|Pastel Art of James Southworth|
By Jean Southworth
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 teenagers.
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 says.
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 others think?
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 bookshelf.)
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 enough.
Ericís dad picks up his son.
The other boys are still here. Why, I ask?
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.