As a mother of four sons, ages 15-23, I’ve experienced the priceless joys and rewards of parenting, along with the inevitable challenges.
All parents spend countless years monitoring everything from candy consumption to screen time, and eventually, parties. While teens are usually buried in academics, sports, and text messaging, at times, peers and beers trump all other pursuits.
Based on statistics, it’s clear that the legal drinking age has historically never deterred kids from sneaking some alcohol on occasion, any more than the 18th Amendment stopped grown adults from illegally manufacturing, distributing, or selling it. Prohibition actually increased crime rates and alcohol consumption; thus the 21st Amendment repealed it in 1933.
Recently, I provided a safe place for a small number of kids to hang out overnight, over our garage, with soft drinks, food, Xbox, billiards, etc.; only a donkey pinata was missing, according to one kid. But some apparently brought beer.
Unless subjected to some sort of airport-type pat-down, vehicle searches, and constant surveillance, it’s quite easy for any teen to sneak alcohol into someone’s home. So anyone can end up in the same situation I did that evening: issued a summons by the Falmouth Police Department for providing a place for minors to consume alcohol, after a kid “pocket-dialed” 911.
I did not provide any alcohol or witness any possession. Through my high school years, I lost three cherished friends from drinking-related incidents. I still miss them, and it still hurts. I learned the hard way that teens and alcohol don’t mix. Most of us have personal stories, most of us get it.
As in my case, many host parents are not guilty of disregarding the law, or of poor parenting; they’re just guilty of welcoming kids to their home. But should having kids over be discouraged? Where will they go? Recently I’ve heard comments like, “Are you mad at those kids?,” and, “The police are so out-of-line in this town.” While I understand certain factors that might generate those comments, it’s not the lens I choose to look through. I’m actually not mad at anyone.
The kids are not bad kids; they’re great kids who made a bad choice, and I’d still adopt them all. I’m not mad at the police; they don’t write the law, they’re asked to enforce it. I keep in mind that the police also respond to real 911 calls and can be real heroes, and bless them for that.
My hope is that our community can focus on solutions and have some constructive dialogue around the universal challenge of keeping kids safe. I’m convinced that most kids, parents, and the police have the best of intentions in our town; that’s actually what makes it such an incredible place to raise a family.
At the moment, however, there seems to be a growing divisiveness, as if we are two opposing forces: community vs. cops. That’s futile. I’m hoping Falmouth citizens and Falmouth police can move toward functioning more like a united force, jointly recognizing the challenges we all share; with that, good things will come for all parties (no pun intended).
Hopefully, the teens at my home that night learned some valuable lessons. It was a stressful experience, but in that moment, I reminded them, and myself, to just be stronger and wiser for it. There’s an expression, “no pressure, no diamonds.” But then again, these kids, everyone’s kids, are precious gems already.
Jennifer R. Nolan of Falmouth is a writer, editor and conservationist.