All of my boys were born within a few weeks of each other and so birthday party planning has always required careful preparation and precision execution, comparable to the G8 convention.
Of course I had to do everything from the invitations to decorations to games to goody bags – the works. We’ve done Thomas parties, cowboy parties, bug parties, pirate parties, games parties, medieval parties, bowling parties; you name it. But what do you do with a teen party? Obviously anything I suggest will, at that instant, render it not cool, so what to do?
I did what every good parent does: had a sneaky shot of ‘courage’, had a paper bag handy to breath in to and casually threw the question out there: what do you want to do for your birthday? In my head I was trying telepathy: laser skirmish, go-karting, movies, how about a Warhammer
model painting party? They all sound like fun! Maybe my inner nerd is showing here?
My eldest said he wanted to invite a few friends over to hang out by a campfire and just chill. Okay. Sounds harmless. People could sleep over if they like. Ten teenage boy bodies on any available floor space is do-able. Then came the paper bag moment: “oh, girls are invited too”.
Girls AND boys sleeping over? Obviously noting the grey colour of my face but thankfully not seeing the visuals in my head, my eldest assured me, “Mum, stop freaking out. It’s a small party – a few friends chilling out in the backyard with some music and food. No drugs, no alcohol, no dirty stuff, nothing illegal. But you may need to look up some vegan recipes.”
Images of that charming character Corey Delaney who had a party a few years ago that turned into a street riot flashed through my head. But I think it’s important to know the friends of your children – and the kids my son hangs out with are honest, polite and innocent – so after some initial panic, I started to relax. What was I really worried about? Then came the realisation that I had to supply vegan food!
The everyday challenge for parents of teens is to give them enough freedom and space for them to experience life and learn responsibility, all the while maintaining solid boundaries so they feel secure and avoid incident. The same applies for parties. The boundaries I have set include no advertising the party on facebook and no texting the ‘deets’ – parents actually want to know where and when a party is being held, so written invites, thanks. The obvious rules were posed as requests: no alcohol, no drugs and, for the benefit of my sanity, no hanky panky. Please. My eldest pointed out that he had already stipulated this.
The downside of teen boy parties is I have to let go of the balloons, cupcakes, jelly slice and games. The upside is that I now get to ‘chill-lax’ into that nice, no pressure stage of teenage boy parties, with less stress around party preparation and execution (if you ignore the vegan baking challenge).
(originally published in SA Kids Magazine March 2012)