Parenting a Teen: Handcuffs, Alcohol and Lessons in My Son’s Mistake

I struggled with sharing this story but I felt that it was one that needed to be shared. I’m an educator but I’m a parent first and sometimes I make mistakes. My children make mistakes and writing this was really therapy for me in dealing with it. I haven’t slept. I needed to write and this is it. 

Yesterday, I ignored my gut instinct, intuition and experience telling me not to allow my son to go to a friend’s quinceañera. It was odd that without thinking, the only word that came to mind was NO. I’ve rarely said no and my finite answer caught us both by surprise so much that he begged even more. Against a force so deep that I can’t explain outside of the hand of God himself, I gave in. Everything in me knew that this was a mistake.

A few hours later, my younger brother called and told me not to be alarmed but that my son was being detained for alcohol possession. (Don’t be alarmed???) Before he could even get out that I needed to meet him, I was on the road headed for my child. What the heck??? This is a kid who normally preaches against smoking, drugs, alcohol…wait…what??

Lesson 1: Your kids are not perfect and sometimes they make boneheaded mistakes. This was his first…of many. 

Knowing what I was walking into, nothing could quite prepare me for what I was about to see.

Nothing on earth can quite prepare you for seeing your son sitting on the ground in handcuffs. Nothing.

As I walked up to retrieve my son, the officer handed me the bottle to smell its contents. He said that they’ve never seen or heard of my son and didn’t want to take him downtown. They were willing to sign him over to me. (Thank you) The image of my son sitting there hurts. I’ve never heard of kids being handcuffed for alcohol of such a small quantity and part of me was angry about that. The other part of me was angry at him for putting himself in that position. The final part of me was angry at myself for allowing him to go. I’m not going to lie. I fell apart at that moment in front of my son, my brother, sister and both officers. My son was in handcuffs. It could’ve been much worse.

As we drove away, my son tried to deflect attention away from his actions by shifting the blame to someone else. This is where I snapped back into the reality of what we were dealing with.

Lesson 2: My son’s actions are his actions. Focusing on anything other than his part in what he did, almost certainly hides the lesson that he must learn in a cloud of thick fog.

My son’s “story” is that some random man offered him and his friends liquor in the parking lot. One of his friends just so happened to be carrying an “empty”  squirt bottle which would soon contain liquor with a volume equivalent to that of a shot glass. (He clearly thinks that I am stupid)

Lesson 3: There is no way that his story is true. Kids typically won’t snitch. This story pretty much means that the liquor arrived inside the squirt bottle with the friend. Also…focusing on where it came from is one thing. Understanding that this action could have happened at any time…in any place is another. 

A Family Affair…

As a family, we’ve always dealt with crisis together. This would be no different. Sitting in one room to talk and deal were my parents, siblings, myself and my son. We may have hit on everything from drugs, to alcohol, to sex and jail. My brother would offer insight and intel that we did not have experience with. After all, I’ve never been a black male. It was important for him to be a part of this discussion. My son needed to hear and feel what my brother had to say. We all did.

Going back to his version of the story…if he were willing to take alcohol from a total stranger…what else would he take? (Why am I even considering this story to be true other than the fact that it could be and that scares me)

The Conversation with Dad That Wasn’t…

I would love to say that this situation brought about a united front with my ex-husband, his dad. That didn’t happen. His dad’s view is that my son, at 14, is old enough to make decisions for himself and if this is what he chooses…so be it. (Yeah…wrong answer)

Lesson 4: My son made a careless mistake but I care too much to sit here and allow him to let this mistake define the man that he will become. With the support of my family, I will fight tooth and nail for him…even if that means fighting HIM for him.

A 14 year old boy doesn’t get to decide to become a statistic without family intervention. That’s not how we do it. I may be “green” at parenting a teenage boy but even I know that!

This isn’t over. This is only the beginning.

His lesson…Our lesson

Lesson 5: Never…EVER…ignore your parental intuition. It’s almost always right.


Comments 4

  1. You are a great parent! I love how you acknowledge that you and your son will both make mistakes and how you and your family immediately come together to address the issue with your son. He is a lucky kid to be surrounded by so much love! And yes, as you note, there will be more mistakes. My kids and I made LOTS of them! There’s always that little question in your head – did I do the right thing? I admire you so much… thank you for sharing this deeply personal story, your reflection, and your honesty. Every time you write, you teach me more and more about being a better person. So grateful for you.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. My daughter is 3.5 and I soak up all of these stories of brave parents like you who guide their children with integrity while allowing them to make their own mistakes. I truly admire your willingness to share this story, especially for parents like me who look up to you.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story. My first thought: your son is lucky he has you as a mom. I think you did great, and when I’m in a similar boat some day (my daughter is almost 9) as I’m sure I will be, I hope I respond as meaningfully as you did.

  4. Thank you for articulating your story so clearly – even bulleted for ease of comprehension. It is so true that your intuition must rule, although I wonder if you told him he couldn’t go to the party, what would that reaction have been? I echo Mike’s sentiment – he is a very lucky young man to have you as a parent. Re your ex’s reaction – well, that’s probably partly why he’s your ex, isn’t it? Happens all the time with mine. Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *