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My Turn: Parents, have the hard talk with your kids

Posted: December 31, 2013 - 1:03am

All of my childhood, to this day, I have had a good relationship with my parents. Yes, there have been multiple arguments, but when it comes down to the nit and grit, the hard stuff, my parents have always had my back. They made sure I knew daily that not only did they love me but they would be there for me. This meant I could call them for anything.

I could call them to pick me up if I felt uncomfortable at a sleepover (which I did many times in grade school). I could talk to them about where babies came from as well as religion and politics. But there was one question I never asked my mom or dad as a teen.

“Can I call you for a ride if I drink?”

My parents didn’t wait for me to ask that question. They told me, “Call us if you or the driver has been drinking. We will pick you up.”

They weren’t condoning underage drinking. They were being realistic. Let’s be honest, only a small percentage of young people leave high school these days without having consumed alcohol. Sadly, Juneau has lost many young people due to alcohol consumption; others have been badly hurt from accidents caused by those under the influence. It comes down to legality versus reality.

These tragedies needs to stop; not in five or ten years but now.

When I was a freshman at Juneau-Douglas High School, a fellow student wrote a poem comparing parents and condoms. She wrote, “My parents are like condoms. They protect me.” This may sound out of context but it’s truly realistic and brilliant. This student, like myself, had an open relationship with her parents. She could count on them to be there for her — to protect her — including a ride home if she needed it.

My point is not to condone underage drinking, because breaking the law is not an intelligent choice. However, let the young people around you know they can call you at any hour, to make sure they get home safely with a sober driver. As a community we need to offer our kids rides home, for the safety of the streets and roads in Juneau and to protect those we love.

This is not coming from an “old [filtered word],” or “someone who doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” This is coming from a 21-year-old who was born and raised in Juneau, and who wants to see less hurt and pain caused by alcohol to those around her.

With the start of a new year, I urge you to let those young adults in your life know that you care. Let us not forget the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but at the same time remember this includes protecting that child when they need it.

Be the adult and lead by example by having the hard talk. And when you do, let it end with, “Please call me if you ever drink or if the driver has been drinking. I want you to be safe. I will pick you up.”

• Callie Conerton is a life-long Juneau resident and attends the University of Alaska Southeast.

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