Parents, we're here today to talk about graduation parties. Not yours. Theirs. The distinction is crucial. That's Lesson #1. It might feel like your big moment. But it's not. It's theirs.

(I know, I know. It's been 52 report cards and 26 teacher conferences, 360 soccer games and 255 basketball games, 60 sleepovers, 240 piano lessons, three years of religious instruction, $2,700 in school lunches -- and two minivans. It may feel like you've done the work -- and paid for it. But you haven't. You've been the observer. There's a difference.)

Lesson #2. Plan the menu with the graduate in mind. If you want to satisfy the hunger of students, look to their taste buds for reference.

Choose foods that delight them. Nothing new, nothing odd, nothing that will make them stand out too much in a crowded field of graduation parties (never mind the tattoos, piercings and colored hair -- graduates want to fit in with their crowd, not yours).

Lesson #3. Think little bites. Less is more. The phrase "hungry teenager" is almost redundant, except at graduation parties when the graduates flit from one happy gathering to another, to another, and maybe even another, all in a single afternoon. Graduation parties will be fast and furious, as your graduate visits as many as possible in the last gasp of high-school friendship.

Your youthful guests aren't going to eat a whole lot. They'll nibble here and nibble there before heading out to nibble elsewhere. You will not need as much food as you would normally serve at a buffet. But it's fun to offer a wide variety of foods. This is a party, after all.

Lesson #6. Make-your-own food keeps the guests busy. Not a bad idea for a party where Aunt Sally will be chatting with your daughter's friends.

Lesson #6. Skip the cake. It's tradition, I know. Instead, make mini-versions of your graduate's favorite desserts: cookies, bars, mini-cheesecakes. Better yet, make a variety of them, a buffet's worth of desserts. Not surprisingly, these small treats will be devoured, even by teens who aren't all that hungry.

Lesson #7. Stick around for the party. Yes, it's their celebration, but you need to supervise. You may even have some fun on the occasion, though your fun is not the point.


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