Lessons from the Saturday Night Pizza Delivery Boy

I was in a local pizza shop last night, waiting on my order.  Much to my surprise, the bright and funny teenage boy who did deliveries called out to the manager, “Oh, I’ve got to run and get some beer before the liquor store closes!”  The manager grunted in agreement, unsurprised.  The teenager turned to me, smiled and asked, “Hey, do you want to buy some beer for me?”

Oh the irony of this teenager asking me to buy liquor for him.  The poor teenager had no idea who I was or what I did, but I obviously looked pretty relaxed about life.  My reply came out in a surprised, yet blunt response, “No.”  He got embarrassed, and tried to explain that he was just joking. I could sense he was scared that he would get in trouble for upsetting a customer.  I waved away his explanations, took my order and left.

This interaction tells me a lot about teens in my community.  I’m certain that the teen didn’t usually get refused.  In fact, I wonder if anyone has ever refused to buy him beer.   This tells me that I live in a community that doesn’t yet understand what supplying him booze might mean.

Now I have to admit, I was drinking at a younger age than this boy.  No one would say that I haven’t been successful in life, so obviously a little (or a lot) of underage drinking shouldn’t get my back up.  That’s obviously not true for me though.

It’s not the drinking that I really take issue with.  If I simply use my own life experiences to justify why I don’t support underage drinking, I have many reasons.  I am in many ways still carrying around the bruises and scars from some of the incidents that happened to both myself and my friends. For example, I can’t drive to my parent’s house without sadly thinking about the night I lost Jamie.  Jamie died on a spot on that road in a drunk driving accident when I was 17.  He was a passenger. His best friend survived for a few weeks afterwards, until that boy’s parents finally took him off life support. Their other best friend, the driver, survived.  I still wonder how I managed to survive some nights myself.  I still shake my head at the reckless abandon that I treated my body and spirit, because I was drunk.  Never would you think I would be so careless, if you had met me as the charming, smart, polite teen who played sports and was on the honour roll.  Behind closed doors, however, my teenage years were hell.  So when people tell me that teens having a few beers at a party isn’t a big deal, I know first hand that it’s someone who doesn’t know what happens at those parties (and it’s never just a few beers, I might add). 

Then we consider the multitude of health studies that tell us about the health impacts of teenage drinking.   Here’s a few, feel free to share them with your teen too:

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa67/aa67.htm

http://www.thecoolspot.gov/too_much.asp

http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm

Then if consider that the younger a child starts drinking or using drugs, the more likely they’ll end up with addiction issues.  When I ran a non-profit doing substance abuse prevention, I used to say, “I do this work, because no one wants their child on meth or crack.”  Because the fact is, our job in our community is to do everything we can to set up children for successful lives.  While a few joints or beers may not ruin their lives, what joy or success can a few drinks actually really bring, and at what cost?  Are the “few beers” really setting them up for success?  What are you teaching your teens about laws? (Eg. If it’s ok to break one law, why not others?)

If we consider that a parent’s job is to give their child the very best: the best opportunities for success in life in general, then how can ANY parent consider letting their teenager drink?

I am not a purist.  I am not talking about a small glass of wine at Christmas dinner (although it’s still illegal and it’s confusing for kids about what’s ok and what’s not, I can rationally understand why some people choose to do so).

I simply cannot get my head around, however, why some parents are supplying their teens with a keg or a case of beer or turning a blind eye to when they’re coming home drunk.  I’m talking about parents hosting parties for a group of teens even when they know the other parents of those teens are against teenage drinking.  I’m also talking about the random stranger in the liquor store parking lot who took the pizza delivery boy’s twenty bucks last night to buy him a case of Lucky. 

I wish I could have spent more time with that pizza delivery boy but he was truly rushing out the door for his beer.  I’m considering seeing if he’ll be willing to give me his input so that I can share it on this blog. 

I know this blog post will be challenging for some. So go ahead, tell me what you think. I’m open to hearing what you have to say, and better understanding some parent’s choices for their teens.

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