There are an infinite number of events and activities that we accept as commonplace and inevitable once we have kids. Generally, we know we can always expect the three W’s of parenting: the wonder, the worry and the (yawn) wakefulness. Specifically, it’s this much sought-after event, this joyous rite of childhood that, as far as the kids are concerned, trumps all else: the sleepover.
My kids behave as though they firmly believe they would be entirely negligent, and performing a great disservice to children everywhere if they ever let an opportunity pass when there is even the slightest possibility of arranging a sleepover with friends.
Their planning begins early in the day, and regardless of my actual answer, or the (lack of) enthusiasm with which it is delivered, it is perceived by them as a definitive “Yes!” As the day progresses, according to the child, the answer morphs into something resembling, “I’d simply love to have child X sleep over. Perhaps you should see if children Y and Z would like to join in too, because wouldn’t that be so much more fun for all of us!”
During the actual sleepover, which almost always includes more than one guest, the continuous and immediate aftermath of each activity reminds me of the wake behind a high-speed motor boat. The kids propel their way through a succession of intensely fun and exciting activities, as the powerful swells that follow upset a previously still, calm surface.
Floors and couches are splashed with random items like single socks, slippers and shoes, jackets, pillows, toothbrushes and flashlights. Depending on whether it is my daughter or son who is hosting, stuffed toys, dolls, footballs, ping pong paddles, and other play items are strewn about, sometimes barely displaced from their place of origin, but just far enough away to suggest it was a second thought that resulted in an uninterested, haphazard over-the-shoulder toss. Toys and games I haven’t seen in years are once again part of the action, having been churned up from the bottom of the kids’ closets and the darkest forgotten corners of the basement.
TVs, radios and video games are left blasting, dousing my auditory senses… usually in stereo. Front doors, side doors, back doors and garage doors are left ajar after the last runner in the group makes his or her rapid exit or entrance, not realizing that there isn’t somebody behind them to close the door. Surely, there has to be somebody behind them to close the door?
Often the kids make their own breakfast which apparently, is considered fun and exciting as a group activity…until the group reaches the clean-up phase and their thirst for excitement in the kitchen is quenched by the need for action…which has been fuelled by food.
When it’s my 12-year-old son’s sleepover, this surge of energy usually prompts a game that has become routine for this group of boys. Each participant crawls into his sleeping bag head first and then, apparently without rules, strategy or any sort of pre-determined game plan, pummels each other.
Against my better judgment, I sit quietly, sip my coffee, and shake my head in wonder at this remarkable aspect of pre-adolescent boyhood. Every so often I shout, because somebody should really say something, “Be careful, boys!”
I return to my coffee, confident that my occasional shrill reminders will most certainly ensure that all these boys will return later to their homes unscathed.
And I smile while happily contemplating two other events typical of life with children – parent-imposed early bedtime, and the next sleepover…at somebody else’s house.
Originally published in the Waterloo Region Record