Mom of teens? Help me out.

So a story about some teenagers in trouble appeared in my local paper last week.

The teens are not from my town but were stopped here. I have so many questions about it for responsible moms of teens … or perhaps I should address my questions to moms of responsible teens. Maybe both.

But first, a summary of the story. I’ve left out identifying details since I think this could happen in any town:

Police were working during a soccer tournament at the high school on a Friday afternoon just after 4:30 p.m.  An officer saw a vehicle going in the wrong direction in the circle in front of the school. The driver of the vehicle, a 16-year-old girl, told police she had just received her license in May. She had five other 16-year-old passengers in the car. The law says that 16 year olds cannot drive with passengers in the car until they have had a license for at least a year. In addition, there were only enough seat belts for three passengers beside the driver, police said. The officer reported smelling alcohol coming from some of the passengers but did not smell any on the driver. A search of the vehicle turned up a backpack containing a partially full bottle of vodka.

Police said the girls kept changing their story about whom the alcohol belonged to. As a result, all the teens, including the driver, were issued infractions for possession of alcohol by a minor. The driver was also issued infractions for one-way violation, violation of passenger restrictions, and transporting more passengers than number of seat belts.

Okay, so here are my questions. Well, they actually fit under one umbrella question:

How the heck can this happen if parents are in control of their homes, vehicles, and belongings? Is it possible to be a good parent — a thoughtful, involved parent — and have this kind of thing happen to your 16-year-old daughter?

(Uh, judge much, Ursula? Actually, I do. But mostly I’m shocked. Can’t get it around my thick head. Help me out, moms. Please.)

When I think about my own driving and socializing at that age, I think of a highly communicative system with my parents – one that I totally accepted and would never have dreamed to jeopardize – in which I happily shared where I was going and who I’d be with. I also loved having a license, even the temporary one with restrictions, and would not have dared to do anything to lose that privilege.

I volunteered most of the information about my whereabouts. My parents were pretty free in terms of letting me go to parties or to friends’ houses. Because of that, I suppose, it didn’t occur to me to lie. I wasn’t afraid they’d say no, and they knew I wouldn’t ask to do anything outrageous because it wasn’t my nature to push limits. It’s probably because because I was so honest that my parents were permissive. And, vice versa, of course. My parents were permissive because I was honest.

I wonder if this kind of system only really works with kids who are generally rule-followers, like me.

If you’ve got a bit of a rebel on your hands, you’d have to take some extra steps to ensure a level of responsibility in your child, yes?

Such as … oh, I don’t know … how about CHECKING YOUR LIQUOR CABINET EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE???!!!???

Or having rules such as, “You must come directly home from school each day and then we’ll discuss vehicle use for the afternoon/evening.”

Or even, perhaps, discussing, at length, BASIC SAFETY such as seat belt use and number of passengers?

Finally, how about discussing the importance of ‘fessing up when you’ve done something silly, like bringing alcohol into your friend’s car, so that you don’t trap innocent peers?

I realize kids, especially teens, are going to screw up.

But, so royally? Involving driving laws, alcohol, AND basic trust/loyalty issues?

At 16?

At 4:30 p.m. at a high school soccer game?

Listen, I am totally open to the possibility that I am a clueless, naïve mommy with kids aged eight and under. And that I have no sense of what the battlefield’s like for parents of teens. But tell me. Please. Lay it out for me: How could a mom work to prevent this kind of mess for their future teens? Is there a way?

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