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Teenagers should try dialing R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A late-night phone call used to mean one thing: something bad had happened.

Anytime the phone rang past a certain time, people would look at each other with that "Who's been in a wreck?" look, expecting bad news. You just didn't call someone's house late unless it was an emergency.

Nowadays, it seems that idea has gone out the window with the rest of the rulebook.

We have a teenager in the house, and we regularly get phone calls - the house phone, mind you, not a cell phone, and he doesn't have his own line - at midnight or later. The latest call ever was at 2 a.m. One of his friends just calling to say hi. I still have a hard time believing it.

He used to have a cell phone, which he no longer has, and he's been put on notice to tell his friends to stop calling so late. But apparently, everyone hasn't gotten the word yet.

Tuesday night - or more accurately, Wednesday morning - the phone rang at 12:57 a.m. My fiancee answered and immediately asked to speak to the teenaged girl's mother. The girl hung up on her. Not a wise choice in the age of caller ID.

So my fiancee called the number back until she got the girl's mother, who, of course, was surprised at what her little angel was doing.

I say that with every bit of sarcasm I can muster because these parents have NO idea what their children are doing when they're staying up until all hours of the night.

I don't care that it's summer. Teenagers should still have a bedtime, and they most definitely should have a phone curfew. But parents are too worried about not being cool, so they let their little animals do whatever they want, even if it includes waking up people who have to go to work in the morning.

OK, I don't have to go to work in the morning. I go in the afternoon. But my fiancee has to get up early. Plus, there is another child in the house who needs her sleep.

Now I know a lot of you out there are good parents. But apparently some of you don't care. God forbid your child should be mad at you, right? Can't be uncool. Gotta be their friend. Better to let them bother the neighbors than be mad at you, right?

Well, they're children, and they need supervision. When they get to be adults, their bedtime and phone habits will be their business, but until then, they're your business.

I also have a second theory on the generation of night owls. It concerns energy drinks.

Now I have to admit to drinking the occasional energy drink myself. I don't really like coffee in the afternoon or evening, which is when I work, so occasionally - emphasis on occasionally - I will drink one when I'm tired. But again, I'm an adult who is capable of having one occasionally.

But anyone who has a teenager should know by now that one of the "drugs" of choice today for teens is energy drinks. The more caffeine, the better. The more you can slam, the cooler you are. And the harder it is to go to bed at night.

Not to mention the fact that they have ultracool names like Pimpjuice, Hair of the Dog and Rocketshot, names that sound curiously like alcoholic drinks or even hard drugs. All the more to appeal to your teenagers' addictive, impulsive natures, my pretties.

Reader's Digest recently did an excellent expose on the teen energy drink craze. In the article, a Gwinnett kid who took a trip to the hospital after drinking a once-banned energy drink called Cocaine said, "Everyone wanted to try it because it sounded like taking drugs."

Makes you feel optimistic about the future, doesn't it?

The point is, these drinks are legal (even Cocaine has been repackaged under the name Censored), anyone can buy them and they are most definitely not Cokes. They have anywhere from twice to 10 times as much caffeine as a regular Coke. And some of your kids are staying up all night, slamming them like shots in a fraternity house.

And then they call our house.

Pay attention to what your kids are doing. Or the next house my fiancee calls back at 1 a.m. could be yours. And you don't want her calling you when she's mad at 1 a.m.

Trust me on that one.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.