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Entries in alcohol (2)

Wednesday
Dec072011

Alcohol, Driving and Kids

I keep a list of topics to cover in this blog, adding to the list whenever something comes up. When I get ready to write, I grab a concept and think about it for days. Time doesn’t permit me to JUST think….I think as I go about my regular routine….and come up with a “flow.”

My topic was completely different until I got my hair cut this morning. My long term stylist Mary greeted me with, “I was just on the phone with a friend of mine. 5 college kids were in an accident this morning. One got ejected from the car.”

Now normally the discussion would end with how that’s a shame, were they drinking, and a swift shift in the conversation.

Not today, and not for Mary. Mary continued, “Can you imagine those poor parents, getting a call or a knock at the door, especially at this time of year?”

Well, frankly I can’t imagine it. And at that moment, I changed the topic of my blog post. I thought back about other car accidents and kids.

My daughter t-boned a car (illegally cutting in front of her, making a left turn where prohibited) and I got the call at work.

“Dad, I’ve been in a bad accident.” 

“Where?” 

“By the movie theater.”

“I’m on my way.”

My office was in the back of this building. As I ran down the hall, a co-worker yelled, “Go OJ Go,” a reference to a Hertz Commercial featuring OJ Simpson in a happier day.

Once I got to my car and started for the movie theater, I called my daughter’s cell. My SON answered the phone.

“They are loading her in an ambulance dad.”   My mind wasn’t working. Ambulance?  I just talked to her. “Which hospital, Bud?”

I rushed to the hospital. (At a time like this, why do we rush?  She’s at the Level 1 trauma hospital, being tended to by the finest. It’s not like my being there is going to help her recovery. Intellectually, I understand it. And I know I’d rush again.)

This is the only time I heard those rumored words from the EMT, “She was lucky to be driving a Volvo, otherwise….<head shakes>”   We didn’t CHOOSE a Volvo for her. It was a hand-me-down family car. It was by chance. (Mind racing: I do believe in looking at the crash test results before buying a kid car. A car without perfect scores won’t get purchased.)  HOW IS MY DAUGHTER?

As we picked the fine pieces of windshield from her tear covered face, we (hoped|knew) she would be OK. Of course, tests were performed to ensure our parental intuition was correct, and nothing lurking and unseen was missed. It turned out she was shaken, and physically fine. It took a while for her to be comfortable in a car….

Some other local kids were not so lucky.

On October 12, 2005, I got a call from a data center nearby saying they were running on generator, and couldn’t figure out why. It was a nice night, without storms, and this made no sense. Driving over, the road was blocked by the police.

“Really bad accident ahead. Some kids hit a pole. It’s really bad.”

The power was shut off to the data center so the kids could be removed from the vehicle.

This is one of those stories where you hear things for ages. I heard the hardened first responder threw up upon arrival, as the power was still on. I heard 3 girls in a Land Rover, with two sisters passing away. I heard the sisters were rushing home, to “make curfew.” 

The site of the accident was covered in flowers as the teen friends mourned.

For this post, I went to the site to take pictures, over 6 years later. The adjacent land has been cleared, although the memorial is still there. It’s like the landscapers knew to leave the scene undisturbed.

A number of crosses remain to this day. Some large, others looking impromptu. People drive by every day…I wonder if they know or remember?

The parents put two candles in their windows….symbolizing the two sisters. The tradition of candles in the windows of New England homes goes back centuries…and represents a beacon for a weary traveler. Were the parents waiting at home, staring at the candles, waiting for the sisters to come bounding through the doors?

How did those parents learn of their daughter’s passing?  Was it a call?  A knock at the door?  How did they react? 

The years have passed. The candles were eventually extinguished, and the house sold. Have those parents ever recovered?  Do they still mourn?  Are they even together anymore?

So I have many messages to conclude this post:

Parents

  • Put your kids in safe vehicles
  • Offer to pick them up if they can’t drive (and without harassment)
  • Encourage a phone call if a curfew is going to be missed (without harrassement)

Kids

  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Get someone else to drive if you can’t
  • Drive to your skill level; it’s better to be late and alive than ontime and dead

First responders and hospitals

  • Thank God you do what you do.
Wednesday
Oct192011

My child is interested in a fraternity/sorority. What should I do?

As your college children return for break, you may be seeing them with clothing embroidered with Greek symbols.

The chances are excellent they have chosen to participate in a fraternity (typically single sex male, often called frats) or sorority (typically single sex female), or a so called Greek Letter organization.

If you were never in one of these organizations, the closest analogy is a club….a club where all the members share similar values and establish lifelong friendships.

Most Greek Letter organizations have a selection process.  Organizations governed by the National Panhellenic Conference or the North-American Interfraternity Conference typically have a “rush week”, consisting of events intended to let the members meet others with interest.   At the end of “Rush” organizations give “bids”, or invitations to membership. This can be a stressful time for someone desiring to participate in a Greek Letter organization; not receiving a bid at all, or only receiving bids from less desirable organizations, can create personal conflict.

One a bid is accepted, there is typically a pledge period, culminating in an initiation.  Being in a Greek Letter organization exposes the new member to the “secrets” and “rituals” of the organization, and for a long time initiation was a thinly veiled hazing event like Kevin Bacon experienced in the 1978 movie, Animal House:

Greek Letter initiations have been toned down dramatically by all National/International organizations due to strict anti-hazing directives/laws.

Here is how one Greek Letter organization, Zeta Psi, captures it on their home web page:

Policy on Hazing

Zeta Psi Fraternity prohibits hazing in any form.  Hazing is an action taken or situation created, whether on or off University or Chapter premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule.  Hazing is also considered to be the creation of a situation, which results in or might result in mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule, including involuntary servitude, often called “personal favors.”  Both individuals and organizations may be held accountable for such activity.

Report suspected hazing to: 1-888-NOT-HAZE.

Alcohol abuse is another concern.  Here’s a video from the North-American Interfraternity Conference reinforcing positive actions around hazing and alcohol:

While there are studies on the impact of Greek Letter organizations on academics, my personal experience and of children I’ve observed suggests the benefits of Greek Letter organizations are in non-academic areas:

  • Lifelong friend & support networks – after 30 years, I am friends with my fraternity brothers, and am acquaintances with others I went to school with.
  • Leadership – many on campus organizations are run by Greek Letter members.
  • Learn how to run a house – most Greek Letter organizations have budgets, many have their own large houses they have to keep up and repair.   Most local agencies (fire, board of health) check the houses multiple times a year.
  • Social – Parties, yes.  Events (like rafting, spelunking, and other group activities.)  Charities (always.)

What should a parent do?

  • Be supportive, and do not freak.
  • Learn about your child’s Greek Letter organization, using Google as your helper.  Most National/International Greek Letter organizations have detailed websites, with some “locals” (also called Chapters) having their own.  Each Chapter has its own unique customs; while they all share a heritage each chapter evolves.  If asked to attend an event, please do so…as the members (or “actives”) take time to prepare.
  • Don’t ask about the “secrets.”  They are supposed to be kept “secret!”  They are passed down in rituals over decades and centuries.  Besides, if you knew the ritual handshake what would you do with it?

If your child doesn’t enter Greek life, it’s OK too.  College is about academics and life, and this is a decision point.

What’s your view and experience?