My son gave me a backhanded compliment recently. I was planning our annual family Channukah party at the end of last year, trying to coordinate it with our children’s visitation schedules. Both my children and my stepchildren spend Christmas with their other parent. Since Channukah falls at different times each December, we sometimes have to wait until Winter break, when all of the boys are at home, to have our party. This past holiday was especially hectic — we realized with a shock that on any given night we would be short one child. My oldest son said, “I know you like to do everything perfect and be organized and you always pull it off, but this year I think you have to give that up.” I was so touched. It was a backhanded way of telling me he appreciated my hard work in keeping everything organized. (Compliments and thank you’s are hard to come by from teenagers, so I grab them when I can!)
I should not have been surprised when, not even a week later, he turned the compliment against me. He will be 21 this week and wants to have a party. Not a problem. He wants to drink. Not a problem. He wants to invite some friends who are 21. Not a problem. He wants to invite friends who are not 21. Not a problem. BUT he also thinks I should serve alcohol to them as well and let them spend the night so they will not be on the roads. He tells me their parents are fine with it and have okayed them to spend the night. He tells me “they already drink with their families so you don’t need to worry about them calling the police!” THAT’S a problem. I told him they were welcome to come but that I would not serve alcohol to those not yet 21, even if they will be 21 next month or in 3 months. His response? “Why do you have to be so perfect all the time and always follow the rules?” He threatened to have his birthday party at a friend’s house instead. I told him that was his choice.
When he calmed down, he decided he’d have a party one night for his 21-year-old friends and a party the next night for his not-yet 21-year-old friends. It would really be two small get-togethers and I was fine with that. BUT the catch was that his girlfriend, who will be 21 this summer, would come to both parties and I had to grant her a special pass to drink and spend the night. When I told him that was not happening, he finally came up with the idea of going to dinner with the family and including his girlfriend on his actual birthday. For his party, he will invite whoever he wants, but we will not serve alcohol. He had a slushie party when he turned 18 and we made non-alcoholic drinks. Many of his friends hang out at our house all the time without drinking. Why should that night be any different just because he will be 21?
I am not naive. I do not believe my son has never had a drink before. I am aware that there are parties with drinking and that kids who are underage do drink. I just made it quite clear that I would not allow it in my home. He still made the choice to have his party at home — and to me, that was a good a compliment as any!