It’s official: I am completely submerged in the teenage years. Due to a family-planning strategy that revolved around white wine and Cardinal home games, Cranky, Whiny, and Punch are now 16, 15 and 13, respectively. And there's lots of fun stuff happening: We have a licensed driver, a permit driver and a 13-year-old who likes to back my car out of our driveway ‘for practice.’ I have to say it’s strange imagining the little girl who once dove—yes, dove—off the top of a slide ("because it was faster") behind the wheel of a car.
And so they drive. They go to parties. They drive to parties. I sleep like a baby—and by that, I mean I wake up every two hours screaming.
One thought that eases my mind—or disturbs me profoundly, I can’t decide which—is remembering how I was at that age. We managed to cause just enough trouble so that we felt dangerous but never required—well, rarely required—intervention by the authorities. I did have a party once where one of my friends (we’ll call him Dave) put any small appliance that was within reach behind the rear tires of guests’ cars, so, well, I’m sure you can figure it out. Yeah…that was funny. One year, after the local police broke up a party I was having, my mother found a full keg in the woods behind our house. Not realizing what it was, she offered our trash men $20 to take it away. Needless to say, they were only too happy to oblige.
So now, I’m the parent looking for the proverbial keg in the woods. And there are three distinct schools of thought on how to parent the situation: 1) Don’t look for the keg. The odds are overwhelming that everything will be OK, and you’re causing yourself unnecessary stress, not to mention perpetuating the delusion that you are actually in control of the situation. 2) Glance around for the keg. This is something akin to the plain-sight rule in police procedure. One would hope the kids are not completely dismissive of our authority. A modicum of discretion, a bow to the titular king, is appreciated. 3) Hunt for the keg like a bloodhound on the trail of an escaped convict. Now, there is no doubt you can win this battle—search rooms, breathalize kids, show up at parties or prohibit them altogether—but the effort is Herculean, and the cost of winning the battle may be losing the war.
In the end, all three are equally effective—if, by effective, I mean not effective. Really, the strategy has much more to do with the parent than the child. I find most people parent the same way they host dinner parties: Do you order pizzas and put on the game, or serve a four-course meal and use place cards? Most of us fall somewhere in-between. I’m not exactly sure where I land on the spectrum, but I have a hunch. I'd better choose a strategy soon, though. Then we need to address dating. How much time do you have?