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I Hosted 35 Screaming 13 Year-Olds at My House -- and Survived

Posted by Kathy Pride

I recently had one of the best weekends of my life. Among other things I drove several miles, attended a cheerleading competition (our first – my daughter’s as a competitor, and mine as a spectator mom of the quiet variety) consumed way too many unhealthy calories and was hostess to thirty-five
thirteen year-olds for four hours, most of which were dark thanks to daylight savings time. Seriously, it was a blast!

Consider that the alternative was a gratis stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort with my husband and daughters for the weekend and you will surely question my sanity.

There was just one complication. It was our older daughter’s thirteenth birthday the Sunday of the weekend and she didn’t want to go. What kid doesn’t want to schmooze with Mickey Mouse? (A thirteen year old, I guess)

No amount of cajoling (admittedly amounting to parental leveraging, also known as bribery) encouraged her to change her mind. She didn’t want to hang out with Mickey, Minnie, any of the beautiful princesses, or her mom and dad for that matter, in a warm climate — she wanted to be with her friends.

And I have to admit that when I was a teenager I also preferred the company of my friends to my parents.

I remembered my own seventeenth birthday and my dismay when I was forced to spend it with my parents (in large part because my dad and I shared the same birthday) celebrating as we had for years with my great uncle; a timeworn tradition in our family. I would have much rather spent it with my boyfriend, and I was so unhappy I behaved in a less-than-sensible manner. And remembered thinking to myself that when I had a daughter I would never force her to hang out with me instead of her boyfriend — or, since she is in my opinion too young to have a boyfriend, her friends.

So now I had the opportunity to make good on that silent vow I had made so many years before.
I took a deep breath, and said, OK, we’ll stay here and have your party; you can have a couple of the girls sleep over and you decide what kind of party you want. Images of poolside relaxation and watching fireworks from the hotel faded and were replaced by images of corralling adolescent hormonally-budding and sometimes moody boys and girls for four hours. I hoped at least God would be gracious and grant us good weather.

As the day of the party drew closer, the list grew longer. Glow sticks, flashlights for night games (and exposing those who preferred to meander) and marshmallows for a game of chubby bunny were purchased. A beautiful cake was ordered, ten dozen wings ordered and pizza delivered.

And the Weather Gods cooperated; the evening was clear and unseasonably mild. We set the food tables up in the garage, put a fire in the chimenea on the deck and the adults (yes, I called in reinforcements) circled the house periodically with their own glow sticks and flashlights.

The joy and excitement was palpable. And real. Not a transient thrill from surviving Tower of Terror but the pure giggly fun that kids ought to experience. (I prefer to think of thirteen-year-olds as still being kids, even though this birthday does give them the right to be called “teen”.) But I think there is way too much pressure to grow up too fast; and rather than contribute to it I would rather prolong the alternative.

But teens are tough; I know this as I have already negotiated the teen years with two sons and have the battle scars to prove it. And when people tell me girls are harder than boys I am NOT encouraged. After all, with the boys I felt like I had one foot in the grave.

I revised my attitude towards hosting a mega party, and rather than approach it with dread and complaints, I chose to view it as an opportunity to affirm and love my daughter, supporting her as she negotiates a difficult part of growing up. Keeping the lines of communication open in the coming years will be crucial, as will be holding firm to boundaries and allowing moodiness and normal teen belligerence to roll off my shoulders. Allowing her to choose how to spend this important birthday was a way to communicate my care and love for and the acknowledgment that I valued her opinion and didn’t need to insist on my way.

And it was fun. And not a hassle, and not even that much of a mess! And you know, much of it stemmed from remembering my own feelings at that age.

In what ways do your memories from your years as a teen affect the choices you make in your own parenting journey


About Kathy Pride

Kathy has four children, aged 9, 12, 24 and 26. Her second son was seduced by marijuana when he was 16. Kathy is now a published author of "Winning the Drug War at Home". She is also a childbirth educator and is writing a pregnancy and childbirth book. Kathy graduated from Brown University with a degree in Health and Society, and also has a BSN in Nursing.

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