Only If You Want To

My dad was a business man.  He knew a signed contract was the best way to make sure both parties knew what was expected of them…..even if the parties were my parents….and me.  Tonight going through some old papers, I found a contract he made me sign after I was caught drinking underage in college.


Some highlights:

Dear Ashley,

Below are listed all of the facts as I see them. Please let me know if I am in error on anything:

1. The legal drinking age in NC is 21. Anyone caught drinking under the age of 21 is in violation of the law.

2. All incoming freshman received a letter from the university president on the drinking policy. See copy attached.

3. I re-read the contract you signed when we gave you the Toyota. See copy attached. I would like to review specifically the following: I WILL NOT DRINK ALCOHOL.

4. I am very proud of you that when you were caught drinking you told the dorm counselor the truth.

Click “read more” to read the rest of the post:

5. I called the Dean of Freshman to discuss the situation with you. His advice was “DO NOT GET CAUGHT A SECOND TIME.” My theory as the best way not to get caught? DON’T DO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.


10. We aren’t asking you to be a bookworm. What we are asking is that you leave yourself enough time to study properly.


Now let’s talk about what actions your mother and I are going to take and what we want you to do.

1. We are taking away your car privileges for 30 days.

2. We want you to tell us how you propose to pay the $60.00 fine since we are not paying it.

3. We want you to make an appointment with the Dean to discuss the university’s policy on alcohol.

In closing I want to say and ensure you know the following:

1. Your mother and I love you very much.


And the best part:

3. Go to church on Sunday only if you want to ($20.00 per visit and send the bulletin)


Teenager contract via


Why didn’t I just go to church every Sunday? I would have made bank!

P.S. The most mortifying part of the whole thing was having to make an appointment with the Dean of Freshmen to discuss the university’s drinking policy.

Update: I posted the entire contract my parents and I signed when I started driving.

Update 2: My mom emailed me: Mom here…I think you should add that your parents were enjoying watching you and your friends crying on the curb in front of your dorm as I drove your Toyota away……dad following in his car. You didn’t really believe we would stick to the contract and take away your car.  It was a defining point to our parenthood and our relationships.  I think after that your siblings saw that we were serious when we set a rule.  We never went thru this with them (or maybe they were smarter about getting caught which is probably the case.)  This was wonderful to remember and read all the comments.



  1. Jane Patterson says

    Thank you! I needed this! Have a daughter in college that needs a little reeling in! A contract will be perfect!
    Your father was so loving! And you still attend church…. He is proud when you do!
    God Bless!

  2. says

    Love this, will have to save it, as my son and I have a verbal contract, if he graduates at 17 like’s supposed to, drug and smoke free (I’d love alcohol in there but he is very anti alcohol but should he decide to have a drink before he’s legaly allowed thats ok, but to end up in jail or the drunk tank our verbal contact is void) but if he manages to graduate drug and smoke free his graduation gift will be a trip with me to Peru. It will be a backpack trip but that has been our deal since he as 7. so I will stick to it.

  3. Marni says

    I live your parents! I am saving this up for my teenage kids! Your posts always make me feel ‘just right’. Hard to say why but your perspective on the world sits ‘just right’ with me…xxx

  4. Erica says

    My parents made me sign a similar contract when I started driving :-) I remember thinking they were crazy when I signed it but now I think it was brilliant!!

  5. Dalis says

    He was an amazing man! I like how he pointed out everything without making you feel like you failed him.

    — dalis

  6. Deborah K says

    What a great contract! I may need something similar to this with my daughter who knows it all. *sigh*

  7. vicki m says

    this could not have come at a better time…. boy/girl twins just finished their first year of college…. jacob got an underage drinking ticket and the one thing i’m thankful for is that he confided in us…. while some of his friends chose not to tell their parents…. this contract will come in handy… thx for posting

      • vicki m says

        thx debbie… i have to admit tho…. no one ever told me it would be this rewarding…. or difficult

  8. Cindy E. says

    Your daughter is lucky that your father loved and parented you so well, that she will undoubtedly reap the benefit of such fine parenting. <3

  9. says

    Awesome! I am totally going to use a contract like this on my kids! :) Also, I agree – your parents must love you very much to make such a loving contract. I thought the meeting with the Dean was the worst part too. 😉

  10. says

    so now I want to hear what you thought at the time…when you read that. Why didn’t you just go to church?? Three times a week?? That would have been plenty of drinking money for the week 😉

  11. Jenn E. says

    Wow! Your father is awesome. The contract awesome! Must remember that for my kids :). Enjoyed reading this post. Hugs Ashley.

  12. suzi says

    how great and sweet,
    lol, we are not going to pay the fine but if you go to church we will

  13. Grace Hauth says


    Gosh, I love your parents. I just want to know how they got so good at parenting?

    PLEASE tell us how the meeting went with the Dean. I was laughing SO hard at that part of the contract!

  14. says

    Oh my goodness. My son is 16 and it isn’t easy raising teens. I love how he points out the good, is matter of fact, and tells you what he expects of you without berating you or anything else. Exquisite parenting.

  15. June K says

    Your parents raised you right. Your dad was so loving to have spent so much time writing this up and address your under-age drinking. Gotta love the man.

  16. Jan Barron says

    You were/are blessed beyond measure. Amazing wisdom. When I was at your place in life with little ones that loved and wanted me every second, it was hard to imagine me not being able to influence and guide them to making the right decisions. The real impact of these words will come when Boo is “grown”, doesn’t think you are so cool, is making decisions that can take her life down a tragic road in the blink of an eye, and sometimes acts as if she is trying to make up her mind if she loves or likes you. Amazing guidance, restraint, and wisdom from a father’s heart. Blessed, blessed, BLESSED!!

  17. Allison says

    Oh my gosh, this is hilarious. I love the dry humor with which it’s written. It reminds me of how my dad would write it…he is a former military man. Love it!

  18. Beth Morrow says

    You were and are obviously loved much by your parents…keep that letter, you have a daughter that will one day be a freshman in college!

  19. says

    Ok…I teared up reading this!! To know your Dad cared that much to do that! So sweet!! I love this! Pretty sure I will copy it if my kids are ever caught doing that…which let’s face it, will probably happen!

  20. kathy Oberry says

    Awesome… My son just got his first job at 16. Because I’m linked to his bank account the ATM gave him more money then he had in the bank. They did not want to offend me! I’m trying to teach him to manage his money. I canceled the debit card and told him he must now go into the bank and withdraw his money from the teller. If we don’t teach our children at a young age about responsibility they will never learn. My guess is you never made that mistake again. Thank you for sharing. Frame that contract as I’m sure Boo will get something like that in the years to come…
    kathy O’

  21. Sarah E. says

    Wow, that’s awesome… so uh, what affect did this have on your choices afterwards?

  22. says

    OH MY! I love that! I’m sure at the time you were like “Uh, huh. OK DAD” But looking back now, that love and care and involvement in your life shaped you more than you knew, huh?

  23. Francie says

    I love this!!!! Your father and my father sound exactly alike :) this post definetly deserves a #choosejoy

  24. Morgan says

    I love this!!! I’m sure it brought you some comic relief coming across it or hopefully it did. I know you miss your dad so much but having these things to look back at is so refreshing. :)

  25. Paul says

    That’s AWESOME!! When I handed my son the keys to the car for the first time, I made him sign a contract that among other things states, “IF you get too drunk to drive, you call ME and tell me ‘The Car won’t run right now’, and I’ll come pick you up (or send a pre-paid cab). No questions asked. This portion of the contract is valid FOR LIFE.” (The rest of the contract is valid until he is 21 or is no longer covered on my insurance, whichever comes later.)

    Also along this topic line – “If you are caught drinking before you are legally able to do so, you will lose all driving privileges for 60 Days.”

    And Also, “If you ever get arrested, I will bail you out only after you have spent at least 24 hours in a jail cell.”

  26. Dalene Kosobucki says

    This is so great!!! I love how they brought God as the solution to the issue!!! Reading this story makes it so easy to see how you’ve become such an inspiration to others. I have a daughter leaving for college this fall; I’ll have to bookmark this idea…just in case:) Thank you for sharing!

  27. says

    I am so thankful for this post. My oldest daughter is 16 just learning to drive, we are already talking about college etc..a contract is a brilliant idea! Wow what amazing and smart parents you have. Your dad was certainly wonderful!

  28. Sydney says

    I have never met anyone else that had contracts with their parents besides me! Too funny, my dad did the exact same thing. I used to resent him for being strict and so darned clever in figuring out anything I did wrong but now I totally appreciate it.

  29. says

    I have tears in my eyes. What a wonderful, brilliant Dad! You are a lucky woman to have grown up with a parent like him.

  30. Alice H says

    What great parents. Can you just mail me a copy of his contract so I can give it to my kids? Thanks so much!

  31. says

    I love how clear the expectations are in the contract! Thanks for sharing that humbling moment. So many parents look the other way when their kids drink in HIGH SCHOOL, much less college.

  32. says

    Can you do me a favor? Ask your parents if they can adopt me?!
    Better yet, can they adopt my two teenagers?! (I’ll keep the little one around for a bit longer). I’d be willing to sign a contract! 😉 You know, giving over full control!

    Lovely. Some people are just MEANT to parent.
    And I agree – a copy of the contract would be lovely.

  33. Kristina says

    Absolutely BRILLIANT. Saved a copy of this post as a reminder on how to handle things in the future

  34. Lisa in Tx says

    That’s inspirational. Would love to see his contrat he made you sign for the car too. I have a sixteen year old who will get a car we have been holding onto for her. Yikes!

  35. Alida says

    Parenting: you’re doing it right. Perfect example.

    I wonder if Wake Forest is still as strict about alcohol consumption? I went to Meredith, where drinking on grounds is punishable by death. I’d send my girls there if I thought I could afford it! Oh well, it’ll probably be state schools for my kids, but that’s ok. NC has the best!

  36. Genevieve says

    I always envied girls like you who had those relationships with your parents. I find even at age 37 and with 2 children of my own, I still envy you girls with those relationships. this is the kind of parent I’m trying to be with my own children. it’s kind of a funny thing to be jealous of isn’t it.

  37. Jonella says

    I made my 17 year old sign a driving contract that included alcohol when he turned 16. It didn’t work for me as he resented me doing it and ended up moving to his dad’s for almost a year and half. I made him move back home 2 months ago because he was drinking and missing school, but it is still a battle. Unfortunately, he thinks he shouldn’t have to answer to anyone and should be allowed to come and go as he pleases. Contracts work for the kids who respect their parents. So glad you respected your parents. I always respected mine when they were alive and I even remember being embarrassed telling my dad I was pregnant with my first child and I had been married for 3 years! lol

  38. says

    I am dying here! My dad is the same way! When I was in high school, I was a cheerleader and absolutely hated it. My dad made me sign a detailed contract that said I wouldn’t try out the next year (he knows how fickle high school girls can be). When tryouts rolled around the next year, I was devastated when he brought that contract out from his filing cabinet. I was thankful later though once all of my friends were moaning about how miserable they were!

  39. Heather says

    You can really feel the love he had/has for you in that letter. What an amazing father!

  40. says

    I thought I was the only person on the planet that had to sign contracts with their parents. I love your post! The best parents are those that parent and just befriend their child. Your parents sound like amazing parents – and now you are an amazing adult parenting your own child. Thanks for sharing!!!

  41. says

    Wow! That is just all so strange. It sounds like a great way to bring you into the whole equation so you felt as though you were a participant, not just someone being ordered around. On the other hand, it’s so funny to me that the drinking age is 21! What a long time to wait to be able to drink. It must be such a pain for colleges to have to deal with that. For me, the age was 19, but where I’m living now it’s 18! Some kids in high school can drink legally…. I’m not sure which is better… a high age and headaches for the authorities dealing with underage drinkers, or a low age and kids able to buy booze before they’ve left high school!

    • Ellie says

      Kids are not mature enough in high school.
      As Mark Twain once said: “When I was 16 my father was so stupid, he didn’t know anything. But when I turned 21 I couldn’t believe what he had all learned in the last 5 years!” I hope this quote is correct as that is how it was told to me and I love it either way! :))
      Just sharing!

  42. Ellie says

    I am laughing so hard! (“send the bulletin”)!! Your parents were/are great! Reminded me of my dear mum…she would put money into our Bibles. Next round she’d check to see if it was still there. We didn’t go to church much anymore so she at least wanted us to read the Bible (my brothers always said they did) and she would find the money still there. But eventually they caught on and when they were broke they’d just leaf thru to find the money! Scoundrels! The wisdom of parents!!

  43. Lindsay says

    I truly believe one of the best things a dad can do for his daughter is teach her to be accountable for her actions. Love and support, of course, but also let her know that her actions have consequences. One of the biggest worries of my life to this day is disappointing my dad. I know he loves me no matter what, but I also am driven to make him proud of my actions. Love this.

  44. jim says

    i dunno.. considering you were in college, i can’t help but think of this as a ‘helicopter parent’ kind of reaction. but then again, it looks like you were living at home and thus would be under their rules. in that case, i’d call it more ‘high-school part 2’ situation. however, if you were living in a dorm, part of college is to experience being an adult, in which case i don’t care for what your father did.

  45. Seema says

    Ha! I remember this, Ash! I also remember a bunch of people offering to go to church for you and get the bulletin so they could have the 20 bucks.

  46. says

    Oh I love this. My daughter is turning 16 in August and I hope I will never have to write a contract like this but just in case I’ve bookmarked it for future reference! lol
    Thanks for sharing it!

  47. says

    Oh how funny! Reminds me of my freshman year at Peace and always being “on the lookout” while on Frat Court at NCSU. I got caught at plenty, but never by the law (campus or otherwise). Smarter? No. Lucky? Yes! I loved reading this post. I am the oldest in my family and I am so glad my parents didn’t think of “the contract.”

  48. says

    I just had to write and let you know, my husband and I are struggling with our 17 year old high School senior that feels underage drinking is the “norm”. We have been pulling our hair out as to what to do, just as we were discussing our next….plan of action, your blog popped up.
    THANK YOU for posting and THANK YOU for your parents brilliance, we will write up a contract, hopping this might help us out.

    Or at least hope she will blogg about it in her future :)
    thank you