Thanks, Mom!
Why can't parents be more like my mother?


Susan Konig

As Mother’s Day approaches, I pause to think about how moms (and dads) these days are raising their teenagers. In a recent series of drinking-related scandals, parents have been arrested, kids suspended, and, in one notorious case, a teenager died.

It’s a given that kids have to be taught responsibility — but that’s tough when their parents think and act like teenagers themselves.

This week, 15 varsity baseball players from Massapequa, Long Island, were suspended from playing for the rest of the year after it was learned that they visited a strip club on a Spring Break trip to Florida. Who took them? A parent. Oh, and he bought the drinks.

Meanwhile, in the Hudson Valley, a mother was arrested for throwing an underage beer bash for her high-school-aged son and about 25 other minors. As she was hauled off, she protested that she didn’t think it was illegal to let minors drink if no one was driving.

And, of course, there was the notorious case in Westchester County last year when a group of high-school students were let out of school early and went to a student’s home while his parents were out. A drinking party ensued and one boy was killed when another punched him and he hit his head on the patio.

As a result of these kinds of incidents, legislation has been proposed to require all kegs to be registered. Another bill would force all bartenders to take special training. But how will these laws make kids behave?

I agree that establishments that sell alcohol have a responsibility not to sell to or serve minors, but that has always been the law. Kids have always tried to sneak into bars or charmed a clerk into selling them a six-pack, and that won’t change.

Parents who condone — or even allow by their absence — an environment where drinking parties can take place are endangering scores of kids at one time. And it’s sending the wrong message.

Responsible activist types like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are undermined by their permissive contemporaries. And we’re not just talking about parents who explain, “Oh, we’re European so we let the kids drink wine with dinner.” We’re talking: “Let’s have a beer bash and call all your friends.” Or, “Let’s get a hotel suite and have a Sweet 16 party until we’re raided by the cops.”

What if kids out there were under the impression that their worlds would come crashing to an end if they ever sought to host an underage drinking party in their own homes. That if they attended one because they didn’t want to be called a chicken, then that might be the last thought they ever had.

Obviously, I am not condoning violence against children. The threat is not toward their mortal lives but toward their social lives. Can parents today say, “You will never ever go out unchaperoned again and you will miss every cast party, pep rally, victory party and student union meeting forever” — and mean it?

The parents who are letting this happen are either bona fide idiots whom we can’t do much about, or they are trying to be their kids friends because “Hey, we drank and smoked dope and it’s not fair that ‘the man’ is bumming our high.” Which also makes them idiots.

Parents should be held accountable for the misdeeds of their children because it is their responsibility in the first place to make sure that their kids know the rules and follow them.

Basically, parents should just act like my mother. We didn’t need a task force or an alcohol czar. My mother was the alcohol czar. We lived in New York City where bars on Second Avenue catered to underage high schoolers and sold them drugs as well. Was I at risk? Not with the teeny tether I was kept on until I reached college age. I had an impossibly early curfew and always had to leave before the trouble began.

No sloe gin fizz or illicit substance ever had enough appeal to overcome my fear of getting into really big trouble with my mom.

And for that, I thank her.

— Susan Konig, author of the book Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road and other lies I tell my children, is an NRO contributor.