Spring is in the air. While for most of us, that means worrying about covering your bulbs at night or purging a closet, the past few weeks of my life have been consumed by—well, consumed is a strong word—preoccupied by one thing: prom.

But now that prom is in my rear-view mirror, I feel that I can safely discuss this…what to call it? It’s not a simply a party. It’s not merely a dance. It’s not just a school function. It’s an event.

I must state, for the record, that I am writing this article under protest. Not my protest, but Cranky’s. As the attendee at the aforementioned event, she is demanding a final cut. The article may end up looking like one of those redacted CIA transcripts when she’s through with it. Pressing on…

The first thing you should know is that the prom itself—while the highlight of the evening—is not the only event. Prom goes all day—and all night. It’s like a pagan festival. The first event is the dressing party. This is obviously a girls’ activity; however, if you have a son, encourage him to try on the tuxedo earlier than five minutes before walking out the door. That way, you can do something about sleeves 5 inches too short. Now, leaving for the designated staging area is quite a production. You may think your child is setting off on the QE2 for a month. I am told this is normal. Apparently, the girls change outfits more than Liz Taylor at her eighth wedding.

Once dressed, the next stop is the pre-party/ dinner. This is where the photo op happens. If you follow your child on Instagram and Facebook, you will see almost all prom photos posted are from this event. On a positive note, no more photos means your child is interacting with three-dimensional people. Also much like sausage, it may be better not to know everything that goes into it.

Next comes the actual prom. It’s an elegant affair with a smattering of drama. Picture a wedding reception where the bride and groom split up, get back together, get caught cheating and split up again, two of the bridesmaids fight and cry, but all the guests have a spectacular time. It’s a beautiful affair, and the evening is just getting started.

After the prom is the after-prom. At this point, I’ve been in bed for three hours, but our intrepid teens are just getting started. At Cranky’s school, the after-prom is a school-sanctioned event and chaperoned. After a costume change and change of venue, the party continues. Now, you may wonder what on earth these kids could still have to talk about, fight about, laugh about or dance about, but there is plenty. Entire relationships have formed and dissolved, and new ones have been formed. It’s like watching that time-lapse photography film of a flower.

Brace yourself. After the after-prom is the after after-prom. Wait. No, sorry. My mistake. There is no after after-prom. It doesn’t happen. It never happened. If in theory, there were an after after-prom, it would be like Fight Club—whatever goes on there, the first rule is you can’t talk about it.

Next comes breakfast and—if everybody’s experience is similar—a nasty upper-respiratory infection, although that may be case-specific.

For the kids, it’s the night of their lives. For the parents, it’s a night of stress-eating, insomnia and bad TV, as well as constantly checking your phone to ensure some distress call or another didn’t go unheard. It’s an all-night party rife with teenage dancing and driving and drama. And to think, I used to spend hours and hours worrying if Cranky could fall out of her high chair.

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