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Goodbye to worry-free parenting?

AAH announced at the dinner table this evening that she plans to start drinking alcohol on Wednesday next week.

This is not great news.

Although inevitable. I guess.

Back in grade eight, when most of her friends started flirting with the drink, AAH made a vow to herself that she would hold off entirely until she finished her national exams* at the end of grade ten. She made this decision completely on her own [although undoubtedly influenced by some heavy propaganda around the kitchen table] and to the best of my knowledge she has stuck to it. While her group of friends has, one by one, succumbed to smoking and the use of mind-altering substances, AAH has Stayed Strong. Even though the peer pressure has been hell at times. Although she’s been called a prude and uptight and not been invited to parties, and all the rest.

In the group of about ten girls that she hangs out with, there are two who do not drink. The rest drink to varying degrees; some to excess every weekend, others only sometimes. AAH has been one of the two responsible ones, who have been – perhaps – a notch above the rest in terms of self-discipline and resolve. It’s given her a position that she has relished. She’s considered it flott – cool. So has her boyfriend. So have we. In fact we have been relentless in praising and rewarding her for it. Not least because, apart from everything else, it has been an incredible luxury to know that while AAH has been out with her friends in the evenings, she has been sober and responsible and alert. And perhaps safer from any number of dangers that might befall her than she would otherwise have been.

However, the time has now come, and next week Wednesday the final national exam will be held [they start tomorrow]. A party is planned in the evening, and AAH is going to take some booze and consume it. I have no illusions that I can prevent her, even though she’s way below legal drinking age [20 here in Iceland]. And sometimes I have to remind myself that when I was her age [just turned 16] I was posed start living on my own [so hard to believe!], had been awash in mind-altering substances for, oh, two years at least, and smoked about half a pack to a pack of cigarettes a day. Yet despite this – or perhaps because of it – of all the stages in AAH’s growing up, this is one of the hardest. It scares the shit out of me, quite frankly.

My feelings were evident at dinner, and AAH remarked that she thought it was ‘cute’ that I was so worried about her. Afterwards I was alone in the kitchen putting things away and she came in, put her arms around me, and told me she loved me. Can I ask for a better kid? Probably not.

Heavy, with thick, charcoal gray, low-lying clouds that looked perpetually ready to burst with rain. Which, as it happened, they didn’t, emitting only the slightest of drizzle. Symbolic of our current circumstances, I hope. It was a public holiday here, as it is in most of Europe [Labour Day], yet there was nary a protest march to be seen. Right now we have temps of 9°C [48F] and sunrise was at 5:01 am [sharp!], sunset at 9:50 pm.

* Here in Iceland, the national exams – which are synchronized and standardized for the whole nation – mark the end of elementary school and thereby compulsory education. From there, kids move on either to trade school or upper secondary school, which is like a combination high school/college and lasts four years. The national exams are extremely important because there is generally some pretty stiff competition for the best upper secondary schools and your grades determine which schools will accept you.



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