The teenage party

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Becca rounded out a FULL week of birthday celebrations with a party. And by "party," I mean a gathering of teenagers. In my house. Chaperoned by Sterling and yours truly. Have you experienced hosting the teenage party? It's a horse of a different color -- an elusive combination of people, space, activity, and food. And supervision? I don't want to crowd or hover. But I don't want to be irresponsible. This means I spend the evening trying to blend unobtrusively into the background. Like, "Don't look at me. No one's here. But stop putting your chips on the arm of the couch. Okay?"

I much prefer the outdoor party. The kids mill around the back deck, forming and reforming groups -- some kids in the hot tub, some in the pool, some lounging on the chairs. This scenario provides activity (swimming, volleyball, etc.) AND I can easily keep an eye on the comings and goings. The food is all outside, so they can go crazy.  

But more and more, my girls prefer the indoor party. Our downstairs is pretty well situated for groups. But the upstairs, where the Wii and Xbox and four enormous bean bags and a comfy sectional sofa reside? It's a bit harder to keep a handle on things -- and THAT's where everyone wants to be. Our upstairs gameroom is a long, somewhat narrow room running the width of the upstairs. It's good in that it's not totally closed off from the upstairs. It's not so great in that inevitably large groups of teens upstairs become a mash of people on the floor, on the computer, on the television, on the couch. The bean bags, after a matter of time, become weapons. And upstairs there is no real vantage point from where I can perch and observe. I'm relegated to frequent run-throughs. I start from the kitchen stairs, walking upstairs and purposely through the mass of teenagers, and down the front stairs. At times I have to call one of my own children along with me and whisper instructions: "No cuddling. No body surfing. No hotdogs on the iMac." You know. Silly stuff like that.

Guys . . . and I know that I'm getting slap-happy, but Saturday night when I was refilling the chips and ice and running upstairs and downstairs, I started to work out this whole parenting/party analogy. How we teach our kids, within the safety of our homes, those skills necessary to go out into the big, scary world. How we keep feeding them and checking on them until they are, hopefully, big enough to feed themselves and make their own good choices. Also, that maybe 18 became the age of adulthood because parents were just plumb exhausted from late-teenage-nights. So, there's that. 

Give me something. What do you do to make teenage parties both fun and responsible?  


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One thing I loved about Rebecca's party was the Italian Soda Bar. This was not my idea -- I totally copied the entire thing from OurBestBites, but the kids were still duly impressed (which is, of course, my only reason for living). All you have to do is purchase some flavored syrups, soda water, and half & half. You can even send your newly-licensed 16 year-old to the store to pick up the goods. (I didn't do this because I'm completely petrified of and for newly-licensed 16 year-old drivers.)  I also wrote out the recipe right on the table for easy instruction.

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In terms of food . . . we served the BIG nugget tray from Chickfila. That was 200 nuggets -- gone in roughly 35 minutes. We also served chips and dip (and some carrots thrown in for good measure) and cupcakes, of course. Other than that, Becca wanted bowls of candy and some little water bottles and we were good to go. Easy enough. So easy, in fact, it's taken me a full 48 hours to recover.  

Help me. . . 

 

Martyr avoidance system

We love to host a party or have people over for dinner now and then. For years I was usually the one dashing around in preparation--stirring things, spiffing up the bathroom, getting things all set. Occasionally someone would cruise through the kitchen and vaguely offer help but more often than not I foolishly waved them off, preferring a bit of martyr-flavored control even while the tidewater of resentment rose within me. 

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A few years ago I wised up and looked around me. There were four able-bodied people around, now old enough to be perfectly capable and at least semi-willing to dive into the preparations! The epiphany was obvious and overdue: it was time to share the load.

Eventually we devised a simple system that's worked for us. First I brainstorm all of the prep tasks that are crazily swimming around in my brain and put each one on a post-it note (sometimes color coded for longer tasks and quicker ones); they are then stuck to the door or the cupboard. 

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I let everyone know the jobs are out and let them know how many to choose. We all--G and I and the kids--come in and initial the jobs that we'll do (sometimes you might want to put a deadline on some time-sensitive ones). Since the early bird usually gets the best selections, I usually don't have a hard time convincing everyone to come and sign off. As we complete each job, we take the corresponding note off the wall. It's worked like a charm every time. Even early helpful guests can join in if there are still some lingering post-its.

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If you're stuck in party-martyr* mode, I beseech you. Involve the whole crew in getting ready. It's no fun for anyone if you are harried and sweaty and grumpy by the time people arrive, angrily banging around pans and feeling unsupported and Little-Red-Hen-like, alone in prepping the party. Not that that's ever been a behavior I have indulged in, mind you.


* "Party martyr," fun to spell and say! Come to think of it, Party Martyr would be an excellent name for an all-mom punk band. Any takers?