While Song&Dance turned 16 in May, there were numerous reasons we didn’t get our act together to throw her a party until August. Being a theatre kid, however, she has lots of friends who graduated high school in June and were about to head off to college, so we realized that we had to throw together something. So she sent out some texts about 14 days ahead of time, I baked a couple cakes, and we put up the volleyball net.
I know Song& Dance pretty well, so I was not surprised to see that the list was a cross section of theatre kids, band kids, and friends from various honors classes. What did surprise me was when two different parents called to introduce themselves and make sure an adult was going to be present. I wasn’t surprised because it was a bad idea, mind you. I was surprised because I probably would have forgotten to do it myself.
I went to a variety of ‘parties’ in high school. I was by no means popular, and it was a small school, so not all of them involved drinking. (Some of them involved Dungeons & Dragons or dueling with sticks out on the lawn at midnight – those were inevitably the best parties for this nerd). Anyone who knows Song&Dance – or me, for that matter, would know a couple key facts: We don’t break the law, we don’t condone drinking in the underage, we don’t approve of drugs, and we would immediately hose down any pair of teenagers who did more than kiss on our property.
That said, not all of these parents know that, and I was truly humbled by the parents of these two kids. Why? Because they were doing a better job of being a parent than I was.
Up until about three years ago, my husband afforded me the luxury of staying home with the kids. Debt was gone into, some sacrifices were made, etc., etc., but I got to raise my kids. I know them, I know their friends – and while I know plenty of working parents who are really on top of it, I’m not sure I would have known my kids so well if I hadn’t been the one hosting the playdates, letting friends make messes in my kitchen, and listening to (extremely detailed) play-by-plays of my kids day when they got off the bus. So if I sent Song&Dance off to a party (or pushed Amusing Artist out of the car at one she was ambivalent about going to) I’d know most of the kids there, hear exactly what some of them did, and get a phone call if anyone so much as pulled out a cigarette with no label. Here are my new rules for letting my kid go to a party:
- Ask which friends are going to be there. If you don’t recognize the names, then your kid has a new group of friends (or you are out to lunch as a parent, and it’s time to start asking questions).
- Decide on a firm start and end time – not when the party ends, but when your kid comes home – and discuss the punishment for that kid if they don’t come home at the appointed time. (This punishment should be bad enough that it’s motivating).
- Make sure a parent will be there– if it’s not one you already know, it’s not a bad idea to call.No, REALLY. Every High School has a student directory. It’s meant to be used. Ask what the kids will be doing. We were happy to tell people there would be Volleyball, Trivia games, and Mario Kart.
- Get the cell phone number for one friend your child is going to the party with – just in case someone’s battery dies.
There was nothing to worry about with Song&Dance’s party. The evening wound down with the kids playing a computer game involving diffusing virtual bombs until we threw all but a couple close friends out. Then there was earnest discussion about jobs you can juggle during high school (Song&Dance is looking for one) and colleges. Really, it was the twenty-first century version of a taffy pull. The more you know your kids, the less scary parties are to host.