Becky West — Contest Winner
As a little girl, I remember spending New Year’s Eve with my family at home. This was always one of my favorite things because my parents made it a point to turn on the TV and show me the New Year coming in different countries. Once it hit America, I remember my parents would never really open Champaign, but my dad would pop open a fuzzy naval, and pour a tiny bit in a Dixie cup for me, same with the Champaign when they did get some, we would sit around the table and play games, and discuss the different ways New Years Eve was celebrated around the world. I remember one summer going fishing with my dad at the coast, and he opened a beer and let me have a sip or two. Anytime this would happen, they would take the time to teach me about what I was doing, and how to be responsible with alcohol.
There is a timeless great debate over how old a person should be when they begin to drink. Some say the age should be 18, some say it should be 21. Honestly, I believe it should be 18, and parents need to have a greater involvement in educating their kids in the responsibility of drinking. Why do I believe it should be 18? Because there is a rebellious group of newly independent teens and young adults who are throwing underground parties for the sole purpose of binge drinking. Where is the correlation between the two? Look at Prohibition. The ban of alcohol never eliminated the drinking issue, it may have curbed it, and many groups supported cleansing the society of the disease, but it saw a whole new wave of moonshining and bootlegging never seen before. Take away the thrill of rebellion, and it no longer serves the fulfillment that is sought through doing what is highly denied. Those that feel it should stay at 21 say it should because 18 year olds are not yet mature enough to understand responsibility while consuming alcohol.
As an adult, I enjoy a drink like any other. I did begin drinking publicly between the ages of 20 and 21, but between my choices in friends, and what my parents taught me, I knew to never have more than one, and drink it slowly. One key thing was my choices in friends. Having mature, responsible, older friends has made all the difference in my drinking. This again comes back to my parents teaching me that, who you surround yourself with determines where your life’s path will lead you, which means being responsible enough to make those choices that will take your path in a positive direction.
As a childcare worker, I see broken homes every day. Quite a few of those are due to drugs and alcohol. I find the most troublesome kids are the one’s who come from those broken homes, meaning less parent involvement. The more parent and family involvement in educating a child, the better off they are. The biggest way I was taught my life lessons was through hard, physical work. When I had my hands and body involved in something, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. What does this have to do with drinking? Pride and accomplishment leaves one fulfilled, and taking away a common purpose for drinking: filling a void and drowning life’s painful moments. However, there are a few people today against “child labor” of any kind, citing it as a form of abuse.
Could there be a link between all the technology youth are becoming bored with and drinking? Possibly. While some technology may be great in aiding the learning of youth, we do live in a privileged day and age where not much is required to be earned, so we have adopted a sense of entitlement and laziness, that has set a precedent for younger and future generations. Because of this entitlement, we have lost accountability, which is one of the main elements in parenting.
The “third parties” are now defining parenting today. Parents have become so busy their children are being raised by daycares, babysitters, nannies, coaches, video games, and most often: other family members such as grandparents. Youth today no longer have a stable front setting an example for what is right and what is wrong, leading them to sort through mixed messages from all the different supervision they pass through everyday, and figure things out that way, not really learning a concrete lesson in life. This leaves a whole generation void of positive fulfillment and structure, leaving them seeking it elsewhere, i.e. drinking, drugs, or other means of self-destruction.
Right now, as much as I believe the drinking age should be lowered to 18, I believe we have things to work on before that can happen. Parenting, and the very basis of a family needs to be revisited and society has a whole needs to regroup, and reexamine where we are leading ourselves before we even tackle the issue of a proper legal drinking age. Parents need to once again step up, and teach this next generation the life lessons that will keep them from being interested in one constant fraternity party, or binge drinking when they become independent. In the end it is, perhaps, not the age of the drinker that matters, but the maturity of that person that determines the answer to that question. Can we turn the issue of irresponsibility of thrill seeking youth around? Or is it to late? IF we can go back to the basics, I propose, it is not.