Mama Madison: When the time comes for a party...

Early lessons about alcohol abuse

Heading home from dinner a couple weeks back, my family and I drove by the last remnants of the Mifflin Street Block Party. Upon witnessing the obscenely drunk and stumbling masses, my 11-year-old made a remarkably keen observation.

"So these people were smart enough to get into college?"

It does make you wonder? And worry.

I know I am in the glory years now, where my 5th grader takes everything Officer Tom, his C.O.P.S. teacher, says as gospel. My son is appropriately concerned about Internet strangers and illegal substances. And even though he thought the "impaired vision goggles" Officer Tom let him don were fun, he has promised not try alcohol until the ripe old (and legal) age of 21.

I am not naive. It is statistically unlikely, no matter how much I preach a zero-tolerance policy, that he will wait until college graduation before taking his first sip. I hope will be later, rather than sooner, but it's just a matter of when. Unfortunately kids don't come with pop-up turkey timers to inform parents that they are about to engage in risky behavior. It would really make things so much easier if they did.

I sampled my first half a plastic cup of mostly foam (I've never been able to work a keg) at some "my-parents-are-away-for-the weekend" party in high school. But there was no way I would have ever dared to have more. I had pretty much convinced myself that if I got caught drinking while still living under my parents' roof that I'd be a whole lot more than grounded for a month. I was worried that my college acceptances would be revoked or that I’d be forbidden from attending my debate teams nationals. Yes, I was a bit of a nerd and worrywart -- my parents really lucked out.

I then took off for a college with a strong (and somewhat well-deserved) reputation for being the "place where fun comes to die". You'd think a college full of nerds might have a more temperate approach toward alcohol. But I witnessed many times over what the first taste of parental freedom breeds when it comes to booze, and it wasn't pretty. While I don't remember any of my classmates needing to go to detox, a la Mifflin, I do have many friends who wish they could forget some of the very poor decisions they made under the influence of one stale frat party beer too many.

My thoughts on Mifflin echo what any sane mom's in Madison would. No citations on open containers? Really? Rarely have relaxed rules led to improved behavior at my house. Drinking at 7:30 a.m.? These kids haven't been up that early in years. Can't you smell the impending disaster? Octobongs, t-shirts that say "Drunk Me How to Bucky" and the desire to "puke and rally" in order to prepare for an evening of continued partying? Something has clearly got to give before one of those rickety Mifflin St. balconies does.

But if the event even survives (given this year's stabbings, sexual assaults and drug deals I have my doubts), I'd like to take Mayor Soglin's suggestion of posting pictures and videos on-line one better. Just live-stream the whole day and broadly promote the link to parents. I think the college crowd may just behave a whole lot better if they knew mom and dad were watching.

I will continue to keep my fingers crossed that my 11-year-old remembers what he saw downtown that evening the first time he's confronted with a tough decision surrounding alcohol.

I will also tell him that, if he ends up at UW-Madison, I will never co-sign a lease on the 400 block of Mifflin.

But mostly, I will remind that a good benchmark for decision-making might be whether he'd make the same choice if he knew mom was watching.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.