Read article in The MetroWest Daily
“The upside of no sleep” by Saelen Ghose (Follow on Twitter @saelenghose)
For all you parents out there feeling sentimental about your kids growing up, I have an instant cure for you to try: Let one of your kids invite nine friends over for a birthday sleepover. Yes, in one short—I mean, one very long—evening you too can be cured of all your sentimentality. In fact, I can guarantee that, at least for a few months, the only thing you’ll be sad about is the bus being late to pick up your kids for school.
When planning a party of this magnitude there is much that can be controlled. What kind of food will be served? What activities the kids will engage in? And where will everyone sleep? (Our basement was now off-limits due to a recent musty odor that emerged after we lost power for three days in the October snowstorm. This glitch parked the entire party crew in our living room.) What is impossible to control is the weather.
The morning of the party I drove around with a smile on my face as I finished up some last minute errands. The day was sunny, the roads were refreshingly empty, and I rolled down the windows to let a warm wind blow through my hair. (I’m kidding…..I shaved my head recently.) I enjoyed watching the leaves floating down from the trees, creating tunnels of color for me to drive through. But as the party hour grew closer, the sky darkened, and my mood followed suit.
As kids arrived it began to pour. But that was in no way a deterrent for them as they ran outside to play “kill the carrier” on the muddy lawn. (So much for my weather worries.) This is a tackling game where everyone piles on the kid with the ball. And I’m sure it’s not the kind of game sanctioned by the majority of parents that had entrusted us with their children for the night. Nevertheless I let them continue as I monitored for excessive force and various underhanded blows. My biggest concern was that they were all getting soaking wet and the party had barely begun.
Although we survived the tackling game without a scratch, blood was drawn soon after the party migrated inside. The boys started to whack each other with plastic bowling pins, unbeknownst to my wife and me. I quickly bandaged up the injured partygoer and told them all to get changed. We were headed to the actual bowling alley to enjoy the arcade.
Big parties are not my cup of tea. My son’s party reminded me of my own disastrous birthday sleepovers as a kid. I remember one particularly unsettling party when many of my treasured possessions got smashed by the “cool guys” that I insisted on inviting. I can still remember to this day, crawling deep down into my sleeping bag with tears in my eyes, wishing the party would just end.
But these parties do serve a purpose, at least for parents. They inform us. They give us an insider’s view on what our kids are thinking about. I was surprised at how open the boys were about a variety of topics even though I was loitering nearby. They especially talked a lot about girls, expressing who they thought was cute, and “hot”— their words—which made me laugh inside. It was amusing to see which boys were truly interested, and which boys were only pretending to be interested so they could fit in. And I especially loved seeing where my son fit in this spectrum of interest.
We made it through the night without any serious incidents. Collectively we all slept about two hours, but every guest left with a smile on his face. And my son might have had the most satisfied smile of all.
I said to my wife during the course of the night—when things were getting particularly loud—that we wouldn’t be doing this again. But now that I’ve had time to reflect, and rest, I’m kind of rethinking it. Sure, these parties are torture. It’s like being trapped in a room with the sound of fingernails scraping across a chalk board in perfect sync with Village People’s, “YMCA.” But missing a night’s sleep to get a firsthand glimpse into my son’s world might just be worth it.
Saelen Ghose is a syndicated columnist for Gatehouse Media.
Are you working on your memoirs? Do you need ghostwriting support? Saelen also writes memoirs and obits.