A Quiz for Teens: Just How Stupid Are Your Parents?

Every teenager at some point ponders the question, "Just how stupid are my parents?" The query is usually related to some activity that the teen has in mind that they're fairly clear the folks wouldn't approve of but which they really (like, really) want to do anyway. So assessing the stupidity quotient of Mom and Dad is critical to the process.

Some close friends have finally achieved their dream of travel now that their last child, a 19-year-old daughter, is in college. This daughter likes to come home to San Diego from school in L.A. for the weekend when Mom and Dad are out of town and have a few close friends in for what's advertised to the folks as an intimate soirée. Somehow, a party always seems to take place instead. Sometimes several. Her parents' rule, of course, is: absolutely no parties. But what defines "party," really? Number of people? Noise level? Squad cars? It's such a nebulous term.

Considering the number of times she's been caught out (a neighbor actually called her parents on their Black Sea cruise at 3 a.m. to report that the daughter's exceedingly inebriated guests were at that very moment anointing his dahlias with bodily fluids), you'd think she'd get the idea that having clandestine social gatherings was more problematical than she realized.

Before my friends left on their most recent trip, they hired an elderly relative's former caretaker to come stay at the house at night while they were gone. No way is their daughter going to party with the caretaker there. Daughter mentions that since finals are approaching, she might come into town to have a weekend of quiet study away from the noise of her high-density roommate venue. Grades, she reminds her folks, are her utmost priority.

My husband Olof and I laughed out loud when we heard this. But the parents had faith. This time they were sure they had it covered.

Imagine the parents' dismay when they arrived home and knew immediately their offspring had had a party in their absence. Daughter was equally dismayed that they'd found out. She'd been so careful! She'd made everyone stay inside (those double pane windows are marvelous noise insulators). She'd had most of the people stay over so there wasn't a lot of 2 a.m. departing guest noise waking up the neighbors. Absolutely no dahlias were harmed. She'd even removed every bit of trash from the trash cans and buried, er, relocated it elsewhere. How could this have happened?

Well, sweetie, here's a short list for your consideration:

(1) The caretaker your parents paid to stay at the house? She tried to return part of her payment saying she couldn't take money for the three day weekend when you maintained you were preparing for a Zen meditation final which, it went without saying, required being completely alone.

(2) The cheapest place to shop for booze may be your parents' Costco-stocked garage but this time they actually counted the stash before they left. They had to admit after the fact that they admired your friends' taste in vodka.

(3) Making the beds was a thoughtful touch. Washing the sheets might have been a more thoughtful touch. Recognizing that Mom is a precision bed maker who does hospital corners and can spot a bed not made by her from 30 yards, priceless.

(4) Sanitizing the crime scene by disposing of incriminating evidence in both the big black trash can and the blue recycle bin might have seemed like a brilliant idea but leaving them echo-ingly empty was equivalent to installing a neon sign screaming "PART-EE!" If you learn nothing else in your college career, it's that subterfuge is all in the details.

(5) The scorched earth policy applied to the trash should have been used in the kitchen instead. Cleaning lady's day is Thursday. Parents come home Sunday night. Parties were Friday and Saturday. Pushing all those Dorito crumbs behind the counter appliances hoping they'd go unnoticed until next Thursday was a loser from the get-go. Dad, a world-class neatnik, has infrared vision for crumbs. Alas for you, so do ants.

(6) While it's commendable that you have friends from all walks of life, having some of the people from those walks walking around to the back door of an allegedly unoccupied house is bound to attract attention from the neighbors. Yes, it's profiling. And yes, we know it's not fair.

(7) It was, like, totally savvy of you not to post any pictures of these parties on your Facebook page. However, your friends posted them on theirs. And tagged you. And yes, Mom promised that if you friended her she wouldn't rag on you for anything she saw there. But some of those pictures might have been a little TMI, especially those lewdly creative uses of Dad's treasured set of custom cookware. Please say you washed them afterwards.

Next trip for parents: two weeks from now. Daughter will be home for winter break. Caretaker has been told she is not to leave the premises at night no matter what excuses are tendered or how much money daughter might offer her. Parents are sure they really have it covered this time.

Olof and I are still laughing.