I signed my first “permission to drink alcohol” letter on behalf of my 17 year old son last week. There was a party at his friend’s house. The parents of his friend heeded the law requiring such permission from a parent of a minor.

From 1 November 2011, it became illegal to provide alcohol to minors without their parent’s or guardian’s permission. The law appears in the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998. Adults who break the law face fines over $7,000.

Permission can be given verbally or in writing. But the onus is on person supplying the alcohol to have permission from the parent of the minor. Clearly, evidence in writing is the best evidence. Even if you have permission, it must still be served responsibly or you risk breaching your duty of care. Kudos to the host parents. I don’t have the desire or the energy to discipline other almost adults about drinking responsibly.

At times, parenting can feel like a slow walk over broken glass. Any direction taken feels like the wrong one and pain of one kind or other, results. Knowing where to draw the line as a parent of an almost adult is perilous. Granting permission to drink, attend or host a party, be a passenger in a car of their 18 year old – just got my license – friends, or holiday by themselves, is fraught, particularly if your views differ from other parents. But wanting to entrust them and enable them to make minor decisions like, what to cook for dinner, is important.

Last summer, I held my breath and crossed all my fingers and toes after allowing my son and six of his friends to holiday at his grandparent’s beach house on the Mornington Peninsula. I didn’t come to this decision without researching first. I consulted with a barrister friend who consulted with her more senior barrister friend. Things weren’t looking up for my son when I was informed that said senior barrister would have no hesitation in drafting court documents if briefed by suing parents.

With lawsuit in mind, I didn’t need to obtain the aforementioned permission letters. I banned all alcohol. Visions of a couple of boys climbing on to roof pretending to be Superman helped me make this decision.

We cleared out all the alcohol (Baileys and other like drinks tempting to teenagers) from the house. But there’s a bottle shop within walking distance of the house, hence my crossed digits.

I laid down the rules to my son and instructed him to communicate them to his friends.

I dropped a car full of boys to the house. I asked them to imagine that the house belonged to their own grandparents and that all their decisions should be made with that notion in mind.

My son dutifully called every evening. I spent my days imagining all sorts of nefarious behaviour as the absence of parental supervision became too tempting.

But no degenerate behaviour ensued (at least none that was communicated to me) and no law suit transpired. Instead, I was informed there were games of beach cricket, monopoly and scrabble and no doubt, plenty of inane conversation.

They pooled their meagre finances so they could shop effectively and one of the boys was nominated chef.

On the final day, they even stripped the beds and cleaned the house.

Your children can surprise you. They rise and live up to the standards you’ve set and that they have promised to keep. Either that or they’re skilled in deception.

Parenting an almost adult is like the criminal justice parole system. Most convicted criminals are released into the community before their sentence expires so they can be supervised for a time. Likewise, I can set down ground rules and supervise my son’s actions. Yet, in six months’ time, he won’t need my permission.

But even when his parole ends, he remains my child. Parenting doesn’t stop when he becomes an adult. I’m advised it may even become more challenging. I need to trust that he’s been imbued with enough good judgment not to be on the receiving end of the services of that senior barrister.

(Previously published on Mamamia)

Article by Author/s
Liora Miller
Liora Miller is the managing editor of Jewish Women of Words. She is also a project manager at an independent school in Melbourne. She’s the mother of three, usually healthy, opinionated children. In a previous life she was a political adviser and costs lawyer.

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