, my career, and my bank account. I wish I had grown up 20 years latter.


Good on you Jen! I applaud your stand. I was the most devious little boy who knew how to party and how to get liquor, how to get fake id and steal my mom's car at night. I will save my son all the trouble that I got in and teach him from my experience. I grew up when I turned 35 and got married, got smart and decided to work on myself, my career, and my bank account. I wish I had grown up 20 years latter.


I am ABOLUTELY POSITIVELY with you on this. For every reason you stated. Like you, I started partying early (even earlier than you, unfortunately) on in highschool. I would NEVER want that for my children and I admire you tremendously for your parenting. Kudos to you! You are really BEING there for them. Giving them a little space, but letting them know you are there and that you are AWARE. Can't replace that.

Great post, Jenn. You've got me fired up!

Valarie in AL

I have three ages 17, 13, and 7. Thankfully the oldest has a pretty good head on her shoulders. She does not like hanging out with people who drink and do that kind of stuff. Not to say that she hasn't hung out with them before, but I think she got so tired of all the drama she would just rather not do that. Now that she is graduating its on to number two.

Prof. J.

I'm with you,babe. Thankfully, I don't have to face this issue, but I agree. Lucky is not a good parenting technique.


Jenn - I think Big Red - and his siblings - are lucky to have you and your husband as parents. I also think you are lucky to have gone through the teenage years having experienced enough to know what teens today are going through. So, I think "lucky" DOES have a part in parenting skills, but luck combined with preparation and willingness to talk openly is an even better parenting plan - and you seem to have that plan in force. College is different, of course, but the values you have instilled in Big Red will hold him in good stead, I know!

Mrs. G.

I'm not into being a cool friend to my kids and they know it. I have been very frank with my daughter about what to expect at college (I imagine she will be as shocked as her rather late blooming mother was those first months of freshman year)and what to do should she choose to partake in her four years away from my watch. I think the whole I'd rather you do it at home mentality is a crock-and God help the parent who let my kids drink in their home.

Deb D

We have been very lucky (yeah I know but still) with our kids. During high school neither of them were interested in partying. I know now that #1 is in college he has started to do some partying but as far as I know it's rather minimal. I'm sure #2 will partake as well when he leaves home. I have let both kids have a drink at home with just us(which they rarely choose to) and have tried to give them strategies to use when they find themselves in uncomfortable situations. I have no problem being the "big bad meanie" and my kids can use me for an excuse anytime but they also know if they screw up they aren't to be afraid to come home. Grade nine was an eye opening experience for #2 as he saw literally all of his male friends start partying and fall off honour roll. I think they have both made really intelligent choices but although I may have guided them I can't really take a whole lot of credit.


I also was a kid that didn't drink at all during high school. My parents were strict, but that also didn't really make a difference. I didn't WANT to drink in high school. I think one thing that can help is to raise a kid who is really secure in him or herself as they are instead of trying to be so popular. But I'm not a parent yet, so I have no idea what I'm talking about, lol!

But I did teach high school for two years and I know that they do get into a lot of nonsense and shenanigans. And I always felt good when they asked me if I drank in high school and I could reply honestly that I had nary a drop.

Anastasia  Beaverhausen

Though I'm not naive enough to think my kids will wait until they're 21 they know that we don't allow drinking. At home or away, I refuse to provide a safe haven for underage drinking. I know parents who allow their kids' friends to drink in their home (without knowledge of the parents)and I'm just not sure where those people get off allowing my kid to do something I've forbidden.

I know that college is a different story and we've talked about making good/smart choices. I'm not down with the laws that say my "legal adult" is old enough to get married, smoke, have a kid, vote, buy a house, and die in a war that is not of his creation...but he cannot drink. That said, it is a law and we have to work with it. Also...I remind them that both sides of my family and both sides of their father's family have alcoholics. My kids are in the genetic crosshairs. Just saying.


Great post, Jenn! wish all parents were like this.


this is good mom stuff. just that you think about it/talk about it is.


Jenn, as usual, you're on it. My first two got through high school without drinking . . . and no, I'm not in denial. I am consciously aware that they're full-fledged lushes now that they've graduated college. ;-)


First of all I am normally just an observer ...but I wanted to comment on this. I am also the parent of three three teenagers. One senior who doesn't tell me anything either. I am writing because we attended a funeral for a former team mate of my seniors who passed away in a car accident-it was so incredibly sad. I just hope that all of the teenagers who attended the service will realize how precious their life is. And how many people will be devastated if they are no longer here due to an impulsive decision. Hang tough, Mom... it's worth it in the end.


The more I thought about this post and having a 14 year old boy, the more came answers came into my mind.
14 years ago when Dan was born, Janet decided to quit her job to be a stay at home Mom. It looked impossible financialy but we did what we had to do. I started to cut costs everywhere I could to make it work. One of the first things to go was alcohol. I was never a big drinker, I just hated how much booze added to a night out for dinner, how much a nice bottle of wine cost in the liquor store. Anyway it was part of a financial plan that I did not miss. It become evident after about 5 years that it was wroking out nicely, os every year we rewarded ourselves with a nice purchase or a new toy/car/trip etc.
Last year Dan came home from school and asked me "are we rich"? No I replied far from it. He told me that the kids at school thought we were riched because we lived in one of the nicest houses and drove a new BMW. I explained to him that we are good with money (Iknow you are as well from one of your posts). I told him that 13 years of not spending on what I thought was unneccessary, Iwe could buy ourselves nice things. Liquor, I told him, was one of those things in life that some people like to spend money on. I on the other hand prefer to spend money on things that last longer than a 4 hour state of altered conciousness. Ball park what we used to spend on going to parties and buying wine, beer etc, and then add the costs of dinners out with booze at $20 - $30 bottle times once or twice a week, we were socking away $3 - $3 1/2 thousand a year.
It seems to work. I never condemended alcohol, In fact most of my friends and family drink and we still socialize, I just bring a cheap bottle of cranberry juice with me to paarties. By examle we have shown him how easy it is not to drink, and still have an amazing time no matter what we do. the bonus is we always remember and never have hangovers. He comments on how "loaded" some people get that he sees at the parties we go to. More importantly we have shown him how the rewards are amazing. I openly share my bank statement with him proudly and show him what is in our nest egg.
Last week he announced he was going to buy a Les Paul Signature guitar, the one that cost over 4 thousand dollars. "How are you going to do that I asked" expecting an answer about many jobs etc.
"I'm not going to waste my money on booze and drugs like othere hisgh school kids do" he told me. My money is going on something that will last me a life time. My exact words to him 7 years ago when he asked me why we don't drink.
Setting a good example, which I know you and your husband do, is a bigger piece of the solution than we know.
Thanks again,

Amy the Mom

Bravo! I loved that article in the Washington Post, too.

I have never been able to buy into that "party in our basement where it's safe" mentality. There are so many things that can go wrong these days in addition to alcohol poisoning and drunk driving. Dangerous sexual behavior, addiction (as mentioned in the article) and on and on.

I'm with you in the uncool parents camp.


It horrifies me to think that in 4th grade I was best friends with a girl who routinely grabbed a Tall Boy out of the fridge and brought it upstairs to guzzle while she smoked a cigarette out her bedroom window. Meanwhile, I just sat on her bed talking to her like it was totally normal. Incidentally, her mother was an alcholic, my parents had no idea, and my friend eventually became an alcoholic by high school. So yeah, I'm in my kids' face as to their whereabouts and who they will hang out with.

Also? I plan to never ever let my kids go somewhere like a concert or party where their friend has an older brother or sister driving. The first time I ever drank was in the back of my friend's brother's van, on the way to an Eagles concert. Older siblings are trouble, I tells ya!


Hmm. Lots of different opinions and answers.

Well, my experience as a daughter was this: Very strict parents. I didn't drink, smoke or have sex in high school. Fear (of my father, mostly) stopped me from following the crowd. Once high school was over, I partied like a crazy person. Without parents hovering over me and setting strict limits for me, I didn't know how to set my own limits. I never needed to before.

My experience as a parent was this: My daughter turns 21 tomorrow. Because we homeschool (unschool), her main group of friends was full of very conservative Christians. (We're not.) There was no drinking. There was also no dating. It was kind of weird. We drink (lots and lots -- just kidding) at home. The kids have always been "allowed" to try some any time they want. My daughter had a half glass of champagne at a New Year's party at our house and hated the way she felt afterwards. (She's little and it packed a punch for her, I guess.)

Once she got a part time job at 17, her friend-pool changed. But she still didn't drink. At 18, she became the manager of the wine department at work, ordering all the wine for her store, meeting with the suppliers. It was kind of funny. She was an underage wine department manager.

I can't say that the adversarial strict parent vs willful child relationship was a good thing for me as a teenager. We try to partner our kids and they trust us. If they want something, we are here to help them safely experience/get it. When my 14yo son started online-gaming with a group of older teenagers and college kids and wanted to attend a tournament one of them hosted, I took him. I met the kid hosting it. I sat in my car outside the apartment building (with my drawing and portable easel!) waiting for my son. He had a cell phone, i had a cell phone. He's gone three times since, enjoys gaming with the college guys, doesn't smoke or drink. They don't care how old he is, just how good a gamer he is.

Trusting your kids doesn't mean closing your eyes and crossing your fingers. It's not "luck". It's about building a relationship over the years in which they trust YOU and know that you have their best interest at heart.

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