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  • A mother called me up to tell me she’d overheard her kid and my twins planning a party at a house where the parents were on vacation. She thought maybe I could exert some control over the situation since the parent-free house belonged to the family of my son’s girlfriend. Follow me? Deborah and Jan, my co-parenting team, were also on vacation. I put on my thinking cap.

    When our sons were fifteen they discovered the fun and allure of smoking pot and suddenly we parents were on the other side of a cloud of smoke. We were a little hazy, less important, and maybe a bit silly looking. We'd morphed from the bigger-than-life figures to whom they expressed all needs, fears, and questions – to the well-meaning-but-clueless, aging providers from a far off generation. Parenting suddenly became a lot more mentally challenging. There was no hope of staying a step ahead or even seeing very far ahead on this very curvy stretch of timeline.

    Only a few years before they were still wearing sweat pants to school and walking arm in arm with me much of the time. Now they were in the drama of high school and its rigid social groupings. Of all the groups they could have joined and all the extra-curricular activities available to them, Zac and Alex chose the stoner group whose major activity was “chilling.” They were well beyond the point where we could take them by the hand and deposit them at the school newspaper or theater department like a summer camp.

    I came up with a plan that I thought would solve our immediate worries about a bunch of stoned kids on their own, along with some cars to add another scary dimension. Why bother Deborah and Jan when they weren’t in a position to do anything and only burden their vacation with long distance worries? I confronted Alex and Zac about the rumor and they admitted that it was true. I laid out Plan B. Their friends could come over to our house. They would have two hours to do whatever they wanted in their bedroom. Then everyone would join me for a movie in the drug-free living room. I would drive anyone home who was still not sober. They agreed.

    About a dozen kids packed into their bedroom on the evening of the party. The bunkbed took up about a third of the room, but teenagers know how to fold themselves within any space. I put out bowls of snacks, careful not to refer to them as “munchies.” There was lots of laughter and lots of smoke wafting out from under the door. At one point a girl came into the kitchen and said, “Mr. Margolies, would you like to join us for a bowl?” I politely declined.

    At one point, the petulant, waif-like stringy blond Michael emerged and from the bedroom and walked out my front door, followed a moment later by the tall, smiling Russian émigré, V. “Oh-oh,” I thought. “This is when they get rowdy and a neighbor calls the police.” When I followed two minutes later, I found them laying quietly on my tiny front patch of lawn, gazing quietly at the full moon. “Would you look at that beautiful moon Mr. Margolies? Michael said. “Awesome!” With a wonderful sense of relief, I gently corralled them back inside of our little party house.

    Michael volunteered to go to Blockbuster with me and he selected the Pink Floyd manifesto, “The Wall.” The grinning, bloodshot dozen were laying all over the long narrow living and dining room - on the old blue velour couch, on our wooden painted chairs, and on pillows strewn over the floor. Within an hour every one of the boys was fast asleep and the girls were all still watching the video. Is there some genetic reason for that? I looked around at all the sleepers, their faces so innocent and several still graced with baby-fat.

    When the movie ended, final treats eaten, thank-you’s extended to me, and safe transportation home figured out, I began cleaning up the room feeling quite pleased with myself.

    Over the phone, two days later, I got a very different review of my party from an angry Deborah. “How could you make a decision like that without consulting others?”

    “But, they’re going to get high no matter what we say. They’d find a place in a park or a garage or somewhere else if we kept them out of C.’s house.”

    “But you have no right to decide for other parents to let their kids get high.”

    “But……but… all went well.”

    “But it might not have.”

    “But…..but. Okay, I get your point.” I concluded in an exasperated tone.

    It was the first time in a dozen years of post-marriage co-parenting that we had had a serious policy disagreement. We’d enjoyed years of unblemished, 50-50, supportive co-parenting – each of us certain that the boys had the most amazing Mom or Dad to be with on the days they were with our counterpart. It was this new phase of 15-year old hedonism and “no direction known” that pitted us on opposite ends with voices raised.

    Deborah made me realize that my inner “handy man” had blown it in some ways - in an impulsive rush to fix it all. But my inner host still cracks a private smile -15 years later - at the memory of such a successful party.
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