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Mia Turns 21

My Daughter is turning 21 today.

I knew this was coming. My son turned twenty-one a couple of years ago but did so while studying abroad in a country with a social drinking culture and a legal age of eighteen. As far as we know, it went off without a hitch.

My daughter is a whole different story and not because she’s a young woman. She is a college athlete, she lives in a house with eleven of her teammates and is the second to last in her house to turn twenty-one. In fact, I’ve been to her house on a weekend when one of her roommates turned twenty-one. It happened to be in season and as a competitive team they are quite strict about not going out after a loss. Winning comes first. That said, I got the impression her roommate’s twenty-first birthday provided some extra motivation for the group. And then there was the gift basket on the dining room table. This one was decorated with balloons and mini bottles.

My eyes are open. We’ve been talking about underage drinking for years. Unfortunately, as much as I’ve asked her not to drink before she’s twenty-one I’m doubtful she’s heeded my advice. Corny as it may seem though, I think she’s been responsible about it. We met for an early breakfast the next day, after they won that game and twenty-first birthday party, before we drove back to DC. She was on time, on message, clear eyed, and hungry. I knew everything was alright.

My daughter is excited to turn twenty-one. She wants to go out, she wants to show the waiter her driver’s license, she wants to be accepted as an “adult” and wants all the privileges that go with that. I have one more conversation in mind, though, before she goes out to celebrate. This one will focus on drinking responsibly. I want her to know that she has her whole life ahead of her and she’ll enjoy this special night, have lasting memories and stories to tell her friends who won’t be with her if she drinks responsibly. That’s the way to lasting memories.

I’ll still want to hear from her tonight and know she’s safe. But when she gets to the other side, I think she’ll be just fine.

*Ralph Blackman, a father of two, is President and CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility*