Dear Kevin:

The four older children of our blended family will spend this year’s Christmas college break (yes, we’re broke from tuition fees) with my husband and me. Our respective ex-spouses are always looking for reasons to harp on what they see as our deficiencies as parents. My ex-husband remains eager to drag me into court to highlight my desire to instill independence in our children.

All the children get along great. They are more like my husband and me than their brooding other parent. The children, like the two of us, are social beings and enjoy a night and early morning out together. They are generally responsible and one of them is usually some sort of a designated driver. There is an enhanced police presence at night in our area during the holidays. What can we do to reduce the odds of trouble with police who mistake high spirits for lawlessness?

—The Fun Parent

Dear Happy Mother,

The season of joy is accompanied by peak police checkpoints and random stops. Here are some tools to introduce your children to their American freedoms. Check your police department website for announcements of checkpoints, which they are obligated to reveal in advance.

Make sure all lights on the vehicles they will be using are working. A burned-out bulb is an invitation to stop a car. Vacuum the interior of the vehicle so your local gendarme during a stop cannot mistake some debris for a suspicious marijuana seed or other contraband.

Drill this into your four students you have given up luxurious vacations for: if you are stopped by a police officer and he or she asks to search your car, the only reply is, “Thank you for asking. No, you may not.” Repeat it, turn it into a rap song, etch it on their phones. If the officer had probable cause to search the car, he would have not asked. Be polite, but firm. Do not demonstrate your delightful sense humor. This is not “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” The passengers should record the encounter. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled several years ago that the police do not have the right to search the contents of our mobile phones without a warrant. Do not volunteer. “Thank you for asking. No you may not.”

These few tenants for life in a free nation should help keep your children off the police blotter and deny your ex-spouses an extended I-told-you-so moment.

What others pay thousands for their children to learn at school about freedom under the rule of law, I just gave you for free. One more reason to keep reading this newspaper.

Happy uneventful New Year, Mom!


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