The night Holly was in trouble

with photos and follow-up

posted by Sandra Dodd on the Always Learning list on April 26, 2009

This is long, but everyone's fine. Those with young children or who don't like long posts can skip it.

My introduction is that each of our children has been in trouble with the law now.

Kirby drove his friend Joey home about four blocks, and he forgot to turn his headlights on. We went to court and they let him pay the fine without talking to the judge.

Marty was on a playground in a public park after hours (parks close at 10:00 or 10:30)--not drinking, not doing anything but playing on the slides with three other people, one 21 and the others 18, 19. He did two days of community service at the Red Cross office. (He reminded me that he also was ticketed for stopping too hard at a stop light. He stopped, but not gracefully, and we went to court and he paid a fine and went to a driving class. No alcohol nor any other such thing involved.)

Holly's is slightly worse than these.

Last night at 2:20 Holly (17) called on the house phone. There's one by our bed. She sounded like she was afraid and embarrassed, and said that the party had been busted, and she needed us to come and pick her up. The police said she needed at least one parent to come. And she was afraid she might have parked the car where it would have been towed. She couldn't see it from where she was.

So I woke Keith up and told him. Keith had fallen asleep really early because he had been helping clean a group camping site in Edgewood for several hours Saturday morning and afternoon. Brett had been planning to go to the party when I had gone to bed, but Brett had had a too-long day at work and had come home to discuss that and to play World of Warcraft. (Brett is Holly's boyfriend, who's staying with us, for those new to the saga.)

Brett's car was in the driveway and the house was dark, so we went out quietly. I thought maybe he could be spared the worry, and it's possible that Holly wouldn't have wanted him there, but just us.

I went back to get a big flannel sheet, because besides "bust" Holly had also mentioned "wrestling in pudding."

I knew where she was, because it was a house she'd never been to before, hosting a party for a couple she's known separately a long time, and together. One was having a birthday; the other had sufficiently recovered from a broken neck in a car accident (he's mobile), to share a party. She had been scheduled to go to his birthday party a couple of months ago when he had the accident. Brett and I had helped (by phone) figure out exactly where the house was and how she could best get there from where she was after work.

For those who know Albuquerque, we're near the mountains (Juan Tabo and Candelaria) and she was down past the university, across from Roosevelt Park. It's eight miles or ten, maybe.

As we were driving, we discussed what the best tack to take would be. We shouldn't be too cheery about it. We weren't going to act harsher than we felt. I was thinking at that time it might be a marijuana situation.

A mile from the house Marty called. [We were just a mile from our own house, headed toward Holly; Marty was elsewhere, in his car.] He had been invited to the party, but had opted to go to a couple of parties his girlfriend had been invited to instead. They were done there, and he had called to see if the birthday/recovery party was still on, and the birthday-person answered her cell from her car, where she was driving drunks home. She told Marty what she knew. So I was relieved it was alcohol and pudding, rather than drugs.

Holly had been the second youngest person at the party. The sixteen year old girl was asked "were you drinking?" and she said "no," so they said "Go home." Everyone over 21 who could prove it was told to go home. (Holly's unsure if any of them got citations). Holly had said yes, about drinking, so they told her to call her parents. And Holly didn't know the other girl, nor several of the people at the party.

The birthday hostess (not resident) had wanted to stay with Holly but the police told her she needed to leave and help get the intoxicated friends safely home.

Marty (20, her brother) had been willing to go and get Holly, but I told him it needed to be a parent and we were already on the way. So he said he and Ashlee-his-girlfriend would go on to our house. I told him Brett didn't know yet, so maybe not to bother him with it but let Holly tell him, unless he asked directly. I thought he was asleep.

Just a minute or so later, Brett (25, her boyfriend) called. It was 2:40 or so by then, and he had been just about to go to sleep but called Holly to see if she was okay and when she was coming back. The police let her answer the phone. She told him we were on our way to get her, so I told him what I knew and that Marty was on his way home.

At that point I thought how cool it was that we were all in such close communication. The day I was in an accident a couple or three weeks ago, before I had left the scene, Keith and Holly and Brett were there with me. Marty was at work, or he probably would've been there too.

We got to the house and she was sitting on the porch, chocolate pudding in her hair and everywhere, drying. There were four policemen, and another one in the house. Holly was the last one there besides the two who lived there. She was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and was barefooted. I wrapped the flannel sheet around her. Keith did the talking, and not much. Everyone was courteous and somber but not tense. Keith apologized and thanked them, and the one who was in charge of Holly before we got there said they were just doing their jobs, and Keith said "Well, I need to do mine too," and the guy said he was a parent too, and these things happen. So there was no shaming or defensiveness or anything. She was cited, and I can't read the details on our copy, but I think it's possession of alcohol by a minor. Maybe it's consumption. It has a number I can't see well enough to look it up.

Holly asked if she could go inside and go to the bathroom. The officer said "You're in the custody of your parents now--it's up to them." We all looked at each other. It wasn't my house; I didn't know the residents. Keith said "Go pee."

While she was gone we talked a little. There was a big dark smear on the bottom concrete step there by the front door. I said "I assume that's pudding, and not blood." One of the cops said, "Yeah. There's pudding everywhere in there. There's pudding on me." Another one said "There's pudding on my flashlight." It would've been funny, but we were all in straight-face, this-isn't-funny mode.

We'll be contacted by the juvenile probation department. The policeman used the term "intake," and I asked what that meant. He said they'll want to determine whether she needs alcohol abuse treatment, and whether she's in a safe situation. Okay. I don't think homeschooling will be an issue, and she's old enough to drop out or graduate anyway, if she were in high school. She has two part-time jobs, and that will help (if they don't pull a child labor law trick out of the hat ). She hasn't been in trouble, and that will help. No damage to people or property.

And the drinking she did was one jello shooter, and tastes of two other people's drinks. She said she never had a drink of her own. There weren't any drinking games. There were people there not drinking at all.

She could have lied, but she didn't.

When she came out of the house she was crying--frustration and embarrassment kind of crying. Stress.

Things seemed to be as smooth as possible under the circumstances. When we were leaving, the police could leave, and the two guys who lived there walked them out too, and said good night and thanks and good bye, and Holly rode back with Keith in the van where the heater had been on, and I followed them back in the car. When we got home she was crying, but I do know she told Keith some of the story on the way home and also talked to the birthday hostess to tell her she was okay.

We got home and she went into the shower. I took the pudding clothes and put them in the washing machine so I could turn it on right after she turned the shower off. The laundry was her bikini top, the Punisher t-shirt her friend Jared had taken off and put on her so she'd be wearing more than just a bikini top and shorts, another t- shirt someone had offered up for people to wipe jello off of them, and she said she would bring back clean. Her shorts and underwear, and the sheet.

She was unsettled and lightly agitated. I offered to sleep with her in the library and she gratefully took me up on that. I closed down the house, re-ran the laundry, left notes so Keith and Brett would know where we were if they woke up, and went and fixed up that bed. So I curled up behind her and stroked her hair and her arm and told her I loved her and I was sorry she had cried, and she asked what I was thinking about it all, and how much trouble she might be in. I told her there might be a fine, and she'd probably have unsupervised probation, since nobody was hurt and there wasn't any malice.

I don't know who all might've been charged besides Holly and the resident hosts. I'm willing to provide follow-ups on this. If I'm going to be telling how wonderful our lives are, it's only fair to give some detail on the less than wonderful times.

Ashlee (now 23) told me last night that when she was 15 she spent the night with a friend, and they got a ride to a party on the other end of town. She grew up 20 miles north of here in Bernalillo, a little farm town two miles long. The girls were walking home from the party, really late, and the police came and took each of them to her own home. Ashlee's parents grounded her from watching MTV for a year, she said, because they were sure watching MTV had made her wild.

We're not grounding Holly from anything. We didn't congratulate her or make light of it, but she was fully remorseful and is more concerned about how we feel about it, and the inconvenience to us in the middle of the night, than about her own outcome. She'll be 18 in November, and juvenile offenses like this are wiped off, in New Mexico. Or maybe it will be wiped when she's 21, or after the probationary period; I don't know.

The police seemed to have felt better after they asked Holly whether any of the girls were pudding-wrestling for money. Holly didn't really understand the question, and I didn't even hear about it until later, but it makes more sense now, thinking back to when the youngest officer said "It was a party activity," and I said "Well I guess it's good it wasn't just her and one other girl," and he said "No, they were all doing it."

Keith says guys pay money to watch girls wrestle, so they were wondering whether it was a sex show or prostitution. Oh, see? I didn't even think about that.

One more story for now... She said she was the last one up the stairs (the pudding pool was in the basement) and they had told all the girls to sit on the couch. Most had showered, but the line for the shower had been long, so Holly was still in the wading pool of pudding. When she got up there, the resident host was in handcuffs, but once they'd figured out the small extent of the problem, they took them off. But she said she asked if she could sit on the floor instead because she had pudding on her. They said sure.

When she told me that last night, I told her that was really nice of her, and she said she wouldn't sit on anyone's couch with pudding on her, even if the police told her to.

This is the end of my sordid tale of Holly's detainment by the police. She was honest, she was considerate of her host's furniture, she had had a jello shot (not at all strong, either, she said) and a couple of drinks of others' mixed drinks. She was pudding-wrestling, just for fun and not for money.

Because we still need to deal with the juvenile probation people and she probably has to go to court, I don't want to put on my blog that she's not being punished or grounded.

When Holly knew I was going to write this she said that was good, because some unschoolers seem to think they're immune from the possibility of getting into trouble.

I hope this doesn't keep anyone from wanting to continue with unschooling.


When we got home:

Holly didn't want her picture taken, but I said the shirt looked cute and she smiled and said "Well, in that case," and Marty said "You dropped the 'c' word and now she's willing to have her picture taken."

The smiles were brief, though. She had been crying before, and we heard her crying while she was in the shower. That bathroom has a laundry chute and she never had to see the pudding clothes again. I washed them twice, folded them and had them upstairs when she woke up the next morning. Two shirts need to be returned, and the flannel teddy bear sheet she used as a robe is back where it goes.

Holly's Larger Weekend

This page used to go from the original story to a follow-up a couple of months later.

Working on the page in 2021, I re-read the original topic. There is something there that puts this party in a different perspective. Holly had two jobs at the time—a flower shop with two locations, and a snowboard/skateboard shop. The first part is my writing, then Holly's follows:

Here's Holly's account of her weekend (from her MySpace, at the time). Told the way she tells it, the party was a very small part of a very busy couple of days.

La Cueva is a high school, Stems is the flower shop near us, Trader Joe's is a grocery store, "Mordor" is a secret place (they've offered to tell me where, but I declined) where they go to skateboard and have sneaky adventures, and sometimes hide from a security guard. Kirtland is the air force base. Marty (her brother) drove her in his jeep, along with Julie (an unschooler they've known since birth; Carol Rice's youngest) and Bo (who did the art for my unschooling page—trees and random-machine). Flying Star is a bakery/magazine-stand/sandwich-shop- turning-restaurant (chain).

March 24th and 25th
It's Sunday afternoon and it's been a very, very long weekend already.


Morning- 9:20 am
waking up, long shower, general getting ready to go.

Stems- 11:00 am
There's a woman named Diane who's there to help us out through Mother's Day, she's from Long Island and pretty chill. She and Debbie did arrangements and corsages and boots, I wired and taped spray roses and answered the phone and such.

Home- 3:20 pm
Hung out, ate, made plans.

Mike's house- 5:40 pm
Chilled with Mike and Zach, they played guitar (Mike fixed his), Zach said he had to go this play at La Cueva, Mike said he didn't want to, I said I wanted to go to Trader Joe's.

Out- 6:30 pm
Went to Trader Joes, re-met this guy Chris in the parking lot, went to La Cueva, watched the play (The Odd Couple)... Whatnot.

IHOP- 10:00 pm
Introduced Kyle to everybody. Ordered crepes and french fries, had a really, really good time. Drove home, blah, blah, blah. Marty drove me and Julie and Bo across town.

Mordor- 12:20 am
Got to see and ride Bo's BOMB new skateboard! Walked around, skated, climbed. Went home around like 2:00 am I guess, went to bed.
Morning- 7:30 am
Giggity got up, my mom made me breakfast and a lunch to-go, and I was off!

Kirtland Flower Shop- 9:00 am
I opened and got the computer turned on and everything, no problems, Katie came and actually ended up staying for a long time which I was happy about, when I was there by myself I put 50 of those plastic water things on 50 yellow roses and sold some balloons and a rose bundle. Elizabeth showed up and I left. Stopped by Stems to mark my hours down.

Home- 2:00 pm (ish?)
Suppose I did some hanging out and MySpace. Thought about taking a nap, ended up just listening to Amy Steinberg and hopping in the shower. I called work (Zumiez) Angie wants me to come in, and because I expressed my negative opinion on being called in, Mason offered to cover my closing shift, so I would leave when he would have left. (7:30) Quickly ate some macaroni as prep.

Zumiez- 5:05 pm
I did what I do, son! For the majority of being there we listened to Jake's iPod; Jake's got some good stuff on that! Great night though, Angie said it's cool if Mason closed. When it was getting close to 7:30 Angie told me she didn't want me to go because I was keeping her spirits up of sorts, so I agreed to dance for the rest of the 10 minutes of my shift. I think it worked to make her happy. I hung out an extra couple minutes, I was in a really weird, loud, and repetitive mood. You know how it goes.

Hot Topic- 7:50+ pm
Went over to Hot Topic and met Fabian (I'm actually gonna have to double check on his name), didn't end up getting any Jamaican colored anything, but it's all good. I ran to the escalator and quickly chatted with these kids who's friend got in trouble earlier and then ran to Shoe Fitters, said 'yo wassup', ran back to Zumiez, said yo, yo, yo and goodbye again, and left.

Out and About- 8:15 pm
Headed down to Gold and 8th, called my mom and got stuck in traffic. When I got there, though, Emily was really lost, so I waited in my car and listened to my iPod.

Flying Star- 9:15 pm
Emily and I ordered ourselves some Mac and Cheese with some Raspberry Chocolate cake goodness. That was such a good hour of the day. Very enjoyable.

Back in the Car- 10:10 pm
Back in traffic, going to a party, trying to get directions. Brett and my mom were very helpful.
Timmy's house- 10:35 pm

Steering away from the step-by-step:
It was an incredible and fun party. DJ, glow sticks and all. Right around 1:45 or so the police showed up. A lot of people had already left and a lot of people ditched out and a lot of people were sent home and then some people got in trouble. Which I guess equals out to a lot of people, right? Well my parents came to get me and the car.
They showed up at like 2:45.
Alright, cool.
I started writing this twelve hours ago.
The original post (quoted at the top of this page) is here, if you want to see the first pass of comments:
I'll tell this here, but not on my blog
More follow up and comments can be read on the AlwaysLearning list here:
Followup to pudding-wrestling detainment


Subject: Followup to pudding-wrestling detainment
From: Sandra@...
Date: June 24, 2009 3:01:25 PM MDT
To: AlwaysLearning@...

For people who have joined the list since April 26, the incident to which this refers is detailed here:
[the account at the top of this page]

And then there was a lot of arguing on the list about rights and honesty and integrity, and that was fun.

Today we got the mail from the Juvenile Justice Services office. It's two pages of long legalese, pretty much, and Holly had asked me to read it all to her, so at one point I thought we'd end up paying for a lawyer even if she used a public defender, so I told her not to want a lawyer. But halfway through page two it became clearer.

We're going to reeducation camp. More like reeducation summer camp, or really day camp.

On Wednesday, July 1, from 4:30 and for three hours we will show up at the State of New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department for this:

Minor in Possession of Alcohol Diversion Class

I don't want to call and ask for clarification on "diversion." In New Mexico that pretty much means a big drainage ditch. I guess they're trying to drain some of the kids away from becoming juvenile delinquents.

Specifically we were notified that Holly Dodd is alleged to belong to a family in need of supervision.

But if she and a parent successfully compete the program it will satisfy the requirements of The Children's Code and no further action will be taken at this time.

There is one paragraph in italics that says, "If you are having concerns that your child may be abusing drugs or alcohol, is having problems at school or problems within the family, you may prefer to have a private meeting with a probation officer to address these concerns. The officer would be able to assist you in obtaining services for you and your child."

I promised to let people know what happened.
I'll let you know how the rehabilitation goes too, after which we won't be a family in need of supervision anymore (seriously—that's a relief; Holly wants to leave the state before she's 18 to go and live with Diana in Oregon).


The reports above were on April 26 and June 24.
Six months later, it came up again:
12/29/09 on Always Learning (the topic was "Does Radical Unschooling always result in "Good" children?"):
I suppose this is a good time to tell the follow-up to Holly's pudding- wrestling incident. Was she "a good child" that night? We knew where she was because I helped her find the place, and looked it up again when she was driving around and confused in that neighborhood. She had our car, and we knew it. She called us when the trouble arose, and she sat politely (shivering, and embarrassed) while the police waited for us to come and get her. She cried on the way home (she rode with Keith; I drove the car she had taken there). The police weren't there because people were being great kids, though. There was too much noise for the neighbors and they discovered a den of pudding (well, a kiddie pool of pudding) and some underage drinking.

We had to go to re-education class. Keith was out of town or we both would have gone. Had we both gone, she would've been the only kid there with both parents in attendance. There were forms the kids had to fill out (a questionnaire) and a test to take (not hard) at the end, and each child was given paper and pencil and told to draw the most important person in his or her life. There were graphs and statistics on drug abuse and alcohol consumption. There were videos of drug users and their ugly, awful lives. There was a video of a car wreck. There was video of the inside of the new improved boys' detention facility. If that was the new, improved one,the old one must have been bad. (I saw the old one, when my half brother was there years ago, 1986 or so.) Holly teared up a couple of times during all that. Each teen had to go up and show the picture and talk about who it was and why that person was important. Holly drew me. Most kids drew the parent who was there. One boy's drawing was like a professional portrait. We could have found his mom in a big crowd with that image. Some parents were sweet and gentle with their kids, there that night. Some were aloof and harsh and the parent and kid ignored each other, it seemed, even though they were sitting together.

It was a rough few hours, and Holly leaned on me and held my hand a lot, and felt awful for causing us to be there. They had to understand and agree to a deal that said if they didn't get in trouble in the next full year or until they were 18, they could request that the charges be removed from the public record.

Did unschooling fail because I had to go with my kid to a substance abuse education class provided by the juvenile justice department?

I think of it not as an absolute fail or succeed situation, but would Holly have acted differently toward us (or in the situation, or toward the police officers) if she had been in school all those years rather than at home?


Teens Holly Dodd Being your Child's Partner

Huge Gambles (or small gambles)
Leah Rose wrote: "Unschooling, deschooling, parenting peacefully, all of it called to me, deeply, but it felt like a huge risk, a giant gamble. ..." Read why she's glad she continued.