It started with a few sips of a shared drink, orange juice mixed with something, vodka, rum, I don’t know and neither did he. A friend brought it with him to the town carnival and passed it around to his group of friends. It was the beginning of his sophomore year, and he was 15. The next weekend it was two beers at a friend’s house. Both nights, he had come home and told me all about it. I had raised him with good communication being a primary focus, we could talk about anything, and there was absolutely no tolerance for lying. As long as I knew the truth, I could deal with whatever would come my way. We talked a lot about drinking both times, and I made it clear that he was too young to be doing it. I explained to him that his brain and body were still developing, he wasn’t ready for that kind of experimentation yet, but that if he was going to do it against my wishes, he needed to know his limits. If he was buzzed off of two beers, that was his limit, because anything past buzzed is high risk for doing dumb things, not to mention dangerous. I added that drinking in public is just stupid and could end up with him getting into a lot of trouble, so if he was going to do this (against my wishes) he HAD to be responsible about it. He understood, and I felt like a complete hypocrite.
I know that kids his age are drinking and a whole lot more than that. I was drinking by his age, but it’s not as if I could condone it. So I thought that trying to understand it and talk about it would be the best way to go. My parents had a zero tolerance policy with me, about everything. They didn’t try to communicate with me about anything, but told me how it was, what the rules were and then doled out the punishments. What they did with me did not work. From my first drink at the age of 14, I drank a lot, whenever possible, all of my friends did, I don’t know why, but that’s the way it was. The morning after my sophomore semi-formal, my mother picked me up at a friend’s house, after I had been puking for two hours from the bottles and bottles of champagne we had consumed the night before at the after party. Yes, pink champagne, Cold Duck to be exact. I threw up for the entire day, and just kept telling her I must have eaten something bad the night before. Of course she knew, and I was busted, facing the first of many, many groundings to come.
I figured that since the way they handled things didn’t work, if I handled it all completely differently, then there might be a more positive outcome. If I was more open, and tried to be tolerant, maybe he wouldn’t really have as much of an interest in partying like I did at his age. Logically, this made sense to me. But was it happening anyway? What I was really thinking was I am NOT ready to deal with this! It’s already happening, NOW? I really needed a couple more years before we got to this point, I had just gotten used to toy cars and dinosaurs under foot all the time, how did we get to this part so FAST?!!! But years had passed since the cars and dinosaurs, I was present for all of them, it’s just that I still see my five year old angel, with the sweet voice and contagious giggle, whenever I close my eyes. When I open them, a young man, 6 feet tall, with the potential for way too much facial hair, and a deep masculine voice, is what is standing before me. But with the same sweet smile and sparkling eyes, and he scares the crap out of me, just as he did on the day he was born. This beautiful person, this child that I am responsible for raising, protecting, teaching, and guiding, through all of the years that lead to him becoming the man he is meant to be.
So there we were, and I should have just been thankful that the part that did work was that he told me all about everything. Our communication was terrific, I had accomplished that. But I was very nervous about what might be coming next…