As our kids age, we realize that our influence matters less and less and
peer groups take center stage. That is why Jim and I are grateful for the good
group of friends our children have chosen. Zach, for instance, surrounds
himself with boys who are largely good students, well-mannered, polite and
responsible. Rare is the day we donít have at least one of them here playing
afterschool or spending a weekend night. We figure if we want to nurture these
friendships, we need to have an open door policy. The door is wide open.
So when Zach requested another sleep-over party for his 14th
birthday, we hardly thought twice. What we should have considered is that
these sweet young boys are growing up, and when placed in large groups, they
transform into hormonally-driven adolescents.
Zach lobbied for maximum party hours, and we finally compromised on 6 PM
Friday to 11 AM Saturday. Gathering every electronic game in the house and
renting some more, we transform our downstairs family room into an arcade.
Willy, basketball star shooter and likely Crosslerís greatest academic
genius, arrives. The rest trickle in, including Amit who has to leave at 11 PM
and Jeff who has to leave at 7:30 AM, until we have a total of nine young
Grandma and Grandpa arrive as reinforcements (thank you!) and we pack
everyone into three cars for a short drive to Round Table Pizza. Twelve
dollars of quarters for the arcade games and four pizzas disappear in record
time. When I consider ordering additional pizzas, Jim informs me that no
number of pizzas would ever be enough for these growing boys. Then they start
guzzling the free-refill drinks, and I know Iím in trouble when I heard Eric
announce, "Iím drinking a lot of caffeinated pop so Iíll be able to
stay up all night."
At school, these boys are conscious of being cool, or at least the
perception of being cool. At Round Table, they keep the TV volume on high as
they view the latest Rugratís cartoon. As we gather up leftover pizza and
cake in our banquet room, the boys literally start rolling around on the floor
of the regular restaurant space and begin turning up the Rugrat volume on
another TV monitor. Glances from other restaurant patrons tell me itís time
to speed up our exit.
Back at home, the video game tournament begins. The only hitch in these
first couple hours is Amit loosing his gold "A" on his necklace,
sending Jim back to Round Table for an unsuccessful search. I pull out the
Cool Ranch Doritos and Hot Tamales, and am confident enough to work on my
photo albums in the dining room upstairs. Jim and I make regular periodic
visits downstairs, where we witness controlled chaos of Nintendo, dips in the
hot tub and more eating. Neither of us can stand to remain amidst there for
more than a couple minutes at a time. "Too much testosterone," Jim
I hear footsteps of people running down the street, not a comforting noise
late at night. Peering out the window, I spot Trevor and Jeff running around
to the back of our house. Downstairs I ask them what theyíve been doing.
Jeff: "Oh, nothing. We just wanted to run up and down the street to
burn off some energy."
"Please stay inside," I reply. Now I realize that Iíd just
witnessed something akin to OJ Simpson running from the murder scene, on a
much less violent scale, of course.
The activity level remains high downstairs so I decide itís video time,
an opportunity for kids to calm down, snuggle up in their sleeping bags, and
drift off to sleep. At least thatís how itís always gone before.
Of course, no one can agree on a video and no one would be responsible to
select one unilaterally. What if it were a flop, after all? What would the
This adolescent logic escapes me so I grab "Wayneís World,"
push play, and sit back. To my delight, the boys immediately position for
sleeping bag floorspace and soon are fully absorbed in the silly movie, which
is essentially about immature teenagers. Perfect. With great confidence, I
join Jim for the remainder of a restful nights sleep in our room, remote
enough from the family room to be nearly soundproof.
Screaming, yelling and laughter startle me awake. The foundation is
virtually rocking with noise. Jim runs down to discover a manic pillow fight.
(This morning I found on the floor pieces of a plant which I keep high atop a
The quiet of a lovely fall night wakes me up. Too much quiet? Carefully I
tiptoe to the top of the stairs and hear nothing. I share with Jim that all
the boys have at last fallen sound asleep. He is skeptical, and decides to
investigate further. The family room is quiet, yes, but the boys are in the
backyard, running around with flashlights. This gets me a bit steamed. (Refer
to midnight instruction to STAY INSIDE.) Jim warns them of an unhappy mother
upstairs, and that he is now going to stay downstairs until they fall asleep.
The last boy finally falls asleep. We have to wake up Jeff in 15 minutes.
Breakfast. Pancakes, bacon and juices. Big hit, mostly because I have
Ericís dad picks up his son.
The other boys are still here. Why, I ask?
Answer, "Oh, I just told my mom Iíd call her when I was ready."
Jim loads up remaining boys, suitcases, wet swimsuits and sleeping bags and
drives them home.
Jim and I go for a much-needed walk. Around the corner we spot fresh toilet
paper strewn near the water tower and empty lot. Comment on poor TP job, and
why would anyone toilet paper a vacant lot?
Walk back a different route and spot more TP just up from our house.
Comment on another terrible TP job. Jim describes to me proper technique of
throwing entire roll up into trees.
Suddenly dawns on me-- did our boys do this? Jim says no, theyíd donít
have it in them.
Back at home, I ask Zach, and he shyly admits yes, he did hear something
about toilet paper last night.
Zach, plastic bag in hand, calls nearby now-delinquent friends, explaining
that "My parents are really mad."
Three breathless boys (Skyler, Trevor and Shaun) arrive on foot and bike,
sufficiently apologetic. Eagerly lay bulk of blame on Willy, model child,
safely at home on the farm miles away. Zach hadnít participated directly,
just as at home witness. Four boys set out to recover deposited toilet paper,
which I learn totals three rolls.
Jim and I sit in kitchen, fondly recalling our own youthful TP jobs (of
superior quality, of course) but angry at deception and disregard for rules of
staying inside. Wonder why anyone would so foolishly toilet paper a vacant
lot. Hope to keep straight face while getting point across of parental
betrayal. Pray we could turn this into a good lesson.
Boys return, chastised, carrying plastic bag full of fluffy white paper.
Give motherly lecture on importance of truth and the evils of minor acts of
vandalism. Lots of nodding and understanding happening. Ask that this please
be their only big time blowing it with me for the season.
Skylar claims "you gotta blow it every once in a while."
Zach responds with a frustrated giggle "And I didnít even really get
to blow it!"
Skylar, Trevor and Shaun are still here. Theyíve decided to stay and play
for a while.