The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



July 27, 2007

Beer in the basement?

A tragic story reported in the Chicago Tribune this summer reached a climax this week with the conviction of a suburban couple of once count of endangerment of a child and  one count of obstruction of justice. Their crime: Allowing teenage friends of their son, Tyler, to gather in their basement the night of his high school homecoming football game last October—friends who came toting six packs and whiskey bottles. Their penalty, which will be announced next week, could be a year in jail.

The impromptu party probably would have gone unnoticed except that two of the 18-year-old boys who had been in that basement got in a car, drove off and slammed into a tree. Both died. The driver’s blood-alcohol level was 0.132, exceeding the 0.08 driving limit for adults.

The parents both had been home, upstairs, during the party. And the dad even came downstairs three times during the evening, several teens—including the couple’s own son—reported during their testimonies as prosecution witnesses. One boy recalled that the father told him, “Don’t let anyone drink and drive.”

Now doesn’t that sound like he knew the kids were, in fact, drinking? And perhaps was worried about it? Knew it was wrong, even. But why did he pass on his own responsibility as an adult to a teenager? He hasn’t said anything.

What matters now is that other adults, other parents of teens take their responsibilities seriously. As the parent of two grown sons, myself, I know that teens push limits. All kinds of limits. That’s part of their “job.” But our job is to push back.

Here’s what my 28-year-old remembers about his high school days: “Nothing like that ever took place–anyone’s parents being okay with kids over at their homes drinking. I think people worry about crossing the friend/parent line. I never felt that any of my friend’s parents were my ‘buddies,’ but I did enjoy their company when they did hang out with us and watch a movie or whatever.”

Parents, it’s the law: Drinking age nationwide is 21. According to a July Gallup Poll 77 percent of Americans say they would oppose a federal law that would lower the drinking age in all states to age 18. I wasn’t polled, but I’d be in that group. How about you?


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February issue


Embracing diversity