Doing Coke….or Pepsi

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I remember my high school days and house parties with friends. The soft drink at one of the parties was Coke. Yet there were some party-goers with Pepsi cans. There’s brand loyalty for you! Or wait, maybe there was something else inside the Pepsi cans that was neither brand of soda. Could it be beer? Or Vodka? Or some soda, but with that extra rum “flavor”? Kids thought they had outsmarted the adults, but they were quickly found out, parents were called, and the party ended sooner than expected.

Some things don’t change. Just this past week a high school student got a text which invited him to a ninth grader’s house from 12noon to 5pm on Election Day. “Bring alcohol,” the text read. “And we have to be sure to be out of there by 5 o’clock.” Since I was privy to this information, I thought it might be a good idea to alert local parents of the impending festivities. So I went to the prevailing media of today (Facebook) and posted on a number of parent and high school sites the following:

“Hi Friends… One of our high schoolers just got a text invitation to a party from 12-5pm today in which he was invited to ‘bring your own alcohol.’ And the ninth grader who is hosting the event emphasized that “every HAS to be out by 5pm.” So….if your children are out and about between noon and 5pm, I just suggest you check to see if they’re really hanging out at the local election site — or maybe they’re at a party. And if you have a ninth grader, you might want to come home before 5pm. Let’s keep everyone safe out there!”

Several things came of my posting. Dozens of parents called their sons and daughters to find out what they were doing. Some actually looked at the original text on their child’s phone and knew who was having the party. The party was shut down before it began. And then people started commenting. At last check it was estimated over 300 people joined in a conversation that got more and more heated. People called into question other parents’ ability to parent well. Some suggested that teenage drinking was nothing new — they had done the same when they were young. Others countered that even if that was true, it doesn’t mean that people should condone teen drinking today.

I didn’t have the chance to follow the whole thing before it was deleted online but as one of my friends said, “As it got later in the day, things got so nasty that I wonder if the people commenting were drunk themselves.” Drunk texting! That could explain a lot. It is true that some people think they need to “take the edge off” a hard day’s work by having a beer or some wine or some pot or a little “something else” to help them face the parenting challenges of the evening. Their children are used to seeing their parent buzzed a bit. (And some of my readers may recall experiencing the same thing when they were growing up.)

I’m actually glad that I didn’t get to see who was being nasty in public online. This way no one has to feel embarrassed when they come to church next weekend. But I walked away from this experience feeling more concerned for the parents than for the teens.

I think kids will always try to get away with things like alcohol at a party. It’s up to the grownups to stop them and help them understand the consequences. But I don’t think grownups have to use social media to bash each other and I’m concerned about the number of moms and dads who are parenting under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The number people who’ve died from overdoses in our neighborhoods continues to grow. At last count we’ve done 20 such funerals at Saint Bernard’s in the last four years, and sixteen of those deaths were deaths of parents. And if that is the number of dead parents, then it makes me wonder about how many are using alcohol and drugs on a regular basis, but haven’t died. Yet.

Let’s keep everyone safe out there.

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