I know I said I was going on hiatus till after New Years, but I got the first call of the holiday party season today and my sense of responsibility got the better of me, and I felt the need to tell this cautionary tale.
So this 15 year old boy, a little on the shy side, wanting to ingratiate himself to the "popular group," offered to have a party at his house. He and his parents agreed to keep the number of kids to 16, and of course there was the pledge of no drinking. Parents were home. Mom and dad were up and down the stairs to the basement all night, and didn't really see much amiss. But this was their first party as well and I think weren't really sure what to look for. By the end of the night, the group had grown from 16 to 60, pretty much without the parents really being aware until the neighbors called. It seems their house abuts woods, and large groups of kids were out in back of their house, in the woods, playing the game Mob Hit, which is basically hide and seek in the dark and drunk. Kids ran when they saw the cop cars, and when the parents went out in the morning, their yard was full of water bottles, that had been filled to the tippy top with vodka, in addition to all manor of booze bottles. (I'm guessing removed from homes where parents had done the holiday booze shop and wouldn't miss one bottle).When the parents confronted their son, what they realized was that he just plain lost control of the party. He didn't really know a lot of the kids, and because he wanted to be one of the "cool kids" he didn't do anything to stop the roller coaster. Which I totally get.
Here is how it got out of hand. There was a basement door that allowed access to the house and out to the yard. Kids were coming in and out unbeknownst to the parents. If you have a basement where kids hang out, you have to figure out a way to monitor, either with some sort of alarm or keep it locked when your teen has kids over. If they have to come through the front door, then you know how many and who they are. These parents felt betrayed not only by their son, but by his friends that they had know since elementary school. Once again I want to say, this is not about bad kids, but kids who are driven to have fun. You are not in their head AT ALL when they text and the inviting is going on. The call goes out that there is a party at X"s house and all are invited. If they aren't coming in the front door, it all can careen out of control really fast. The whole backyard woods issue is a horrible accident waiting to happen. Imagine a slew of drunk kids running around the woods in the dark playing hide and seek. Maybe someone trips and injures themselves, maybe someone trips, the other kids are not paying attention and they get left outside, without help. No good scenario here.
So if your kids want to have friends over, keep it limited to a number you can supervise. If you have a basement access, and you don't feel comfortable locking it, get your coat on a walk around the house during the party to make sure all is well. This is all about safety. Teens can have fun and be safe, it is not mutually exclusive.
See you after New Years. Be happy, be safe!