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Sleepover sanity: Is it possible?
The "wha wha wha" sound of adults . . .
Our memories filter things in an interesting way. I remember having sleepovers with my friends when I was young, and they were simple, fun events where we slept under the stars in sleeping bags, laughing and causing harmless mischief. Honestly, I don't remember whether my parents had any kind of role at all - I mean, I'm sure they were there, but I was focused on my friends and that's all I remember. That's how we saw our parents - they were fairly invisible, like the wha wha wha sound of the adults in Peanuts cartoons!
So I give my kids choices on what they want to do for their birthdays. My son's 11th birthday was this past week, and he chose a sleepover with three friends and his young cousin. My daughter has done the same thing the last couple of birthdays, so it's certainly only fair. What's a little lost sleep for the wonderful memories they'll create, right?
On her last birthday, when I let my daughter have several of her friends over for her birthday, it was quite a feat. She and her friends were very talkative (piercing at times!), they stayed up very late, and made somewhat of a mess. My place isn't that big, so my bedroom was my sanctuary. They had a great time, so I chalked it up to just one of those sacrifices we make as parents.
Fast forward to my son's sleepover birthday party Saturday night . . .
Inventory lists and other anomolies
The parents started arriving to drop off their boys. I think only one of them actually came in the house. Most had this smile of relief when they dropped them off, and nearly all of them said "Good luck!" I suspect several did a little silent prayer after I closed the door.
As the first kid came walking up toward the door, my son crouched behind the chair with his nerf gun. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm going to blast him as soon as he walks in!"
I frowned. "That's how you're going to greet your guests?"
The doorbell rang and I opened it to see a mother and a little boy with his nerf gun also drawn. This, followed by the Gunfight at the OK Corral. And, my first "Good luck!"
Then came the Dad with the inventory list. Looking haggard, he dropped off his boy, along with enough sleep gear to last through Columbus Day, and then proceeded to show me his list. "I'm dropping him off," he explained, "and his mother is picking him up tomorrow. We've found this is the best way to make sure everything he comes with, he leaves with."
"Okay," I said. He proceeded to show me a list with detailed contact information, coupled with with an itemized inventory list next to a check box for each. Sleeping bag with inflatable pad and kit, small plaid blanket, bag of clothes (further detailed - slippers, pair of underwear, socks, gym shorts green w/white stripes, sweats, pants, PJs, zippered pullover, type of toothbrush - blue with black trim, etc. etc.), The inventory list detailed what he was wearing, which toys he brought, and comprised over thirty specific items on the page.
"Please give this sheet to my wife when she picks him up, so she can verify he came with all of the items I'm sending with him."
He looked worried. I felt worried.
"Good luck!" he said.
As soon as he left, I turned to my adult guests and said, "who wants drinks?"
The next boy arrived, and my son chose this point to tell me this boy's allergic to shedding dogs.
"Oh," I said. "Well, I have one. Guess he'll have to figure out how to deal with that." (can you detect my early stage testiness?)
Pizza and pipes
The noise level by now had started to rise, and I'd just sat down with a glass of cab when someone said they were getting hungry. Aha - I'd already planned this part. So I picked up the phone, dialed Round Table and ordered a combo and a pepperoni - the two most commonly eaten pizzas, from my experience. Sure, I could have surveyed everyone to see who wanted a vegetarian, cheese, canadian bacon and pineapple, or anchovy and sauerkraut. But, I figure most people get the point that when there are many mouths to feed, there are sacrifices as to choices, right?
"Why did you order pepperoni?" a little boy barked.
"I don't like pepperoni. Why did you order that?"
No please, no 'thank you for feeding me', no 'thank you for inviting me the day before the sleepover.' This kid had a problem, and he made damn sure I knew it was mine to solve.
"That's what I ordered," I answered. "You can pick the pepperoni off if you choose." He glared at me while I put the plates, cups, utensils, ranch dressing, and told everyone to have at it, then I poured drinks and attended to the guests as well as I could.
"Hey, the dog's eating my pizza!" yelled the same kid from the living room a moment later. At this point, he was back in the kitchen.
"Well, where did you put it?"
"On the floor." So I jumped up and into the next room to find my dog, munching on a dinner plate laying on the floor abandoned. Next to it were three other plates, also abandoned.
"Guys!" I yelled. "If you haven't noticed, we have a dog. Do NOT put your plate on the floor! Do not walk away from your plate! This is what dogs do. Please pick up your plates and stay with them!" The boys looked at me blankly.
I came back to the kitchen and my daughter was laughing at me. "Geez, Dad! Those kids are going to be saying 'Gosh, I'm sure glad I was invited to stay here. Can't wait until I can return!'"
Okay, so maybe I was a little testy. I just thought the dog thing was pretty well known, even for 8-11 year old boys. That was even a Snoopy-ism. "What falls on the floor is mine," Snoopy said. But, I suppose kids aren't reading Peanuts any more. So, I guess I needed to give them the Ground Rules of Dog Behavior when they came into the door.
Kinda like an Inventory List.
So after I returned to my Zen state, following further mocking by my daughter, I watched as the same boy left the bathroom, lifted up his shoe, pulled off a piece of pepperoni stuck to it, threw it on my kitchen floor and walked right past us out to the living room. I think in the dog world, this behavior is called "marking."
Saturday night's alright for fighting
Finally came cake and ice cream time. Yes, I'd made the cake, and yes I am a card-carrying male. Apparently this is a big deal, so I'll take the credit, cause there's so much I do do that no one ever notices. You can congratulate me now.
My son wanted his army men on the cake. So I thought, fine. I scrubbed each of the men who would be perched on the cake, along with their weapons, because nothing says "Happy Birthday" more than an AK-47 and a grenade launcher. About this time, coughing boy started hacking all over our table. No hands over the mouth. Splaying his hacking in the direction of the cake, the juice glasses, and anyone not wearing a face guard or body armor.
Most of the adults left not long after the singing and gift opening, and following the sugar high, the decibel level raised and, I hoped, would drop at the same rate, resulting in sleepiness throughout the house. I joked about putting whiskey in the cake, and then thought, "Hey, that would have actually been a really great idea!"
My friend and I went to my sanctuary (aka "room") for a bit, and was shortly interrupted with a knock at the door.
"Those boys are too loud! I can't sleep!" said coughing boy. I didn't even realize he'd gone upstairs to my son's room to sleep. "Okay, I'll talk with them." So, I tried to quiet them down - which lasted about 3.5 minutes each time. We finally pulled out a fan for ambient noise in my son's room for him so he wouldn't notice the noise spiked from downstairs. Around midnight, with the noise level still through the roof, I went to bed.
And heard them at 12:30, at 1:00, at 1:30, at 2:00, at 2:30, at 3:30. Then silence.
I stayed in bed as long as I could, then finally got up and became the pancake guy - I made about 40, along with a package and a half of bacon, fully expecting some pushback about the imperfect flapjacks. But I was ready.
That's when I heard one of the boys say, "Uh oh!"
"Oh, man!" said the other boys.
"I'm going to be in so much trouble!"
I walked into the room. A juice glass had been tipped over, spilling all over the table. "It's alright. Accidents happen," I said. "Let's just all get to work cleaning it up." And then I realized perhaps life could be different for some kids. Perhaps they are who they are because it's just a reflection of the adults they are around. Parenting is certainly not for the faint of heart. They just need a little patient guidance, which isn't always easy.
The piles of dishes that had to be done. The juice stains and the dozen or more lollypop sticks stuck to the carpet. The line of toilet paper from the spool throughout the bathroom. The missing and additional clothing. The dirty underwear on the stairs. Boxes, tiny pieces of balloon, steamer and tiny little guns from army men strewn throughout the house and in the cushions of the chairs. The ringing in my ears.
And it was all worth it. Because, afterward, when I took my son out onto the bike trail and asked him if he had a good time, he thanked me, and said yes.
Sometimes we just do things that we know are not going to be fun, that we know will be a challenge to get through, that cost us money and time, and sleep. But in the greater scheme of things, they are right and the difficulties that come from them will pass.
Because there's a little boy here, who has had a wonderful memory, and who was made to feel special. Which he is.
And that's all I have to say about that.