Teen Party Planner, the Mad Hatter, Down the Rabbit Hole

Teen party planner

“Can I have a few people over?”

Excuse me?

“Saturday night. Can I have a few people over? We’ll sit outside, in the back.” Teen party planners and parents both know outside has its advantages if weather allows

This was unusual. Four sentences. I realize he can talk, and with animation, but generally only when there’s a girl around, or the girl, the OMG hot blonde bombshell. Then he speaks, he jokes; I witness inflections, gestures, and the raising of eyebrows. However, that’s not our usual rhythm of exchange. More the case: he grunts, he utters the teen equivalent of tiny twitted URLs.

He is polite; he says “Thanks, Mom,” on the nights I cook, then disappears into his room.

Silence. (My tactic; sometimes it prompts another phrase.)

So? Saturday night? I’ll clean everything before, and I’ll clean up after.”

Who? I ask. He names four 16 and 17-year olds I know, then adds, “And a few others.”

I stop rinsing dishes at the sink. You mean you want to have a party this weekend. Is that what you’re telling me?

“No, not a party. Just a few kids over. Like ten.”

I take a breath. Ten kids is a party, I say.

He gives me the “look,” that same wide-eyed stare that he effectively wielded at five, and six, and seven… Unlike his social-round-the-clock brother, my younger son has never had a teenage party. I let my gaze wander his beautiful face, trying to absorb how much he has changed, so quickly. I know I’ll say yes, and already I’m running the litany of worries and tasks through my head, hoping it won’t rain or dip below freezing. I’m calculating, trying to figure how I’ll squeeze sodas and chips into the budget on 48 hours notice. He would pay if he could; he does pay for things but he has no money of his own right now. Allowance stopped along with my paying jobs, and he hasn’t sold a portrait in awhile.

But I’ve been here before, the teen party planner on an UnBudget, the habitual haven for nocturnal gatherings where kids can be kids, but under a watchful eye. And now it starts, with the younger.

The Mad Hatter

I am the Mad Hatter, still. The phone rings. College Boy. He’s had a disagreement with the administrators of his scholarship program. He’s never hidden his annoyance at some of their rules. It comes across as arrogance.  He’s 18, barely, and at the moment, acting his age.

I know his heart; but I also know his temper and the confidence he’s always owned. He’s a remarkable kid, but he doesn’t know fear. Profound, gut-twisting fear. Without that  scholarship, there is no college.

Where is my hat? My magic powers? My wisdom? How do I gift him with the knowledge of treading lightly, when I’ve raised him to speak his mind? Did I not teach him “don’t bite the hand that feeds you?”

I can feel him pacing. I know how to defuse him when he is an arm’s length away. This is more difficult. I’m on your side, I say in a conciliatory tone, listening and offering suggestions. There are rules to the game, I say. Even when the world seems upside down, and not of your making.

He’s angry, and I tell myself it’s not at me, but my impotence burns. Mustering my own balance in this otherworldly place is hard enough; I picture Paris, more hats – anything to hold my own emotions at bay, to find words that will reach him. I don’t know if he’s listening, if he’s making the right decisions, but the stakes are tremendously high.

Alice down the rabbit hole“I shouldn’t have called you,” he says, and hangs up.

Down the rabbit hole

I am the little white rabbit, checking my watch and perpetually late. I am the Mad Hatter, still holding tea parties, even with empty cups. I am the Cheshire cat, grinning and glassy-eyed without benefit of hookah. And I am Alice most of all, lost and tumbling, floating and falling farther. No matter which wedge of pie I taste, I am shrinking. No matter how far I fall, or how many objects drift by just beyond grasp, I must somehow inhabit the Queen of Hearts and not be Alice any longer. I must prop up, listen, guide, emptying every pocket in search of ingenuity, ways to reinvent what I cannot change, in a land I cannot recognize.

My younger rummages through the fridge as my elder calls back, calmer now. He reads me an email, explaining his next gambit. A chess game, even down the rabbit hole.

I return to thoughts of the UnParty I will patrol from a respectful distance, reminding myself that the job is far from over though it shifts and twists. I am still concocting comfort out of the air and maneuvers in a mad, mad world as I tumble, then drift, switch hats, and tumble again, wondering when I’ll wake up, at home in the landscape, even for a few hours.

© D A Wolf



  1. Nicki says

    Oh Big Little Wolf – I so understand, on both counts, how this works. My “baby” is 15 and wanted to celebrate with his friends. Okay but how many is it? He invited 20 but, as his bday is in the summer, only about 10 could make it. 2-3 boys and 7 girls, most older girls. How do I keep my eye on all of them when they are outside?

    And the older one, I have one of those also. He is in freshman year at a state university. I have had to talk him down more than once. I tend to try to not interfere once they are in college but occasionally, this one needs to realize he can’t “go at” everything he disagrees with.

  2. Linda says

    He’ll clean up before and after?? Wow! I love the exchange between the two of you. My daughter is 14 and I so relate to the grunts and looks. Good luck with the party and College Boy.

  3. jason says

    Ms B
    You are a truly one of the great ones.
    Your kids are lucky to have you, just as you are lucky to have them.
    Hang in there!

  4. says

    I can tell from this post (and many others) what a great and nuanced mother you are. You capture so eloquently the textured conversations and frustrations that pepper parenthood, the longing to do right and be cool and fix things for our little (or not so little) creatures. I love the hat metaphor because all of wear so many, too many, hats and it is exhausting. Can’t wait to hear about the UnParty!

  5. says

    Here’s what I do in brokeville out in boondocks out here on ye ole West Coast but further north than Caleefourniyay, because they ain’t out West anymores. They dun made their own world down ‘air.
    Enyways, wut I waz a gunna say iz this…

    Jez decide what you can provide (fer me its usually moonshine and grits) and have everbody else bring sumpin they like to the deal.

    Good ole pot luck never hurt anyone and weez all juz fine sharin’ r fixins. Saves a whole heap on the grocery budget and ya’ll still git ta haf a good time.

    An yez, my black teeth r showin’ plain as ever as I grin clear cross de continent at ye!

    LOL! I’m looking forward to the sequel!

  6. says

    With so much nuanced love and understanding I sense your boys will remain splendid as they grow ever upward and adventure forth. As good wishes never hurt, I send them for the UnParty and the college funding… and then there’s always loans, I’ll be paying mine until I’m literally near eighty. In this looking glass world things always have their own way of working out.

  7. says

    When my oldest was 16… it was Dad, I want to have some friends over for my Birthday party.

    How many?

    Oh, about 10.

    Hmmm, okay. but only 10.

    It was supposed to be in the back yard. His mother took over from there and worked out all the details. I was the primary chaperone to this, so I didn’t want too many. Then on the day of. As I ask about were all the preparations where. I found out it’s going to be held at a hotel pool…

    I notice kids after kids are showing up. Uh, why isn’t there only 10? Well, I thought it would be funner with more. So I told him yes.

    Crap. It was a long night. A couple of girls left crying (a boy broke up with her there, and started going out with another one… right then) The front desk called a couple of times about some of the boys sneeking out and causing chaos.

    I wished it stayed in the backyard… :)

  8. BigLittleWolf says

    Oh yes. You do indeed know my world. Sounds like you’re there, too…

    I will be outnumbered this weekend, but it was far worse last spring when my elder son had an all-out dancing bash (outside) that basically lasted 48 hours. It dwindled from about 25 down to ten kids sleeping everywhere, but they were safe, and they had a good time. (When it was over, I thanked my lucky stars and spent the next few days with limited brain function, tra la…)

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