A father’s wish

September 29th, 2009

Two weeks ago I wrote about a CNN.com commentary supporting lowering the legal drinking age in the US.

Today, Toben F. Nelson and Traci L. Toomey, both faculty members at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health have offered a commentary in support of keeping the legal drinking age at 21.

Among the arguments Nelson and Toomey present in support of their position:

1. Raising the legal drinking age to 21 after it had been lowered in the 1970s, drinking-related deaths declined.

2. The recently lowered legal drinking age in New Zealand is being linked to “more alcohol-involved traffic crashes and emergency room visits among 15- to 19-year-olds“. Additionally, New Zealand legislators are said to be considering raising the legal drinking age again.

3. They point out something I’ve suspected all along (having been born and raised in a European country and frequently visiting my homeland): “rates of frequent binge drinking among adolescents are higher in Europe than in the United States

As the President of my Fraternity chapter (and the guy whose name was at the bottom of a liability umbrella policy – making me accountable for the well being of my brothers) I was faced, almost daily, with the tendency of college kids to go to excess with alcohol and the potential problems which could ensue.

As a parent of a 12 year old who is growing up fast (and probably is too sure of himself for his own good), I struggle to know what is the right tone and message to send about alcohol. I don’t want to control him. I want to arm him with good judgment. Seeing so much of myself in him and remembering how I was as an 18 or 21 year old, I’m a bit uneasy. Knowing what I know about developmental neurophysiology and what kinds of circumstances arise in social settings, I cannot help but worry about what will happen when he goes out on his own – legally an a adult but in many ways still a child.

I’d like to be able share a glass of special wine with my son. I’d like to ease him into the culture of cultured and responsible alcohol consumption. I’d like to bond with him over wine (though not at his age yet). I am not sure if that will embolden him about alcohol consumption or strip alcohol of the recreational appeal it has for college kids.

I don’t know how I will go about all this, but I do know that I want the legal drinking age to stay at 21. I can do all I can to raise him to be mature and responsible about alcohol. But I cannot do that with ever other kid in this country who may have too much, too early and then get behind the wheel of a car and make his way towards my kid’s vicinity.


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2 Responses to “A father’s wish”

  1. Dylan Says:

    Your last thought is way too true. One of the biggest concerns on the road isn’t necessarily you, but those around you. That’s why on holidays I make certain to stay off the road after dinner.

  2. Thomas Pellechia Says:


    All your worries are the eternal worries of parents. But there are two truths that all the worrying in the world will not change: you can try to instill by example, but you cannot live the lives of your children for them; and no amount of legislation will ever change human nature–in fact, the more it tries to suppress that nature, the more brittle things get.