- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

“Mom, you have to hear this message,” Katie said, handing me her cell phone. What followed were 30 or 40 seconds of gibberish.

“Whatever … [laughter] … hello? … [giggling] … no, wait … whatever … give me the phone.” The voices of three of Katie’s high school acquaintances babbled and slurred their way through the phone line until one of them finished the call with this ironic announcement: “I am not wasted. Really.”

“Wow,” I said. “If that wasn’t the sound of ‘wasted’ I’d like to hear the message after a few more beers.”

The phone message, delivered at 1 in the morning, is one Katie will forget quickly. Unfortunately, the teens who made that call probably will have even less recollection of it, given their obvious state of inebriation.

But whatever.

In our culture, teen drinking seems to be a rite of passage, like getting acne or a driver’s license. It’s just something all youngsters do — part of the rebellious years we parents are supposed to accept as normal adolescence.

Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, displayed on the Students Against Destructive Decisions Web site (www.sadd. org/stats.htm), tell us that 75 percent of American teenagers try alcohol in high school. Partying begins for some as early as seventh or eighth grade, with more than half of all teens establishing regular drinking habits by age 17.

Teen drinking, it seems, is the norm.

Happily, however, this is one area in which my teenagers aren’t normal. (As their younger brother would insist, there are many other areas as well. But I digress).

That’s right. Apparently, it is possible to make it to your junior year in high school — and (gasp) even graduate — without getting wasted, trashed, buzzed, loaded or plastered.

Now, before you put the paper down and decide I’m just some naive ostrich-mother, obliviously ignoring my teens’ age-appropriate experimentation, guess again. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not naive.

Besides, that sort of cynical attitude strikes me as one big reason why teens seem to have free rein to invade the liquor cabinet and mix up a refreshing batch of vodka and fruit punch (yuck). With adults all around them expecting them at least to try drinking, there’s not much reason to refrain.

Instead of the attitude that teen drinking was one more thing we would have to face, my husband and I put out the challenge to our children to buck the trend. We don’t demand perfection — in this or any area of behavior — but we figure just because the odds are against success, that doesn’t mean we ought to drop the bar of our ideal.

After all, the statistic on teen drinking isn’t 100 percent. Somebody, somewhere, is making it to 21 before imbibing adult beverages.

As with so much of parenting, I’m convinced that when it comes to drinking, we generally get what we expect. The new conventional wisdom about adolescents says we should count on them to rebel, to flagrantly ignore our parental commands and to talk back.

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