NY Teen Dies After Vodka Party

Filed under: In The News

Garrett Quedens, a 14-year-old from West Babylon, NY, died in the early hours of January 1 after spending New Year's Eve with a bottle of vodka. Garrett and a friend, also barely old enough to shave, passed out on a street just blocks from their homes in below freezing weather. The friend woke up. Garrett didn't.

A memorial service on Sunday drew about 200 mourners, many of them young teens. "He touched all of your lives," said Deacon Michael from St. Martin of Tours Church in nearby Amityville. And ours. This is a dismal cautionary story to break any parent's heart.

Let's talk for a moment about the alcohol. It was all-too-easy to get, thanks to two adults who were willing to purchase a liter of Georgi vodka for the boys for $10 plus another $10 for gas. "Give 'em life," Garrett's father Thomas Quedens raged. "Because I lost something that was most important to me."

But there is much more to this sad affair than just the reflexive denunciation of two local idiots, both charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This tragedy also highlights a more personal, troubling issue that sends off alarms in my head as a mother to a 14-year-old boy: The dangers of letting my child go out on his own in a world with plenty of dangerous attractions. Alcohol yes, but consider also the cyberbully and other online predators.

PRESS CONTINUE FOR MOREWhen my son was younger, I knew where and how he was at all times. I had him covered 24-7. That's not the case today. I believe it's called growing up.

Many people blame Garrett's parents for his death. "They should've known what he was doing!" True enough. There are things the Quedens could have done to safeguard their son, such as phone the parents of his friends beforehand so everyone was on the same page, enforce a curfew earlier than midnight or text the kid every hour or so with a quick, R U OK?

It's very easy for me to suggest what I did this past New Year's Eve; my son is well and breathing. (Oh, yes, Teddy was out with his friends, too.) Though he is in fact shaving, I continue to devote a great deal of time and energy to Teddy's safety. But I am not lacking in awareness that he has secrets and, like Garrett, his well-being is very much in his own hands -- and increasingly out of mine.

So to play judge and jury, whose fault was it? The pair who bought the liquor? His friends or his parents? What about Garrett himself? Is there a teachable moment on drinking and personal responsibility for your kids here?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.