Erick Rommel

Part of being a parent involves responsibility. That means protecting and providing for a child.

But as children grow, parents must help them transition from a person who is provided for into a person who can provide for herself, a person responsible enough to do the right thing.

A great lesson illustrating this can be learned from Erin Cox, a 17-year-old from Massachusetts.

A few weeks ago, Erin received a text message from a friend. Her friend told her she was at a party and was too drunk to drive home. Erin drove to the party. While she was looking for her friend, police arrived and officers broke up the party and issued citations, including one to Erin.

In response, Erin’s school suspended her for five days, claiming she had violated its alcohol and drug-use policies. It also removed her as captain of her school’s volleyball team.

A police officer at the scene emailed the school and said Erin did not smell of alcohol and was “polite, articulate and steady on her feet.” The school, however, implied Erin isn’t as innocent as she appears. Comments on her Facebook wall from some who may have been at the party also questioned her version of events.

Regardless of what happened, Erin’s story is now news. No one except Erin — and those who were sober enough to remember the party lucidly — know what truly happened. Because we expect the best from people, we want to believe her version of events.

It’s not a story that reflects who we are. It’s more than that. It’s a story that reflects who we wish we could be. The party where police arrested Erin is one of those moments where a parent watches, and maybe learns. If I were Erin’s parent, I would be proud. She had a responsibility to help a friend in need and she chose to be responsible, regardless of the consequences.

What parent could ask more?

If Erin’s story is closer to the school’s version, then that presents another opportunity to teach responsibility. Part of that opportunity involves discussion, but that’s not all. I assume other, additional consequences will be severe.

In either case, the lessons learned from Erin’s story will continue to have an impact. One moment and one decision do not define a lifetime. In the end, we want our moments to be ones that we’re proud of, especially when we did nothing more than try to do the right thing.