I was thinking about the drinking and driving issue because it came up recently on an unschooling Yahoo group that I read. Various unschooling parents were talking about how they dealt with drugs & alcohol with their kids. Many had made sure that they told their kids that they would always be happy to pick their kids up, day or night, if they needed a safe ride home or were too drunk to drive, no judgements. No questions asked. Thing is, I believe them.
When I was a teen, there was no chance in hell that I would have ever called my parents for a ride home. Well, maybe as a really really last resort. I’ve walked or biked home several times and many miles in the dark rather than call my parents. Sure, after those MADD advertisements came out, my parents said those same words – that they would always pick me up, no judgements or questions asked, blah, blah, blah… But the thing is, I didn’t believe them. Why would I? They were mainstream parents. There had been judgements every step of the way ever since I was a child. It was the carrot and the stick all the way. The “good job” thing hadn’t started yet, but there were plenty of “nice work” lines running around my house. Good grades this quarter? “Nice work!” Not so great grades? “What happened, Trish?! You better start studying more!” If I asked for more than my allotted 3 cookies after dinner, I was chastised and told no. If I didn’t wear clothes that my mother deemed appropriate at family gatherings, I wasn’t fit to be seen. And the day I came home with my nose pierced, at age 15, the response was, “Get out of my sight! I can’t stand to look at you!” I wasn’t trusted to make appropriate food choices either. When I became a vegetarian, my mother was so worried about me that she took me to the pediatrician to have him talk to me about it. (The ped just keep asking me if I ate a lot of beans. Ha.) But anyway, I’d say that overall, the relationship I had with my parents was not one based on trust. It was one based on my assessing whether I was living up to their ideals of what I should be doing.
When I examine it all like that, it really is no surprise to me that I would never have called my parents for a ride home after a night of drinking. If I had, I can guarantee that I would have been subjected to the same judgments that came with cookies and grades and clothes. Even if they didn’t chastise me on the ride home, the next day would be hell. And I can imagine the response when the next night out occurred & they would have had a million judgement-laden questions.
This is why I’m a radical unschooler. I know in my heart that if I treat my kids with respect now, they won’t be afraid of me later. If they know that I won’t try to use coercion or judgement or praise/rewards, they will be free to come to me when they make mistakes. And if I don’t remind them of their mistakes and make them feel guilty about them, they won’t fear making them in front of me. They will know that they really can call me if they are drunk, and I really won’t make them feel bad about giving them a ride home.