The Forks in the Road Part I

Thursday night, I did something a little crazy. It’s not something I am particularly proud of, or something I do on a regular basis. This situation did, however, end up illustrating the fact that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It made me think hard about the fleeting results of our choices. It also shows that choosing the wrong fork in the road could have disastrous consequences.

Thursday was my dad’s 75th birthday, and all the siblings decided to surprise him by showing up at his door for an impromptu party. The six of us live in various locations in the country, far from the childhood home. I dragged my daughter with me; my son is in the process of trying to find a new place to live as well as dealing with college. In my daughter’s case, I say “dragged” because she was an unwilling participant. The previous Sunday, she hurt my feelings by announcing that in no uncertain terms, and also let me know my family was a bunch of kooks. (Okay, so we are, but heck, we’re family!)

On the plane ride and subsequent car trip to my hometown, we had a discussion on why when you’re an adult, you must do things for other people even if the actions or the persons are distasteful. For example, I don’t get along with one of my sisters and haven’t spoken more than a half dozen words to her in five years. If you must know why, it’s because of my father’s 70th birthday. (I should write this stuff down!) However, my mantra is to be pleasant and cheerful and act stupid. Fighting is the thing I’d least like to do.

At this point, my daughter asked me if she could drink during the party. At first, I told her “no” because she’s only 17, and added there would only be lite beer and wine, not what she likes to drink. She then brought up the fact that she was a captive, and a drink or two would make her mood more amenable to dealing with a family situation. I thought about it, and agreed. After all, she wasn’t driving, and we wouldn’t be there long. On the way to my dad’s, I stopped and bought a small flask of vodka and orange juice.

Before you think “what a horrible mom!” and report me to the local Department of Human Services, I must say this: I have allowed my children to drink under certain controlled circumstances. Both of them spent extended periods in Europe at 16 and drank. I’m sure both have been to parties and drank. I’ve told both, if you are stuck somewhere and drunk and can’t get a ride, CALL ME. I would rather come and pick them up than have them drive home under the influence.

The amount of alcohol I purchased for her wasn’t enough to get her drunk as a skunk. No. But then her 21 year old cousin decided to slip her some extra alcohol without my knowledge. When I went to leave to stay with one of my sisters, I found my daughter on the bed downstairs lying in a large pool of her own vomit. It wasn’t pretty. Some of my sibs were staying there with my dad. I tried to get her up, and couldn’t, so I tried to my best to clean up the mess before anyone came downstairs. Then I moved her to the couch.

All night, I was upset. I didn’t think I had given her enough to get that wasted, and then I felt bad. What if she had alcohol poisoning? I couldn’t exactly call my dad and say, hey, could you look at your granddaughter and tell me she’s still breathing? Because, heh, heh, she was drunk last night. And what if she did have alcohol poisoning? How could I ever live that one down?

At four a.m., I woke up in a start. I heard my daughter call my name, but she was three miles from me. Then I rubbed my eyes and went to the bathroom. I came back to bed, my skin burning as if I were on fire. “I’m going to hell,” I thought. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I went online and wrote my previous post.

At a decent hour, I called my daughter and she amazingly answered her cell phone. The level of relief felt was indescribable. I collected her a few minutes later, and we went to breakfast. This is where she confessed that her cousin had given her even more to drink.

The weird thing is that as she was describing her night, she said she awoke right at 4 a.m. and went to the bathroom. After that, she went back to the couch, where she felt so hot, she thought she was on fire.

The rest of the story later.

9 Responses

  1. As a mom of a teenaged daughter myself, I felt terrible reading this. It could have been me, was my first thought. It’s scary how the decisions we take become so much more important when we become a parent. It is almost like you have to transcend your human self and look beyond and achieve supernatural powers and not make any mistakes as a parent. You simply cannot afford to because you will never forgive yourself and that is the simple and painful truth. But we need to realize that we always have the best interests of our children at heart and we are fallible.

  2. Wow. That wow was for the part where you woke up and felt like you were burning.

    Don’t beat yourself up Pan. I have yet to meet a parent who didn’t do something that she wished she could take back. Hell, if I had a nickel for every time I fell down while holding my daugther I’d be rich.

  3. I used to think that my mother could “see” me no matter how many miles away she lived. It was very scary feeling, particularly when I was doing something I knew she wouldn’t approve of. Your story sort of confirms this truth.

    Tough situation. I’ve a 17 year old son and living in Germany, there is a tolerance/lackadaisical/ease at letting teenagers drink in moderation. I’m thankful that my son, knock on wood, hasn’t yet had the same experience as your daughter had of being encouraged to go way over her tolerance. Yet, the teenager in me knows it is bound to happen sometime down the line. I hope your daughter’s cousin feels remorse, your daughter a conviction not to let this happen again, that you feel a bit of relief, and your siblings have the sense of mind to keep their opinions to themselves.

  4. When you’re the parent of a teenager, every time you give them permission to partake in a new privilege, you question your judgment and wonder if you’ve put them in danger. That’s my experience anyhow.

  5. I’m glad you’re both okay. She learned a lesson maybe? I hope so. I think one of the most valuable lessons is that one should never mix the booze you’re drinking. Start with vodka, end with vodka. Don’t mix in gin and tequila and rum and bourbon. BIG NO NO! If she learned that, you’re lucky. So is she.

  6. Booze is bad. I can remember doing silly thing when I was a teenager. While I don’t have children I can relate to that sickening feeling.

    Just after we started to date my wife went out one night with friends. She called and asked if I could pick her up later, she was drunk. I agreed. No call came. Two hours later I went to the restaurant. She wasn’t there.

    I called her cell phone , her friends, etc. No answers. I should have run down to the restaurant when she first called. Where was she, had she been snatched? Was she in a gutter somewhere?

    Long and short: She spent the night in the ER, taken there by her friends. I felt like a heel, but relieved.

  7. Hmm. Hmm.

    I used to be like your daughter. Since then, I think I’ve moved steadily towards being more like you.

    I think this is a good thing.

  8. Thank you. Everyone.

  9. This is a really complex issue, IMO.

    I’m sure your daughter is in situations all the time where she’s being given alcohol, and when she goes to college, she’ll be surrounded by it. The big thing about parenting and alcohol, I think, is to provide kids with information about why drinking too much on a regular basis is a bad thing, and why it’s at least a good idea for them to wait until their bodies and brains have matured before messing around with high levels of potential toxins, whether that be alcohol or drugs.

    I also think that kids are more likely to talk to parents who interact with them regarding these issues. Probably the vodka wasn’t a great idea … not because your daughter is underage, but because the tacit message was given that “medicating” oneself in unpleasant circumstances is an acceptable thing to do. But despite that, you created an opportunity to have a very important dialogue with your daughter about this issue, and traumatic though it was, I would venture to guess that your daughter now feels more comfortable discussing these sorts of things with you.

    I think a big barrier between kids and parents the kids’ perception that parents don’t recognize their own mistakes, or that they don’t make mistakes. Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is to screw up, and admit it. It makes it a lot easier for the kid to be open about his or her own screw-ups, when the playing field is leveled a little bit.

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