Last night we had a houseful of teenagers, 27 of them to be exact. My middle daughter wanted to have an 8th grade graduation party (and since her July birthday parties are generally less spectacular because everyone's on vacation, we said sure).
We have hosted several big teen parties over the years, and I'd like to think we have gotten pretty good at them. So how do you survive a teen party? Five steps:
1. Deny all responsibility. I put Party Girl in charge of the bash from the get-go. The kids are responsible for planning the activities, food, decorations - and clean-up before and after. The flip side of that is that they are also responsible for the actions of the people they choose to invite.
2. Do your thing and go home. A free-for-all is a recipe for trouble - so is pin the tail on the donkey. Have activities planned, but not too much. Last night Party Girl planned an hour and a half at the park, where they could organize games of basketball and volleyball, or sit and talk. Then they came back to the house to watch a movie and eat.
3. Go big or go home. I don't mean spend lots of money, I mean do it right. Yes, we used the sports equipment laying around the garage, and provided the regular concession stand variety of junk food. But, my brother in law loaned us his DVD/projector set-up so the kids could watch the movie on the whole garage wall - a far cry from piling in the basement in front of the 30-incher, that's for sure.
4. Enlist help. No one wants parents hanging around, so we sent the group to the park, 2 blocks away, unsupervised - sort of. I escorted one late-comer to the park and got a good look at what was going on. I put my neighbor who lives behind the park on alert for any trouble, and my brother in law stopped on his way into the subdivision to make sure he "connected with Party Girl about the video set up". Add in the pesky, tag-along siblings, and they had a spy-by every 20 minutes or so.
5. Earn a reputation. I overheard Party Girl telling a friend, "if anyone brings stuff to the party my mom won't call their parents, she'll just call the cops." Zero tolerance, and I mean it - and they all know it. The kids who want to avoid drugs and alcohol know our stance - and the kids we know use are clearly absent from our events.
In the end, it's about combining teen recklessness and the adult "rules" for one awesome evening.