When I was growing up and heard the word "Judge" I felt no fear, actually I probably laughed as this is what came to my mind...
When the kids of today, especially in Roanoke County hear the word "Judge" followed by Trumpeter, this is how most of them react...
After my daughter and I spent two hours in his courtroom last Friday I really don't know why. Neither does she. No, she wasn't in any sort of trouble. It was actually a celebration of sorts as she, along with 60 other teenagers, received their permanent driver's license.
Virginia is the only state where it's mandatory for a new driver to go before a judge to receive their license. And it's not just mandatory for teens either -- their parent or guardian must attend the two hour "ceremony" as well. Before the parents are handed the license, yes the parents are the holder of the license and can only hand it over to their teen if they think their teen deserves it, the Judge talks to the crowded courtroom covering many areas that their driver's educational classes probably hadn't gone deep into.
Sure there was the usual what to do if you're stopped by a cop, but there was also so much more, including Virginia's three-strike and you lose your license rule, the prohibitive costs of speeding -- money-wise, point-wise, and losing license-wise, the illegality of texting or talking on the cell phone, and the deadly danger of driving after drinking.
The Judge related facts, figures and explanations of how even one beer affects judgment and the reason why. I was surprised to learn that the average age when boys have their first drink is 12 and girls is 13. The real shocker was that the parents are usually the ones who gave their kids their first drink. And worse, it's the parents that host the parties that allow the teens to drink.
What really got me tearing though was the personal story Judge Trumpeter relayed about the straight A, multi-talented high school sports star who by the age of 16 was secretly drinking and by the age of 18 was dead -- taking two innocent folks walking along the side of the road one Christmas Eve, with him.
At the end of the ceremony the bow-tied Judge called my daughter's name, handed me the license and thanked her for dressing up for court. He said he had an open door policy and his phone number was in the book if we ever needed to talk to him. I thanked him for showing he cared for the kids and told him, "I hope I never have to see you again."
After we left my daughter said, "I don't know why everyone freaks out when they hear Judge Trumpeter's name. I think he was quite an interesting character with his bow tie and Harry Potter glasses. I actually liked him. I guess I might feel different if I had to be in front of him because I was in trouble, and I don't have plans of that happening!"
I hope not. And to drive the issue home we spoke some more in depth about the privilege and dangers of driving. I remarked to the girl that I never want to be the answer to the question, "Who gave you your first drink?" She said I wouldn't be as she already had the answer. "Who?!" "A priest at church when he gave me a sip of wine at communion at grandpa's funeral. It was disgusting." Yes, it was.
And then when I got home I sat my son down and drilled into his head the same messages I had just heard. In between rolling of the eyes he said, "Mom, I know. I'm not a moron. It's not like I haven't already been faced with my friends drinking. I know how to say no, and I know how to take their keys away from them, and I have."
I told both of them, mistakes happen and if they ever found themselves in a "compromised position" whether it be them or their friends, they shouldn't hesitate to call me. I will come and get them immediately, no questions asked. There'd be plenty of time for repercussions later, and there would be. Personal responsibility is the only way to teach a teen that there are consequences to their actions, but first and foremost is the safety of them and others around them. If more parents would drive that message home to their children I think their children might give a little more thought to their actions.
The driver's license court ceremony is really a wonderful opportunity to begin a dialogue between parent and teen, and much more important for the parents who need to listen too, than the kids. Good luck to all the new drivers. Good luck to their parents too...