Drinking & Growing Up

July 26th, 2007

Listen to them. Listen to these parents wailing about underage drinking. The way these people scorn drinking by underage kids leads to the impression that these valiant, temperate adults never had an illegal drink or drug in their lives.

Every kid I knew in high school couldn’t wait to get their hands on a six pack or a quart of Jim Beam for the weekend. We had liquor stores that would sell to us, places surrounded by bums and derelicts. We’d drive into the slums and get what we needed. Nobody ever asked us for I.D. We didn’t need one.

We’d drink in the woods and drive around so drunk we’d have to open the car doors to puke while the car was doing 50 or more on some dirt packed back road. We’d check the space on the back seat to see how many cases of beer we could stack there. We’d go to state parks, a bunch of us, and get polluted while the sun burned our shoulders and scorched our bare heads. We’d drive our dates back home and then make it back to our own driveways.

Cops used to pull us over, check our licenses, tell us to drive slow and let us get on our way. Wisconsin, just over the border from where we lived, let eighteen year olds drink in bars. We’d go to Woodley’s Country Dam on the weekend and raise hell. We’d get motel rooms and have sex with our girlfriends. We’d all wake up before the sun came up and head home just in time to spend the rest of the day in bed nursing a hangover.

So what’s changed? Absolutely nothing except the hypocrisy of the parents of today’s underage drinkers who pretend that in their day and age responsible behavior by underage drinkers was far more sober than today’s often fatal hot rods from hell.

Deaths of underage drinkers are nearly non-existent in countries that understand responsible behavior in all aspects of life begins at home. European kids have a glass of wine with a meal or a beer when the occasion presents itself. They don’t drink to get drunk. They drink because it’s sociable and acceptable.

It’s time America dropped the pretense that previous generations were more responsible. They weren’t. And the rigid regimes kids are subjected to today, from the time they’re born to when they have a chance to be on their own, leave them ill prepared for personal growth and responsible behavior.

Let the lessons begin at home. Let children have wine or beer when appropriate. Make it an accepted part of life instead of a goblet of fire to be quaffed when the freedom to do so is present. An adult doesn’t just pop out of a 21 year old time capsule. Becoming an adult begins at day one. It’s time the parents of these kids understood that and change the culture of forbidden consumption and excessive indulgence to one of acceptance and moderation. As a parent, the respect you receive from your kids for being a realistic player in a world filled with myth and intentional deception will set the course for an appreciation of the joys of life instead of the agony of indulgent guilt.

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