The first time I was drunk I threw up in my dad’s car. It was a month after my sixteenth birthday. It was a good friends birthday. My friend was way cooler than me. I was always surprised that she liked me but we genuinely got on really well. On the evening of her party I arrived alcohol free. There was no way I had access to bringing alcohol with me. Although I grew up in home where I often had a Martini and lemonade with Sunday Lunch. Although alcohol was not off limits in our house I never would have thought to ask mum to give me some for a party. Time has changed since the though which is why I ask ‘Would you buy your teenager alcohol? A parenting dilemma’
Instead I swigged some awful wine from a bottle, I can’t remember if it was red or white. It didn’t matter, I can’t even recall how much of the wine I drank but certainly enough to make me ill. My dad picked me up at the agreed time and I was clearly incapable of much. I denied being drunk, I even denied being sick as I sat there with vomit in my lap. Once home I was put to bed with the words ringing in my ears to lie on my side because if I laid on my back I would vomit, choke and die! Thanks for that Mum!
Now my own daughter is a similar age I am facing parenting decisions that I don’t feel ready and qualified to take. There is a party next week and some of her friends will be drinking. Do I do as my parents did or do I parent differently? Being a teacher and having many years of working with teenagers I can’t pretend I don’t know this is coming. I can’t play a game of ignorance when I have listened to my students talk for many a year.
Would you buy your teenager alcohol? A parenting dilemma
I know what goes on and I am also a young enough mum to remember what it is like at her age. I champion teenagers whenever I can with campaigns like no likes needed and complain when the media demonise teenagers. But I am not immune to the fact that teenagers sometimes make bad decisions based on their inexperience. This is now often fuelled by social media, where photos end up being shared widely. At least my own mistakes were not recorded and shared across social media via smartphones. My mistakes were soon forgotten. Now it is often plastered across the web and our children have to deal with that too. There are many stories of things being shared that we would rather keep buried, mobile phone companies and vodaphone customer service are used to the fallout.
I believe that I have a great relationship with my teen. We talk and are very close but I am not naive enough to think I know everything about her. I am sure there are secrets whispered to friends. That there are confidences shared between her circle of girls that I can only imagine. It is not my place to know every detail. If truth be told I always find it rather strange when I hear a woman of my age saying her best friend is her daughter and that daughter is some twenty plus years younger. I am not my daughters best friend, I am her mother. Older, wiser and the one still legally responsible for her and the one to set the ground rules.
So back to the party, I have to accept that she is growing up. I have to acknowledge that she is starting to want to try new things and that includes alcohol. So do I be the mum that lets someone else pass her the a bottle of cheap wine or do I choose to give her the alcohol that I am happy for her to drink? Whilst we can bury our heads in the ‘it is not legal debate’ that doesn’t really help make informed decisions. Likewise it is easy to make a decision when you are rocking an infant in your arms and you set out your ideals for the future. But when that infant is now a young person who has come to you because they feel that they can ask you and listen to what you say do you hand out the Bulmers with a warning?
This feels like one of the big parenting decisions that I have to make. I want to get it right, to pave the way forward as we enter the next stage independence. Therefore I have made some decisions of sorts, I have bought the Bulmers, just two bottles mind. However I am not encouraging her to drink but I will make sure what she is drinking is safe. I will not buy her friends alcohol, they need to have a conversation with their parents who can make their informed choices. I hope that by doing this I am keeping the communication open that she knows I have her back and will continue to parent with boundaries and I hope that I am getting it right.
As for me after THAT party, I was woken up, told to shower and get dressed. Handed a bowl of soapy water and a sponge and told to clean dads car inside and out.
To those of you with babies, snuggle them, inhale them as soon enough they are taller than you. I personally think parenting just gets more complicated!