By Vicki Doronina
I read it often, this time in a parenting journal: “If you have a teenage child, lock your liquor cabinet.“
Well, I’m not going to put a lock on it: Not the cabinet, or in our case, the cupboard. Our bar is stored in a kitchen cupboard: gin and tequila for me, rum and brandy for my husband. There’s no list – or lock – attached to the cabinet. No form of accountability. We don’t sign in and sign out.
As a biologist, knowing that alcoholism is often hereditary, I should worry. I do worry: There are plenty of people in our extended family who qualify as alcoholics. But my husband and I are casual drinkers. Still, I am on constant watch to prevent over-drinking – not that I have desire to drink daily but in my forties I did start drinking hard liquor verses wine and beer (see above contents of cabinet).
I just don’t think that locking the drinks cabinet is the best way to prevent my son from drinking. If a teenager desperately wants a drink, no lock or clever hiding place will stop him/her. Prevention comes, I think, from preparing a teen to make smart choices, and in the case of drinking, perhaps taking away the temptation–the mystique.
Just think about forbidden fruit and all that jazz. When our 14-year-old son is visibly interested in what we are drinking, he is offered a taste. So far, he has not liked any of what he has sipped and I think he puzzles over the fuss. It’s as if he’s thinking; “What’s the big deal?”
I don’t doubt that he’ll try alcohol — one drink or many — under peer pressure, which many of his classmates already do. But perhaps if he tries a drink at home, it will lessen his desire to drink. Maybe if he has a sip of the good stuff, it will prevent him from over-imbibing the cheap stuff purchased by teens in dusty dorm rooms. Perhaps it would be like giving him a good, hand-grinded bean coffee, to attempt to deter him from cheap energy drinks.
We’ve talked to our son, and I hope, taught him to be smart about his health and well being. From his early childhood we rationed two things he likes a lot – cheese crisps and Pepsi. Again, as a biologist I know that these two items are not the healthiest food, so I have always given my son a quota of one bag of chips and one can of soda per week. We always have a supply of both, and my son has never indulged, which gives me hope that he’ll be sensible about alcohol as well. In talking with him, and explaining the dangers, in taking away the mystique, and allowing small sips of quality alcohol to deter his curiosity, I hope we’ve set him on the right track.
Of course, I cannot exclude that as a part of teenage rebellion or heartbreak he may not listen to our alcohol admonitions or deeply consider our dinner table discussions. In the end a parent can’t totally prevent a child from drinking. And lock and key won’t prevent it either.
Vicki Doronina is a recovering scientist, a veteran of Living Together Apart (LTA) and a mother of one red-haired teen. Originally from Belarus, she works and lives in Manchester, UK. Her writing appeared in Science (Careers), The Scientist, Her View From Home, Soapbox Writers and biotech blogs as well as in Russian and Belarusian media outlets. She can be found online at her blog and twitter.