Dear Teenage Son, I Just Want to Make Sure You Really Get This

Underage_DrinkingHere are two printouts: one’s about alcohol, one about marijuana. They explain how the law and law enforcement look at this stuff (spoiler alert: they don’t like it).

Let’s be really clear: what you’re looking at are the actual, non-negotiable consequences if you get caught drinking or smoking. 1) You will get a $300 fine (which you will have to pay out of your own pocket). 2) You will lose your driver’s license for somewhere between three months and a year (even if you’re not driving when you get caught). 3) You will get a permanent mark on your criminal record (which looks kinda awkward when you go to apply to college or for a job. For one thing, you wouldn’t be able to work as camp counselor any more, so no summer job, so no money). It is possible to get your record cleaned up by getting a lawyer to ask on your behalf, doing a lengthy alcohol awareness education class and some significant community service – but I don’t get the impression that those are ways you’d want to spend your time.

Oh, and getting caught also counts as strike one against you; the next time you get caught, you’ll be a repeat offender – and then things starts getting ugly, because then they know you don’t really give a shit.

So, there’s that. But also the added sting: if you get caught by the cops, we’ll find out about it. Because we’ll get that really embarrassing call from the Hanover Police at 2AM to come pick you up at the station. And then the game is going to be over. You’re going to be so grounded it won’t even be funny. No driver’s license, no nothing. It will suck so very, very badly – probably way, way more than it could ever possibly have been worth.

But. This doesn’t mean the challenge is to keep trying to hide your booze hunting and joint sharing from us in order to get away with it – which, unfortunately, seems to be the game you guys are currently playing. That’s a bad tactic, because a) all y’all suck at being stealthy, which is why I happen to know that you are still trying to line up booze and marijuana to make things “more interesting” (as if), and b) once you’re drunk or high, the whole world can tell – especially the cops. Believe me, the smell of you and your buddies when I picked you up after the last dance? Enough to make me see double. The cops do this shit for a living – they’ll pick a drunk 15-year-old out of a crowd in a heartbeat. And remember: that’s all it takes. They don’t have to see you drink or smoke; just being high or drunk when you’re under 21 is illegal.

This is not about what does or does not happen at home when I nab you dipping into my booze (that’s incredibly annoying, but I refuse to play hide-and-seek with you as if you were suddenly a toddler in diapers again); this is about what happens out there in the real world when you and the posse prance around drunk and high, thinking you’re the shizzle, and the cops get a whiff of you. At the rate you guys are pushing it, it’s not a question of “if” it’s a question of “when.” Sure, “fuck the police” and “stick it to the man” sounds all cool and gangsta, but is there any part of illegal (il-le-gal /i(l)ˈlēgəl/: contrary to or forbidden by law) that’s not registering with you? They enforce the law; the law says you can’t drink or do drugs. Not my law, the law. If you break the law they’ll bust your ass. Not sure how that scenario sits with your homies — maybe they genuinely don’t care, although I hope someone is trying to talk some sense into them right about now. But I’d definitely like to think that you’re smart enough to want to avoid taking your game of Chicken that far.

So I’m going to ask you again (but probably for the last time, because I’m old, tired, and have much better things to do with my time) to make smart choices. There’s no undo button here. I had hoped that getting caught at home once could have set you straight; twice, perhaps, because, well, maybe you’re just slow to “get it.” But twice didn’t cut it either. Now you’re hunting way off the reservation, and while a strike or two there will perhaps be what it takes to get the message across, it will also leave a mark. You’ll be out of commission before the going even got good.

If it still seems way cool to put booze and drugs on the agenda, and if the risk of getting caught by the cops just adds to the whole drama and adventure, then you’re on your own – I can’t stop you from willfully screwing up your life with this sort of shit, but I can make sure you’re very, very aware of the kind of fire you’re playing with. Consider this a friendly warning — but definitely a warning. You keep playing with this kind of fire, you will get burned. Not because I’m going to get grumpy (although I will) but because the cops don’t accept apologies and white lies. They play hardball. Welcome to the real world; enjoy your stay…

So think about it – then make a smart choice.