PARTIES ARE NOT
Our 18 year old wanted to invite about 30 friends over
for a barbecue Saturday night to celebrate her birthday. She was going off
to college soon, as were her pals, and she wanted to contribute to the
summer-long pattern of farewell barbecues.
In other words, like it or not, it was our turn.
But what’s not to like? Burgers on the grill, games
on the grass, a big birthday cake for dessert---how All-American can you
get? What a wholesome thought---a barbecue for our little girl.
"We’re not supplying any alcohol,"
announced my wife, getting right to the heart of the matter. "If
anyone is seen drinking, they’re spending the night."
Our daughter was unfazed. She wasn’t expecting us to
provide a couple of kegs and an open bar. She had been to parties where
the parents actually supplied the booze. She knew we were nowhere near
that cool. And nowhere near that dumb.
"Don’t worry," she replied, not wanting to
discuss such a delicate matter any longer. "Everything will be
We immediately began to worry. My wife notified the
neighbors that a party would be taking place Saturday night. Those that
could left town.
I decided to be the first to call the police. It was
three days before the party and I wanted to find out exactly how much jail
time I would be facing.
"It’s a dicey situation," replied the
officer. "From a practical standpoint, we all know kids are going to
drink. But if they are drinking in your house, and you are aware they are
drinking and do nothing to prevent it, you are contributing to the
delinquency of a minor."
"And one thing to remember," he added. "In
Marin County eight out of ten of the parents are probably attorneys."
Great. I was not only going to prison, I’d be losing
everything. My little girl had better have fun at what was now being
billed as her father’s going-away party.
One thing to make clear here, though. These are not 15
or 16 year olds I’m writing about. These are 18, 19 and 20 year olds,
either in college or on their way to college. Almost all of them drink
alcohol at parties, and have been for some time. My wife and I were not
naïve enough to think they would not bring their own booze.
So do you not have the party? Many parents would
take that route. But if no party at a house, where do they go? They’re
going to get together, somewhere. They’re social animals, and most of
them are going to drink, just like we did. The only difference is there is
no longer a draft, so they can’t use our drinking age battle cry of
"I have to go to Vietnam to order a beer."
We struggled quite a bit with the risks, and the
consequences, of having the party and decided we could handle it. These
kids were adults—they could vote, they could get in X-rated movies and
their parents were no longer responsible or liable for them. What they
couldn’t do was legally purchase and drink alcohol.
Somehow they managed. By 10:00 on the night of the
party it was clear that even though we did not provide any beer, there was
going to be beer.
At that point we could have confiscated all cans and
bottles and closed the party down. And if we did, the kids would have gone
off to the hills, or to another house, in their cars, to continue their
Saturday night. They certainly weren’t going to call it quits at 10:00.
So we made a decision we pretty much knew we were going
to have to make when we agreed to have the party. We watched them
carefully, made sure no one got out of control, and made them all, each
and every one of them, spend the night.
They stayed inside, were well-behaved, and the only
people they kept awake until 4:30 in the morning were my wife and me.
Did we do the right thing? I’m still not sure, but I