Young adults aren't very grown-up

February 08, 1994|By Elise T. Chisolm

It was a beautiful wedding on a beautiful October day.

Most of the young adults were college graduates, some were still in college, one of those twentysomething weddings.

After the reception with food, wine and beer, the bride's parents invited a few close friends and relatives back to their house. There was a mini buffet and more alcohol.

The happy bride and groom had already departed.

We oldies hung out in the den, and about 40 of the young people gathered on the deck.

About 11:30, I realized the crowd outside was getting louder and slightly obnoxious. A few came in to use the bathroom.

It was then I knew they were all drinking too much. In fact, they were drunk, and I could hear a few of them vomiting in the bathroom off the den. One or two of them staggered into the den to go upstairs to the other bathrooms.

I got scared. This in a private home in a quiet suburb? I decided to leave. I became more worried when I stepped outside and saw about 15 or so cars. These kids were going to get behind the wheel?

I heard later the party went on until 2 in the morning, and yes, the parents were there. Were drugs there too? Maybe.

For me, the joy of the wedding was obliterated by the red eyes of the drunken kids on the deck.

Was I too judgmental? Did we drink that much at weddings? Maybe, but we didn't have such high-speed cars then. In fact, we didn't have cars of our own. My own children did not have cars of their own. Sure, my baby boomer children had their share of parties and booze. But even then date rape, AIDS and guns in schools and coat pockets weren't epidemic.

Now we hear that teen-age drug and alcohol use are up, as is smoking -- they had been declining. A University of Michigan study says 67 percent of eighth-graders have tried alcohol, and 87 percent of seniors have tried alcohol. And more grim statistics go right on up through college and on.

We read about the fortysomething parents saying that as long as the kids stay home they can have their beer parties.

What a crock, excuse the pun, to say, "Jane, you can have the beer party at home, but don't drive."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that when parents bargain with their kids, allowing them to drink -- as long as they promise to not drive and drink -- the youths are more likely to use drugs and alcohol outside the home.

MADD also reports that the average college student spends more money on alcohol than on books.

Do our well-educated baby boomers give their kids too many things, from cute clothes and cars to college on a silver platter?

I found Baltimore psychotherapist Sally Jennings, who specializes in children and adolescents, confirming my fears. About the alarming statistics, she says that "adolescence is extending into the 30s."

"It used to be that adolescence was over at 18, you left home, you moved out. But now there are graduate degrees to struggle with and fewer jobs available," she says. "Therefore, parents are assuming more of the responsibilities of their young adults, which is making the young more dependent.

"Also, some of these baby boomer parents, as enablers, have instilled in their youth that one shouldn't put up with pain and discouragement . . . take a pill, don't go through it on your own."

So many of the kids on the deck are pampered.

Remember at 11 p.m. when your television screen flashed, "Parents, Do You Know Where Your Children Are?" Then, "Children Do You Know Where Your Parents Are?"

Sure. The parents are often at home while their adult children are having beer busts in the basement playrooms. But the parents aren't listening and watching.

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