This year for my youngest son’s fourteenth birthday, I let his eight best friends sleep over my house. While. I. Was. The. Only. Adult. In. The. House.
You don’t know me, but I’m generally a fairly rational woman, if a bit eccentric. But when he asked if his pals could sleep over for an all-night video game and pizza extravaganza, I expected maybe three boys to come over. As he looked at his friend group, though, it was increasingly clear he really did have a core group of eight guy friends and it would be hard to leave anyone out.
The thought crossed my mind to suggest a different type of birthday party. One someplace else—outside my house. Where someone else would deal with the discarded pizza boxes and spilled sodas. Some activity, like going to the movies. But, having taken leave of my senses, I nixed that.
I thought about it, really. Long and hard. And I came to a couple of conclusions.
First, I was grateful that I knew these eight boys. Yes, they can make me crazy with roughhousing and the fact that they don’t know what an inside voice is. Or because they can each devour a pizza but will take one sip of a soda can and never finish it. They are great kids. And I know I am lucky that they are close to my son and have each other’s backs in the turbulence of adolescence.
I also realized that regardless of whether it was four boys or nine total, I was not going to get any significant sleep that night. And this, frankly, is the price of parenthood. So I figured my son might as well have them all there.
Most significantly, he is my youngest child. His three siblings are all adults. I know better than most how fleeting childhood is. He now has to shave and he wears size-twelve shoes. This was truly going to be the last sleepover.
Oh, I know he’ll have friends sleep over next year when he starts high school. But this kind of adolescent last hurrah is one of his last good-byes to his childhood. Birthday parties will change soon. I wanted him to have this night with his friends, almost as a farewell to the more innocent years of sodas and pizzas, video games and fart jokes.
There is a Rubicon kids cross over. Once they do, they cannot come back again, except in memories.
Sleepovers, with all their sleepless insanity, will be cast aside in favor of going out to restaurants and teen parties. And I want to hold on for these last precious moments—to this moment, when he is right on that cusp of manhood.
I bought fifty dollars of pizza. A case or two of sodas. Enough chips to open my own convenience store.
I had to break up two roughhousing incidents. More than once, it sounded like they might crash through the wall of the den.
My couch looked like something out of a frat house. I’m still finding chip crumbs places.
They never went to sleep.
Neither did I.
But knowing that in the last vestiges of childhood, my son had his pals with him to celebrate his birthday and make memories filled me with joy. A tired joy, but joy nonetheless.
It was only a sleepover. But it was the last sleepover before he moves on to the next stage of his life.