My Teen is 16 years old. He’ll be 17 in December. I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more for him to start experimenting with alcohol but nothing, zilch! No falling in the door drunk, no cleaning up piles of puke and definitely no having to put him to bed in a comatose state.
His friends have definitely began too. I spoke to a Mum at the beginning of the holidays who’s son had come home a little tipsy after the end of the GCSE’s. There had been a meet up at the local park and everyone had been drinking. I knew Teen hadn’t gone to this and I said ‘Teen isn’t really interested, he probably wouldn’t have gone so he wasn’t putting himself in a difficult position’, not sure if I was really believing the words that were coming out of my mouth.
Teen and I discussed the end of term celebrations, and sure enough, he said he didn’t go because it would just be a load of people hanging out and drinking and he wasn’t really interested. He really didn’t feel he was missing out. Knowing my Teen, this is absolutely how he see’s things and I have no reason to think he’d lie to me.
I’m definitely on the more liberal side of parenting, and when it comes to alcohol I’ve neither actively encouraged or discouraged it. My parenting motto has always been ‘restriction breeds rebellion’, and it was something I really hoped would work. I think I’m a little shocked that it has worked quite so well, perhaps a bit too well. I’m not going to say I’ve always been the best example over the years when it comes to alcohol, but clearly with being pregnant and breastfeeding for over 3 years now my drinking has been pretty restricted apart from the odd glass of wine here and there.
Teen went to a birthday meet up this week, and I asked, much to Teen’s annoyance of course, if anyone was drinking. It turns out they were, and Teen ended up helping someone home who had become a little unsteady on their feet. When I asked Teen if he’d been drinking, he replied quite firmly, ‘I don’t drink, Mum’.
As I said, I’m a pretty liberal Mum, and I wouldn’t mind if he was, I’d just want to make sure he was safe and talk to him about drinking responsibly. I’ve found myself having quite mixed feelings about his response which has really surprised me.
Without a shadow of a doubt I am completely proud of him for not drinking when everyone around him is trying it out. I’m proud that he has a strong sense of self and isn’t giving into peer pressure. He clearly doesn’t want to drink and that’s a huge relief on so many levels.
However, there is a part of me that thinks perhaps he should be experimenting, with friends he knows and trusts. While I still know where he is at night and know who is friends are. Is this the safest time to be exploring ‘having a drink with friends’, but he is still under age and he’s making a sensible and legal choice. It’s clearly my own social conditioning and history with alcohol that is making me think he should be trying it out. Research shows that 64% of adults believe it’s inevitable that a young person will drink before the age of 16. I can quite honestly say I would have been in this 64%, until being proved wrong by my own off spring.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful that he’s not interested. I hope it stays that way, and if he does drink, only drinks in moderation. Young people can make themselves so vulnerable when they’ve had too much to drink. Young men are at far greater risk of being attacked when they are under the influence of alcohol than girls. Nearly 65,000 hospital admissions of young people a year relate to alcohol. Statistics like this are pretty scary.
We all know the dangers of drinking; depression, anxiety, addiction, yet alcohol use is so prevalent in our culture. I think I really did believe it would become an inevitable part of his life, part of fitting in. Of course, it still might, but for now I’m proud of his choices and some of it must come down to my parenting. That’s probably the bit I find hardest to believe.
I’m so grateful to my son for teaching me that it isn’t an inevitable part of growing up, it’s not a right of passage. That I don’t have to worry about him just yet. That gives me so much hope for our young people today. They can make a different society if they want to. What have your experiences been? Do you worry about your child experimenting with alcohol and how do you deal with it?
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