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Getting smashed
Robyn Von Geusau shares a mom's fears on teenage drinking.
So, a boy is dead and two others lie shattered. Gone are their hopes, their innocence, their joie de vivre. Life will never be the same again, not for the survivors, not for the families, not for the once merry band of friends.

Mid-year matric exams were over and the pressure was off. Time to partee! A visit to some friends, a couple of drinks and they hit the long and winding road to another jol. Except that road ended for them as a mangled, strangled mess of metal against a tree outside the home of a friend of mine.

He arrived home to flashing red lights and, for hours, sat inside listening to the telling sounds of the cutting machines, the ambulances, the parents arriving. They were all 17: underage drivers, underage drinkers. They were as old as my eldest and friends of her friends.

It was a tragedy that never had to happen but it did and it will, again and again. The tragic truth of the matter was summed up, for me, last week by a lusting-for-life boy-man on his 18th birthday. "It’s the way it is... by the time any of us are 21 we will know of three people who have died in alcohol-related accidents."

He was going clubbing later and admitted he was going to have a "big night". The mitigating factor was there was a designated driver, a friend who would be the sober factor in the partying equation.

Let’s not be fooled into thinking our kids only start drinking when they are 17 or 18. For many it starts a lot earlier, with ‘alcohol cooldrinks’; with that infernal ‘dial-a-dop’ that illegally delivers booze to parties; with parents who provide six-packs to their 15-year-olds ‘for a bit of a party’.

Our children are drinking and many are drinking a lot. What are the answers? Ban alcohol until they are 18 and they go crazy at the sudden freedom? Make like many Europeans and have watered-down wine at family meals? Who knows? I don’t. I do know that my daughter is soon old enough to drive and it fills me with fear. Not because of the thought of my baby behind the wheel (okay, of course there’s that!) but more because of the other drivers, those who believe they are invincible, that it will "never happen to me".

But it does and it did. Now a boy is dead and his parents have lost their only child; his friends lie grief- and guilt-stricken with severe injuries and his Facebook profile is now a permanent obituary. It’s not for me to do any finger-pointing. But what I can say to every teenager who passes through my front door is this: "The change starts with you. Think before you drink." And that is also why I and my husband will pick up children, regardless of time or distance, from a party. Rather that than from a hospital or worse.

Do you worry about your teen getting drunk? Let's talk about it in the box below.


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