Wednesday, November 11, 2009


During my son’s senior year in high school, I attended several PTO-sponsored meetings on the subject of preparing for the next step. One meeting was about health care concerns when your child leaves home.

Inevitably, the subject of alcohol came up and it stunned me to hear that approximately 50% of college freshmen have reported “binge drinking” more than once a week. And I was further surprised that “binge drinking” was described as five or more drinks for men, and only three or more for women. I’m glad I was not aware of that when I was in college and the legal drinking age in my state was eighteen. Or maybe I should have been aware of that.

Last night my son called me around 9 PM to tell me he was walking around campus to get some fresh air. With no classes today, apparently a lot of kids on campus found a way to get alcohol, and his dorm was a little rowdy. Although the school has a no alcohol policy, it’s apparently not easy to enforce. A couple of weekends ago when my son returned to school after being home for the weekend, he heard about a fight (alcohol-related) that got out of hand; last night he told me someone was “hitting people” and I think that’s when he decided to take a walk.

I don’t know if my son will drink alcohol before he turns 21. He says he will not, but I would guess that he might, under the right circumstances. It’s far outside my purview at this point to have an influence on that. He understands that alcoholism is a disease that he might be susceptible to, and he knows the difference between social drinking and irresponsible drinking. Moreover, he understands that “irresponsible” drinking likely has as much to do with the choices made under the influence of alcohol as the amount of alcohol consumed.

But is it within my ability at this point to keep him safe? I’m not entirely sure. It isn’t as though I could call the school and complain about the illicit use of alcohol. If the presenter at the PTO meeting last year was able to cite such a statistic, I imagine that most college administrators must also be aware that 50% of their populations sometimes indulge in underage binge drinking. According to the school’s policy, alcohol is prohibited in the dormitories, and almost anywhere else on campus. Is it up to the Resident Advisor – a peer – to enforce this? I can’t imagine they would be expected to step in to a room of kids that are drinking and demand that they stop. There is always a potential for a volatile reaction when alcohol is clouding judgment. Who, then, will be the enforcer?

And I stand corrected!! I misquoted yesterday: A parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child. But you get the point…

No comments: