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Opening Arguments

Blurring the lines

Most of us in the press and the blogosphere -- including me -- were pretty tough on Jack Trudeau when the story broke about his apparent hosting of a drinking party for his child's graduation. Here's a different point of view:

The best evidence shows that teaching kids to drink responsibly is better than shutting them off entirely from it,” he told me. “You want to introduce your kids to it, and get across the point that that this is to be enjoyed but not abused.”

He said that the most dangerous day of a young person's life is the 21st birthday, when legality is celebrated all too fervently. Introducing wine as a part of a meal, he said, was a significant protection against bingeing behavior.

That's something to think about -- giving a young person an occasional sip of wine with dinner is a little different from hosting a party at which he and all his friends drink to get (at least) a buzz on. And it is true that for most other potentially dangerous things -- driving a car, shooting a gun -- there seems to be consensus that the best thing to do is introduce young people to the activity gradually so as to teach them responsible and appropriate use.

Alcohol is little different, though. The line between responsible use and abuse can be a tricky one -- its position not exactly known until it is crossed. Young people are not very good with lines anyway, and whenever I hear of adults wanting to help blur them even further, I cringe.   


Mon, 03/31/2008 - 10:35am

Given your supposition that young people aren't very good with lines anyway, it would seem you just proved that parents should have even more involvement in guiding them to find that line with the gradual introduction.

Leo Morris
Mon, 03/31/2008 - 10:56am

I think parents CAN help with finding the line, but it's probably trickier than most people realize. It's a parent's job to draw the lines and a kid's job to test them. When they collaborate on the lines, I think it's an even bet as to who is in charge.

Harl Delos
Mon, 03/31/2008 - 1:39pm

Ohio used to have a 3-year-wide line. At 18, you could buy 3.2, and at 21, you could buy high beer, malt liquor, wine, and hard liquor.

That doesn't mean both lines weren't tested. Mike took me into Kaufman's on my 18th birthday, and announced that he wanted to buy me my first legal 3.2. The barkeep blanched. I looked old enough that I'd already been buying 3.2 from him occasionally for a couple of years. Never abusively, more than one at a time, but I'd been risking their license for them.

I don't think holding a "drinking party" for your kids and their friends is a good idea; the friends' parents ought to be involved in the idea. On the other hand, holding a sit-down dinner, and serving wine with the meal is another matter. In the first case, the idea is to drink. In the second, the idea is to eat.