The Party House.

by Vicki Larson

 

My 15-year-old son called me at work the other day with a familiar message: “I’m going to Sam’s house, OK?”

 

“Why don’t you invite him over?” I say, struggling to keep the phone steady by trapping it between my ear and my shoulder as I continue to type on my computer.

 

“No one’s home. Sam can’t come over if there’s no one home.”

 

“Your brother’s home.”

 

“Mom, you’re wasting my hang time,” he says in a way that I’m sure involves an eye roll. “There’s no adult home.”

 

The name changes — sometimes it’s Sam, sometimes Mason, sometimes Noah — but the scenario is always the same. He’s going to someone’s house; they are not coming to ours.

 

It’s not like our house is some sort of opium den or crack house, but in the mind of some parents, it might as well be. If you’re a working single mom and your teens are alone after school, your house is the “unsupervised” house and few parents — if any — want their kid to hang there.

 

And I don’t really blame them. My kids were still young in the days when I was a married SAHM so if they went to a friend’s house or their friends came to ours, I knew there was always some adult around. But, still, I wasn’t always comfortable if my kids were with a friend being cared for by a baby-sitter or nanny; I’d seen many who were more interested in chatting with the other nannies at the park or talking on the phone than watching their charges.

 

Now, my house is the object of that discomfort. It is one of the many complications of working full time outside of the home when you have teens. They’re too old for baby-sitters and most after-school programs except sports. Even the “teen centers” seem to be too dorky to them once they hit puberty. So, they stay home alone — and most of us have read the studies that link latchkey kids to risky behaviors. They’re the ones more likely to try pot, smoke cigarettes, drink booze and have sex.

 

Other studies indicate that even though more and more parents are leaving their tweens and teens home alone, many haven’t talked about safety issues with them and fear that their kids might give out personal information over the phone, at the door or on the Internet, and wouldn’t know what to do in a weather emergency or earthquake. There isn’t necessarily any safety in numbers, either, especially if you have a house full of teen boys deep in a game of “Grand Theft Auto.”

 

And for every parent who’s hesitant to have his or her kid hang at an unsupervised house, there is at least one teen, if not dozens, who see it as a great opportunity to turn it into the party house. Despite how trustworthy your own child is, get a few teens together and a certain groupthink takes over, which can turn a bad idea — “Wanna see my dad’s hunting rifle?” “Does your mom have any beer?” — into a disaster really quickly. And then your house gets a reputation.

 

vlarson
01.09.09

Thank you, Nichelle.

Yes, we have to be creative, and the van pooling helps. But he's on the cusp of getting his learner's permit and then his license and then, well, is that the moment I become irrelevant? *Sigh*

nich
01.08.09

Vicki, thank you for the honest refreshing article I'm a working, single mom and I too have asked my teen son why he doesn't have friends over and he said our house is boring and there is no place near our apartment for them to walk to and their friends do not live near us. But I keep on asking him to invite friends over and give ideas of what they can do or bribe to buy pizza and soda. I also try to be the mom that does the "van pool", taking him and his friends to the movies, jhigh church events, ect. which is fine with me, it helps me to do my part and a thank you of some sort to all those moms and dads who housed, feed, and entertained my son in their home. I appreciate your article, thank you.
Nichelle~