How do you organise a party for your 18-year-old anyway?
AS A parent of teenagers you are expected to be an expert on everything while at the same time being considered the stupidest person in the house.
On some matters you are the believed to be the Oracle. On others your knowledge barely scrapes the bottom of the sea floor.
Whenever a deadline looms you are expected to provide instant answers to a constant stream of queries, some mystifying, others downright irritating.
This morning’s questions ranged from “Where are my football boots?” (probably lying wet where you left them under the stairs which is why the entire house smells of rotting body parts) to “who wrote Utopia?” (not sure, but wish I was there. Hang on, it was Thomas More).
No teenager will ever ask you how any item of technology works, although they may ask you to pay or find a charger for it.
They won’t want to know what time they need to be home on a Saturday night, but they will ask whether they can borrow a tenner (no), where their keys are (where you left them) or if they can borrow yours (no again).
And although you are clearly too dim to understand how the world works your savvy is expected to extend to knowing how to locate, within a nanosecond, a vital item of clothing lost in the messy broth of the laundry system they devised one afternoon when you told them they had to wash their own clothes from now on.
Some teenagers will even imagine you know the answers to such tricky teasers as “Who ate the last chocolate biscuit?” Or “Do we own a spare phone charger?”
No house inhabited by anyone aged 13 to 19 has a spare supply of either item unless the adults or younger residents hide them under lock and key.
So now, after years of having questions volleyed at me – many of which I cannot or am unwilling to answer – I have a few of my own.
Apart from the usual mundane posers such as – why don’t you ever put the bins out? How can you see your bed under all this rubble and how much money did you say that T-shirt cost?, I have a few more pressing inquiries.
The middle teenager wants to hold her 18th birthday party in the house.
When I ask why, when she could hold it in the large rugby club down the road which is used to people drinking industrial quantities of alcohol in a sea of mud and singing, she indicates this would prevent younger friends from joining the toast with anything stronger than lemonade. Apparently this is bad form, but I am too stupid to understand the current etiquette on 18th birthday celebrations.
Then there is the tricky issue of “plus ones”. When I ask how this works it seems that you invite 25 people and can expect 50 because everyone will bring a “plus one”. On the other hand, if the hostess doesn’t approve the “plus one” she can, apparently bar them.
When I suggest this could lead to socially awkward situations on the doorstep my worries are brushed aside.
No teenager would dream of appearing at a party without discussing it ad nauseam on multiple social media platforms.
The ancient tradition of gate crashing appears to have vanished then, I suggest hopefully.
But no, it seems I am simply too thick to comprehend the complexities and sophisticated strands of party invitations.
There may, it seems, be “plus ones” who are admitted entrance, “plus ones” who are turned away and gate crashers who may, or may not, be allowed in, depending on general crowd control issues at any given time. “The rugby club is a lovely venue,” I venture again. Even the 19-year-old thinks a home 18th party is a bad idea (does she know something I don’t?) and has indicated she may not be able to get home from university to join the throng, although of course she’d love to and will join us all via FaceTime. On the other hand the 15-year-old thinks it is a super idea and wants to know whether he is allowed to invite some friends and drink beer (yet another question to look up the correct answer to in the parenting manuals). To my mind there are only four questions – none of which have so far received an acceptable answer.
They are: How many people have you invited? What time is everyone leaving? Who is clearing up at the end and how much is this all costing anyway?
There is also the matter of whether I, her father and the cat should lie low in a room upstairs during the fun or leave the country until everyone has gone home.
I dig out my old Sheila Kitzinger manuals.
She was a great help on how to get babies to sleep (cuddle and love them, as I recall), but what I want to know now is how I can get some sleep myself now those babies are young adults planning parties?