The minute I hear Dee’s* voice I know she’s trouble.  “Are you busy?” she asks.

 “I’m always busy,” I say.  “Shoot.”

“Today is Sam’s* birthday. He wants me to leave the house for his party.”

I choke on a spoonful of Greek yogurt.  “So how old is he?” I ask.

 “He’s eighteen," Dee whispers. "The party’s going to start in a little while. What should I do?”

Sam is the quiet, funny type. A good kid, but no saint. Now he’s testing his boundaries. Immediately I take her part. “He has no right asking you to leave the house.”  

“Okay,” she says, sounding relieved.

 “How many kids are coming?”

“Not many. Ten or twelve, I think.”

I wonder if I should tell her those numbers mean zip. Word can spread via the grapevine and pretty soon kids are coming from high schools she's never heard of. “Are you there, Dee?”

“I’m here.

I decide not to scare her.  “Take Sam up to your room.  Sit him down and look him straight in the eye. Then tell him your expectations.”

“Like what? What do you mean?”

Dee asks me because I survived raising four kids. That, and her husband isn't around. Now she waits for words of wisdom to fall out of my mouth.  I picture teenagers piling out of cars: bored-looking boys in long-sleeved shirts unbuttoned over cotton tees; girls in low-slung skinny jeans and dangerously dipping necklines. “

“Tell him the party is downstairs. The bedrooms are off limits!” I say.

“Good idea. What else? What else should I say?”

“Tell him to keep the music down. You don’t want the neighbors calling the police. And don’t let them hang out on the street. They need to be inside.”

 “Yes. I can do that.”She rattles back each point like a kid with a shopping list.

I’m ready to sign off when she grabs me with something else.

“He’s having some of his friends sleep over,” she says apologetically.

Now I am incredulous. “He’s having a sleep-over?”

I hear a muffled baritone in the background.  Sam wants her to get the pizzas.

“Talk to him right now, Dee.  Let him know what time the party’s over. You have to be in control.”

“One o’clock,” she says.

“Okay. One o’clock,” I say. “Make it stick.”

Two days later I call Dee and ask about the party. “I took him up to my room, “she said. “I told him, Sam, listen to me…”

As it turned out, a dozen kids showed up, not thirty. (That’s the sort of thing that happens at my house.) The kids stayed downstairs and devoured four extra-large pizzas. Nobody called the police and the only girl who showed up left before one.

I decide not to ask about the sleep-over.

I’m proud of my friend. She called the shots. Maybe nothing would have happened anyway, but I wanted her to know that as a mom, she has a right not to be invisible. FFG

*(The names in this blog-post have been changed to protect privacy.)

What do you think? Should parents leave the house during a teen party?

You'll love Jenny Kung’s latest Chinese Boat Wisdom: If Chopsticks Could Talk -

"My father said the manner in which my brother's girlfriend ate, making so much noise with her chopsticks and spoon, meant that she could borrow a knife to kill." Read more only at   

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Apr. 11, 2011 at 9:25 PM

WOW!! That is a super tough one!! As of right now, my son being 8 (well we're a month away) we've had loads of attitude and back-talking issues lately, so if we were to fast forward 10 years with exactly the same issues as we are having now, I would say definintely not, ESPECIALLY if I were asked to leave (that's just trouble IMO) BUT my experience with my folks was quite different. We NEVER asked my folks to leave, but there were several points in my life and both my brother's lives that my folks would not necessarily be present at small functions we (as children) held at our home. In our defense, both parents & children, our house was the house EVERYONE came to, after football games, on Saturday nights, after church on Sunday nights, you name it, it mostly happened at our house, and we all hung around with REALLY good kids. Plus my folks made it a point to always know all the kids that came over, and as many of the parents as possible. So I think it set a really good example for me to follow as a parent. I'm hoping to curb the attitude issues we have over the next couple of years, and hopefully I can turn out a kid who hangs with nice kids that I could trust to hang around at the house, play video games or board games and have a nice fun time w/o giving myself and his dad a heart attack the whole time!! :D I think the situation of your friend was handled very well. :) If I were asked to leave, I certainly would have done the same thing! 

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Apr. 12, 2011 at 10:44 AM

RE: DAZYBUG2's comments

Your are fortunate to have had parents who welcomed your friends into the home and helped make your experiences positive ones. Those memories are precious!

Your son's attitude and back-talking at age eight are not a good thing. You may want to search for underlying reasons for the behavior. Here's a possibility: a new book recently reviewed on It's a great site, and I just pasted the review for you below. Good luck. You sound like a mom who is in-tune with her child. (Of course everything in the book doesn't apply to everyone.)

Of course there are other books out there that may be helpful. I really like the oldie but goodie, How to Really Love Your Child by Dr. Ross Campbell.

API Reads, API's own book club

Come read with us the book Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children's Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended by Laurie A. Couture. Laurie's book has received a 5 star rating from every person who has read it. I have begun reading the book and find myself not wanting to put it down. As our own The Attached Family editor put it: "Now here was a book that quite plainly spelled out both the positive and adverse effects of various parental behaviors on children's behavior and development of behavior, thought patterns, and personality."

From the words of the author, she is hoping you walk away with the following message: "What I wish for parents to gain from reading my book is that a secure parent-child attachment is nature's intent for all mammals and effects our children and our world holistically. A secure parent-child attachment requires compassionate nurturing, freedom and joy in living and learning and meeting children's holistic needs from pregnancy through late adolescence. This includes democratic, respectful communication, unschooling with a focus on play, trusting, supporting and honoring children's ideas, expressions and choices and abundant physical affection and emotional intimacy. When children act out, it is a natural alarm signaling to us that something inside of the child or in the child's environment is distressing to them. We can heal children's behavioral, emotional and learning challenges by heeding these natural alarm signals and reconnecting to nature's cycle of parent-child attachment."

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