For those of you who have 9th graders, you might be noticing that some of the tentativeness of being a newbie is wearing off, and he/she is now ready for some real-life high school action. The party train is leaving the station, and your teen wants to be on it, even if they don't quite know where it stops. The request comes to go to their first high school party. You are both excited for them to leave the nest, but are terrified at the decisions they will have to make, as they look for worms on their own. (What can I say, I am in a metaphor state of mind today.) So you do your due diligence, call the parents of this 9th grader and find out that the parents will be home, and you cross your fingers, that all will be well. This is your first party too.
The evening of the party arrives, you drive your daughter/son to the party, introduce yourself to the parents who are sipping wine by the fireplace. You feel a twinge of "is this going to be alright?", but let it pass and walk out the door, secure in the knowledge that the parents are there, and it will all be fine.
At the appointed hour, you arrive to pick up your teen. Unable to text, with no service at this house, you ring the doorbell. Host parents, open the door, still drinking wine by the fireplace. You say you are there to pick-up your teen, hoping they will make the trek down to the basement to retrieve your son/daughter. You assume they have been up and down the stairs all night checking on the party goers anyway, so what's one more visit. Well, they don't. They show you the basement door and you descend into hell. Or at least your version of it. (By the way, this is all a true story, shared with me recently by a shell-shocked parent.)
As you descend into the darkness, you see not only the 20 9th graders who were supposed to be the only ones invited, but also at least 100 kids, many of whom are upper classers. Apparently an invitation had been posted on Facebook during the week. The host parents seemed unaware that this had been posted, and not requiring teens to come through the front door, and never having made even one trip down the basement, were completely clueless as to the scene in their basement. This parent saw booze being passed in through the basement door from back yard stashes, kids coming in and out, kids passed out on the couches, kids having some form of sex in the dark corners, and her daughter and 5 friends huddled in a corner freaked out at what they saw going on around them. Like a good horror movie, they were both repelled and couldn't take their eyes off it. Needless to say, seeing her mom come through the haze to pick her up was humiliating. But that's another story.!
What went wrong!!! Where shall I begin. If you allow your teen to have a party at your house, there should be a guest list, and the kids have to come in the front door. Either lock other entrances to the house, or make regular passes around your home to make sure that kids are not sneaking in, and are not sneaking in booze and drugs. You are responsible for making sure that the kids in your house are safe. Hear no evil, see no evil is not a defense when when of those passed out kids on the couch in your basement ends up in the emergency room for stomach pumping.
If you are a parent whose teen is attending the party, understand that just because parents are home, does not in any way guarantee that they will be paying any attention to what is going on downstairs. See above for proof of that. I would like to say this was an isolated situation, but it's not. Perhaps you do a trial run, and agree that your teen can attend the party, but let them know that you will pick them up after a 2 hr stay, and will meet them out front at a certain time. Make sure they know that you would be glad to come earlier if they text you, and will meet them down the street if that feels more comfortable. Have a discussion that goes like this: ' "I get there will probably be drugs, alcohol and sex going on at this party,and I know these are situations you have never been in before, so lets play out some scenarios that might come up so you feel prepared." At this point, give them some strategies they can call on. They can always hide in a bathroom, and say they feel sick and then call you. They can take a drink and just hold it for the night. They can say " oh I can't drink I'm on medication, or I'm an athlete, or my parents smell my breath when I come home, and I don't want to be grounded. Give them some options. They might roll their eyes, but they will be grateful. Trust me.
You can't keep your kids locked up in a castle. But you can do your best to prepare them for the dragons!