MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few moms in your corner. We visit with a diverse group of parents each week for their commonsense and savvy parenting advice. Now, New Year's is just a few days away, and for many people, the economy notwithstanding, that means partying. And for a lot of people that means drinking. And for adults that might be OK, but what about the kids, especially teenagers? What are they up to? And how do parents have the conversation of staying safe on a night that some people equate with going too far? We're going check in with our moms. I'm joined by our regular contributors, Jolene Ivey and Dannette Tucker, and I'd like to welcome a new mom to the table, Aracely Panameno. Welcome, ladies, moms.
JOLENE IVEY: Hey, Michel.
DANNETTE TUCKER: Hey, Michel.
ARACELY PANAMENO: Hey, Michel. Thank you.
MARTIN: Now, one of the reasons we wanted to have this conversation, quite frankly, is that one of the stories we spent a lot of time covering on this program is about a young man in Georgia named Genarlow Wilson. Now, a lot people will remember that name. At the age of 17, he was convicted and sent to prison for 10 years for having sex with a girl who's just two years younger. But where did all this happen? At a New Year's Eve party in 2003, where there was a lot of drinking. Party took place at a hotel, and a lot of people - of course, it raises all these questions, which is, you know, where are the parents, who's supervising, all this kind of thing. So, I'm going to start by asking each of you, what kinds of conversations do you have, or have you had, with your kids about New Year's Eve, and what your expectations are? And Jolene, I'm going to start with you because you've got five boys, and they run the age gamut from nine...
IVEY: To 19.
IVEY: And my 19 year old is really the issue right now. He's home from college, he's definitely kind of chafing under some of the rules that we have in our house, but that's the price you've got to pay in order for us to keep paying your room and board and everything in school.
(Soundbite of laughter)
IVEY: But he even said to me the other day, man, I really wish that there were a New Year's Eve party for me. And I said, well, you could have a party here, and have your friends down in the basement and everything, but you know you can't have any alcohol. And he says, yeah, yeah, I don't want to do that.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: And he can't because he's - 21 is the legal drinking age in Maryland?
IVEY: Twenty-one is the legal drinking age everywhere. And he's only 19, and you know, I'm not - I don't have my head in the sand. I know the boy drinks. But he's not going to do it with my permission.
MARTIN: Aracely, you have a daughter...
PANAMENO: Yes, yes.
MARTIN: The same age, 19. What conversations have you had?
PANAMENO: You know, the conversation has been taking place throughout her life, appropriate messages about what it is to have substances out there. And you know, it comes a point where I have to be practical and realistic that I cannot shelter her from the rest of the world, so I have to get her ready to deal with pressures from friends and society and advertising and so forth. So, yes, we're talking about the New Year's Eve party, and you know, we don't necessarily - culturally, we've never had a prohibition around alcohol. We, in fact...
MARTIN: Your family, I'm sorry, is originally from El Salvador.
PANAMENO: I was born in El Salvador...
MARTIN: You were born there.
MARTIN: But she was born here.
PANAMENO: But she was born here, in Virginia. And so, I think that the greatest pressures that she feels are U.S.-based pressures, just like anybody else.
MARTIN: Well, I just want to point out that in some cultures, it is not at all unusual for young people to be allowed to have some alcohol under the supervision of their parents.
PANAMENO: Yes. Even in my own family, back where I come from, we had experience of actually having shared wine in - champagne, for example - for celebrations and during the holidays. But you know, in a very limited, parent-supervised, family environment, which is completely different from what happens here. And of course, she's looking forward to, you know, where will I be going with my boyfriend to celebrate the New Year's? And so, the conversation is changing, and I think that ultimately, honey, I may be disappointed about what you do, but I can never turn my back on you. So, you know, if at any point in time you need me, it doesn't matter what the time is, you call me and I'll come get you.
MARTIN: Danni, what about you? You've got a 15 year old...
MARTIN: And an 11 year old.
TUCKER: Actually - well, my 15-year-old, we went at that last night. Club Bounce is a club for 18 and under. So, he wants to go to Club Bounce. He's 15, he could get in, you know, and they party till 10 or 11. But you know, I found out these kids are drinking and smoking, you know, marijuana and everything, before they get to the club, and then after they get to the club. So, my thing is - you know, I don't allow him to go unless there's a parent involved. Is a parent picking you up or dropping you off, or am I? You know, making sure we'd get you home. And so, he was like, well, Ma, you know, I'm going. I could go and they're going to ride the subway. And I just have to crack down on it because I know what these kids are doing out there and...
MARTIN: So, even though this particular event will have monitored alcohol...
TUCKER: The event itself.
MARTIN: On premises and will not permit it...
MARTIN: You know that there are kids drinking.
MARTIN: How do you know that kids are drinking?
TUCKER: I watch them; I see them. You walk around the neighborhood, and you see them. I mean, they can't buy a beer, but I see the people going in and buying beers for them.
MARTIN: So, what conversation are you having?
TUCKER: With Daevon(ph), the conversation I have - the only thing that helps us is when I put it back on him. You are - you're the athlete, and you always talk about your body. OK, if you do this, this is going to hurt your body and your dreams. I have to put it back in his head and let him take responsibility for it, because if I don't, he won't listen to me. Mama just not cool, and she don't know what she talking about, you know? She likes the Temptations too much, and this is the year of Lil Wayne.
(Soundbite of laughter)
TUCKER: And he just does not listen to this. So, when I put that kind of thing back on him, you know, do you want to mess up, you know, your athletic eligibility? These things would mess that up. That's when I get his attention, when it's about something he's losing.
MARTIN: Jolene, what about you? Does it help, as Danni was pointing out, look, if you've thought about it, I've done it. So, don't think you can come up with something new. Does that kind of conversation help? Do you find that it helps to tell the kid what might be at stake for him? Or is it just keep him locked down, just keep him in your sights? You don't go without me. Wherever I go - wherever you go, I go.
IVEY: We've had some very serious conversations about what's in it for him and what can happen to him. A lot of it is because, you know, I'm a public official; my husband's a public official. If the average kids, they do something and maybe they get pulled over and maybe they, you know, lose their license, that's the end of it. For our kids, they'll end up in the newspaper; they'll be able to Google it forever. I mean, these are some serious consequences for our particular children, so we really emphasize for them the importance of not doing things, not only not to hurt themselves for the moment, but to hurt their reputations forever.
MARTIN: I wanted to go back to this whole question of whether part of it is that the culture, for some reason, emphasizes drinking to get drunk, as opposed to drinking with food, as other cultures do. I know that - you know, when I gave birth to my twins, I was sent two bottles of expensive champagne from a friend of mine who was raised overseas, and that is considered a customary gift. Whereas in some cultures people think, oh, my god, you know, breastfeeding woman, champagne, horrors. But that is considered a customary and appropriate gift in many parts of the world. In many parts of the world, it's not considered strange to have children have small sips of wine or be - particularly when they reach a certain age with their parents at the table. Does any...
IVEY: Do you know, Michel, I grew up that way.
IVEY: And you know, for me, it was no big deal. My dad let us have little sips of his beer. It was Black Label. Looking back, I'm like, ugh, that's got to be the worst stuff, but we had sips of his beer. They gave us little bits of champagne for New Year's or whatever, and it wasn't any big deal. The difference for me is that my husband's a state's attorney, and he has always been really sure that everybody follows the law in our house. When my oldest son was three, I was cooking dinner - and this was way before Glenn was state's attorney - but I was cooking dinner; he, my little boy, came up to me and he said, what are you drinking? I said, wine, you want a sip? I gave him a little sip, and I just said, don't tell your dad. Man, as soon as my husband came home from work...
(Soundbite of laughter)
IVEY: He didn't get over into the doorway and Alex ran up, Daddy, Mommy gave me some wine. And I said, that's the last time it will ever happen. But you know...
MARTIN: And I am sure it is. Aracely?
PANAMENO: Things are not so black and white. You know, as a member of a Christian community, we attend church on a regular basis, and there's communion time. And so, there's the little wafer with real wine being served at church, which she has partaken of. And I know for a fact that, at 19, she also has had her own beer and whatever else she's tried, you know, in her own circles. And also, I think the biggest concern is I don't like the culture of binge drinking at colleges and universities that take place. So, you know, the constant conversation, just last night I had a conversation with the young man she's dating. He came to pick her up, and I said, you know, I want you to have fun, but I want you to be safe. And so, you know, to the point of saying, this is my one and only child. If you do anything that will result in harm, oh, my God, I swear to you I will find you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: I'll hunt you down and kill you. Who can blame you? If you are just joining us, you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR news. I'm speaking with Jolene Ivey, Danni Tucker and Aracely Panameno about drinking, New Year's Eve and kids. Aracely, you were telling us that one of the messages that you have given to your daughter is, look, these are my expectations, but should something happen, I expect you - I want you to call me no matter where you are.
PANAMENO: And no matter how late it is.
MARTIN: And no matter how late. Jolene, I think you've also had that conversation with your sons, but do you worry that that's a mixed message?
PANAMENO: No. For me, it's a pragmatic, realistic message. I cannot shelter her. I have shared, you know, my cultural values, my religious values and morals with her. I've tried to lead her by example. But I know that she will not always do that. And so, I have to make sure that there are safety measures, you know. If this should fail, here's the next safety net that you need to tap onto.
MARTIN: Danni, what about you? Are there messages that you feel are particularly persuasive to your son at this stage? Like, for example, is talking about a Genarlow Wilson case persuasive?
TUCKER: Oh, most definitely.
MARTIN: To your kids because we talked to...
TUCKER: The consequences.
MARTIN: We talked to him, we talked to his mother, and I asked her the thing that many people would ask her, which is, where were you when this was going on? When your son was at this New Year's Eve party, drinking and using drugs and having sex with these girls, plural, unsupervised. And she said, look, I'm a bartender. If I don't work on New Year's Eve, I'm not working the following week, and I apologize for the fact that I wasn't able to supervise him as closely, but that's what I do for a living.
MARTIN: So, what about that?
TUCKER: So, I do a lot of the same thing, but I take it a step further. I do consequences. I'm a little bothered the way society keeps trying to make the parents pay for these kids' mistakes when they are making adult mistakes. And that's what I told Daevon. I have surrounded you by positive people. I tried to live the life that I'm showing you, you know, to lead, OK? If you go out there and get in trouble, don't call me. When you cross the adult line, don't call me. I'm not one of them parents that's going down for something you did that you know you shouldn't have done, and you have to reap the consequences. Don't call me because I didn't do it.
And I make sure (unintelligible) him in the same way - don't answer that phone. He's not supposed to be out there. He's not supposed to be in that car with those 18 year olds when we told you emphatically no. Now, if you do that and you get in trouble, you are on your own. I'm not answering my phone. I love you to death. I'll pray for you, but that's about it. Because it's got to be stern, in my opinion, especially where we are because it can be rough and in those urban areas and in this hip-hop culture of I know everything. Since you know everything then, as we say, have it your business. Don't call me.
MARTIN: Well, it's interesting because we've got two parents here who live in the suburbs, and one parent for whom the driving is not so much the issue. It's not the driving for you. What is it for you?
TUCKER: What it is for me is the getting caught. I mean, we don't drive, but you know, you guys are young, black men, and a lot of the brothers have made it hard for you because they're getting in trouble. If you know this, if you know this, OK, what else can I tell you? Don't do it.
MARTIN: It seems, though, that a lot of kids that age have magical thinking, don't you think?
TUCKER: All right.
MARTIN: I mean, they think that it doesn't happen. It won't happen.
PANAMENO: It won't happen.
IVEY: It won't happen:
MARTIN: I mean, you look at the whole question of HIV/AIDS, and the fact that kids Daevon's age have grown up in the era of AIDS. This is a 25-year-old epidemic. Kids grow up knowing about these things, but it doesn't mean that they think it has anything to do with them.
PANAMENO: With them.
MARTIN: So, let's just go 'round one more time, and best advice - you know, we always hesitate to give advice because the minute you give it, you know...
PANAMENO: Your kid gets caught.
MARTIN: You need it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: So, you know, we've all learned this from Oprah. Do not let lecture; do not preach. That's not what we're doing. We're just sharing our best thoughts about how we can - other parents. What would be helpful, do you think? Would it be helpful to have more places to go? I mean, some families go to church on New Year's, or New Year's Eve, for a watch night service. I don't know if other denominations or religious groups have those kinds of events. There are some municipalities that have alcohol-free, family-friendly events.
PANAMENO: And we have had, you know, with my daughter. But she's 19 now. She is now interested in being surrounded by her peers and with the young man she's dating and so on and so forth. So, I actually have to look at it from a different angle. So, while sometimes I may say, if you make it to jail without my help, don't call me, I cannot say that about this particular issue because I'm trying to protect - keep her alive.
Just recently we had a senseless crime in my community, where a young man, a friend of my daughter, Jim, had just come back from James Madison University, was sleeping at home. Somebody broke into his house, killed him with one shot. Minutes later, his mother walked in to the house. She was also shot. And we - this past weekend celebrated her funeral and wake, and you know, just, you know, to realize that life can be so short and fragile. So, I take whatever precautions, give her education about all the things that are available. Certainly stay safe; certainly make sure that you call me. If you don't want to call me, please call other parents. Try to have phone numbers for the friends that she's at, et cetera, so that there's a network of people that I know someone will know where they're at, someone I can reach.
MARTIN: Danni, a final thought from you?
TUCKER: A final thought from me. Advice I'd follow is, you know, I'm - Daevon knows to call mom. If he's in a situation where he didn't get himself in that situation, by being disobedient or breaking the law, OK, I will be there for you. But personally, for me, raising a young, black male in Washington, D.C., I've laid you the foundation, OK? But if you are going to do things that require a lot of responsibility and consequences, they are yours. If you go down that road - because the lesson for you is down that road. Evidently, it wasn't in what Mommy said because you didn't hear me. So, the lesson for you is, be it arrested development, whatever it takes, and that's the advice I follow, having done all I can do, OK? Now you are on your own. You're grown, then here's what that life involves. And that's the advice I follow.
MARTIN: Jolene, a final thought?
IVEY: I'd say much like Aracely has said and Danni has said, what we really need to do is to keep the lines of communication open. It's not one talk about drugs or alcohol or sex. It's not the talk. It's the ongoing conversations. And I think that by talking to my kids all the time, from the time that they're little all the way up to the oldest one, if it's a constant thing and I can - like, when my kid's going out last night, I'd say, don't forget, you're driving. The more kids you have in the car the more distracted you get. So, here are the things I want you to remember to look out for, and not a sip of alcohol. And you know, he's pretty good about it as long as I think you keep reminding them.
MARTIN: I think one of the moms that we had on the program earlier in the year had three rules for her teens, which I just think is worth repeating: Stay safe; show respect; keep in touch. Stay safe; show respect; keep in touch. And she just repeats these to the point that they're sick of it. But she's hoping that, with that repetition, those three rules will stay in their heads, so that if they find themselves in a situation, they have that to guard against. So, anyway, well, Happy New Year to all of you.
IVEY: Same to you.
PANAMENO: Be safe.
MARTIN: And be safe.
TUCKER: Be safe.
PANAMENO: Happy Kwanza.
MARTIN: Happy Kwanza. Stay safe; show respect; keep in touch. Keep in touch. Jolene Ivey, Danni Tucker and Aracely Panameno joined us from our studios in Washington, D.C. Ladies, moms, thank you so much.
IVEY: Thanks, Michel.
PANAMENO: Thank you.
TUCKER: Michel, thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
MARTIN: And now, we'd like to hear from you. How do you talk to your teens about drinking? And what are your plans for keeping your kids safe on New Year's Eve? To tell us more, please visit our Web site on the Tell Me More page at npr.org, or you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number, again, is 202-842-3522.
(Soundbite of music)
MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.