A form of harm minimization or just bad parenting?
We all know teens will drink if they want to drink. Personally, I wasn’t really into drinking as a teen, but most of my friends were. And it surprised me how easily they could procure alcohol. Every weekend — an older relative who would buy for them; a little stolen from parents; a bad fake id that would work at some backwoods liquor store. But I cannot remember as single weekend, as 16–18-year old’s when they did not get the booze they wanted.
So when — about 6 months ago — my 17-year-old daughter asked if she and her friend could have a glass of wine, from an open bottle we had in the fridge, I was inclined to say ok. The way I saw it, she would be able to drink if she wanted, and it was better that she could be open with us about it. So, I said yes. I said that she and her friend could each have one glass of wine. My wife and I were out with friends that night, but when we got home, we saw that she was true to her word and they each had only one glass of wine each.
Subsequent weekends were similar. Not always, but somewhat frequently on the weekend she would ask if she and a friend she had over could have a glass of wine. Similarly, if we were having a nice dinner, we would all have a glass of wine or prosecco together.
If she was at a friend’s house and there was alcohol, she would have one or two drinks, and would always tell us about it. Sometimes there was more drinking going on, and some of the kids would get quite drunk, but she assured us that she stuck to 1–2 drinks because she feared being out of control. Our rule was that she had a strict curfew of 11pm, and she would check in with us when she got home. She is an impulsive kid, and we’ve always worried about her getting carried away in the moment, so we liked that before bed check in. Her track record was good. We never saw signs of her being drunk. It seemed the strategy was working.
So, it came as a bit of a surprise when we had a drink with an old friend the other night and she got quite aggressive about our approach. This friend, she is an old friend but not really a close friend any longer. But I have always considered her a good parent, a very good parent in fact.