Leave the House during a Teenager’s Party? I Don’t Even Want to Think About it.

The minute I hear Dee’s* voice I know she’s trouble.  “Are you busy?” she asks.

“I’m always busy,” I say.  “Shoot.”

“Today is Sam’s* birthday. He wants me to leave the house for his party.”

I choke on a spoonful of Greek yogurt.  “So how old is he?” I ask.

Dee is whispering now. “He’s eighteen. The party’s going to start in a little while. What should I do?”

Sam is the quiet, funny type. A good kid, but no saint. Now he’s testing his boundaries and his mother needs an advocate. Immediately I take her part. “He has no right asking you to leave the house.”

“Okay,” she says, sounding relieved.

“How many kids are coming?”

“Not many. Ten or twelve, I think.”

I wonder if I should tell her those numbers mean zip. Word can spread via the grapevine and pretty soon kids are coming from high schools she’s never heard of. “Are you there, Dee?”

“I’m here.

I decide not to scare her.  “Take Sam up to your room.  Sit him down and look him straight in the eye. Then tell him your expectations.”

“Like what? What do you mean?”

Dee asks me because I survived raising four kids. That, and her husband isn’t around. Now she waits for words of wisdom to fall out of my mouth.  I picture teenagers piling out of cars: bored-looking boys in long-sleeved shirts unbuttoned over cotton tees; girls in low-slung skinny jeans and dangerously dipping necklines. “

“Tell him the party is downstairs. The bedrooms are off limits!” I say.

“Good idea. What else? What else should I say?”

“Tell him to keep the music down. You don’t want the neighbors calling the police. And don’t let them hang out on the street. They need to be inside.”

“Yes. I can do that.” She rattles back each point like a kid with a shopping list.

I’m ready to sign off when she grabs me with something else.

“He’s having some of his friends sleep over,” she says apologetically.

Now I am incredulous. “He’s having a sleep-over?”

I hear a muffled baritone in the background.  Sam wants her to get the pizzas.

“Talk to him right now, Dee.  Let him know what time the party’s over. You have to be in control.”

“One o’clock,” she says.

“Okay. One o’clock,” I say. “Make it stick.”

Two days later I call Dee and ask about the party. “I took him up to my room, “she said. “I told him, Sam, listen to me…”

As it turned out, a dozen kids showed up, not thirty. (That’s the sort of thing that happens at my house.) The kids stayed downstairs and devoured four extra-large pizzas. Nobody called the police and the only girl who showed up left before one.

I decide not to ask about the sleep-over.

I’m proud of my friend. She called the shots. Maybe nothing would have happened anyway, but I wanted her to know that as a mom, she has a right not to be invisible. FFG

*(The names in this blog-post have been changed to protect privacy.)

What do you think? Should parents leave the house during a teen party?

Jenny Kung’s latest Chinese Boat Wisdom: If Chopsticks Could Talk – “My father said the manner in which my brother’s girlfriend ate, making so much noise with her chopsticks and spoon, meant that she could borrow a knife to kill.” Read more only at   

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