Our carefully planned evening came apart in 22 minutes. I knew immediately that I wanted out. Desperately. I think I may have actually whispered to myself, “What have I done?” as one might if they accidentally spilled a container of radioactive material. I don’t know about radioactive, but I was pretty sure I’d unleashed the world’s mischievousness in Pandora’s Sleepover Box. I had very little hope of reclaiming my footing. Certainly no hope for a well-planned and organized sleepover.
3:10 p.m. All three friends are here and ready to go.3:22 p.m. A pillow fight (of massive and concerning proportions) and lots of screams and giggling is going on. Kids are racing, screaming, chasing from one end of the house to the other.3:25 p.m. Husband pokes his head out of the bedroom, eyes wide, to see what in the world is going on. This is his first sleepover experience. It might be his last.3:30 p.m. I just heard my son say "Man! It's only 10 minutes into the party and I'm bleeding!" I know my sleepovers weren't like this.3:34 p.m. The couch tips over frontwards because they all tried to get off the reclined footrest at the same time. Please, please, please don't break our only nice furniture!3:37 p.m. I am definitely going have to have to take away the candy. Oh. Em. Gee. And why do the boys feel a need to throw everything? Pillows, stuffed animals, toys. Everything is a potential ball.3:51 p.m. We are going outside. Our place won't survive if we don't.
Every activity ended in a dog pile. Every single one. The “sleepover” (that’s a very loose use of the word) had only been going on for an hour. There were still a lot of hours to go, not that I was counting.
I desperately googled “quiet sleepover activities”, but evidently there are none when you have eight-year-old boys over for a sleepover. Google results like playing Magic 8 Ball, MASH, light as a feather, stiff as a board or board games weren’t going to cut it. Even if we did have a Magic 8 Ball, I doubt it (or any of the other suggestions) would have been a quiet activity for these four boys. It turns out sleeping over is just another sport for them. A gladiator sport.
Every sport requires a coach. Enter Coach Mom. I started out as the Soccer Coach. You know, the parent who volunteers to coach four-year-olds play something resembling soccer, all optimism and smiles as her cute little players play patty cake and pick dandelions instead of playing soccer. That coach didn’t last long Saturday night.
4:02 p.m. And there are tears. Tackling during soccer game (yes, soccer) got out of hand.4:16 p.m. So much for wearing themselves out. G says, "Hey! The hole in my pants got lots bigger!" Yep. Sorry G's mom.4:29 p.m. Back inside. Pop in the movie Earth to Echo and cross my fingers. I'm leaving dad in charge while I pick up pizza. Fingers crossed.5:05 p.m. Five minutes of quiet while they ate pizza and slurped down soda. They completely ignored the grapes and carrots I put out. I couldn't care less as long as they sit still for 5 more minutes.5:17 p.m. Movie is still playing but my son blurts out, "Let's build a fort!" Then, "Let's build the fort in the living room. It'll be closer to the donuts in the morning."5:56 p.m. So "we" build a fort. A big a** fort for them to sleep in. Though no one is going to be sleeping anytime soon.6:30 p.m. Movie time again. This time our other couch almost flips over backwards as they launch themselves over the back to sit down. Seriously.
My coaching style morphed as the night wore on. I became a more “directive” coach. More accurate to say “re-directive” coach; I constantly redirected them to safe behavior and activities while trying not to seem like the meanest mom ever.
6:55 p.m. Moving on to Wii bowling...and bodily functions. Oh, the bodily functions. At least Wii bowling will be calmer, right?6:59 p.m. Not so calm. Definitely not quiet. I had to make new wristbands out of ribbons scraps for the remotes for fear of the boys destroying our new TV. They were swinging those remotes like they were professionals playing fast pitch.7:04 p.m. Is it bedtime yet?!7:11 p.m. Four hours in and I'm still stunned. I feel like a deer caught in headlights. I certainly can't let my guard down. I never had much control over the group, but if I look away I'll lose what little I do have.7:30 p.m. 8:00 is a reasonable time to expect them to go to bed right?7:31 p.m. Two children develop a game of volleyghost with an inflatable decorative ghost. Look out lamps.7:44 p.m. Desperately seeking sleep. I begin Operation: Get In Your Pajamas.8:09 p.m. They are in their pajamas. There's a "relaxing" movie on, but they're playing with sticky eyeballs and rats (P's party favors), trying to get them stuck to the ceiling. Spitballs 2.0.8:35 p.m. Well, group tooth-brushing was a bad idea or a good sport. You pick.8:45 p.m. P has somewhat silent meltdown because the fort keeps caving in. Sugar crash? Overstimulated? Overtired? Both? Does it matter at this point?8:55 p.m. Mama's
gettingcrabby.9:35 p.m. Since they've been having trouble not talking, giggling and shrieking, I finally state very clearly, "I want to go to bed. Just. Stop. Talking."10:15 p.m. Asleep? I hope so. I'm going to bed.
Things always look better in the morning, right? The universe is always happy to make my life the exception to the rule. The boys were up at 4:30 a.m. (I forgot to account for setting back the clocks, dammit) and loud. Unreasonably loud. Like the night before times 10 but before dawn and we live in an apartment. I was frantically trying to figure out how to keep them having fun, but safely and quietly. I couldn’t hit on a single activity that didn’t quickly evolve into something rambunctious and loud. It was clearly time for a change of coaching style. Well, less coach, more prison warden.
I’d prefer to erase that Sunday morning, but it’s hard to erase indelible images like the look on my son’s face as my voice rose a little bit more every time I had to explain what appropriate indoor activities were. The feeling of exasperation, frustration and complete helplessness paralyzed me. My normal resourcefulness escaped me. All I could think between very direct and frequent reminders that outdoor activities weren’t okay inside was “Why can’t they just watch television?! Or video games. Video games would be okay. Why?!” This coach was on the ropes and ready to throw in the towel.
Eventually they did settle on Wii Sports and things quieted a down a fraction. Their mothers picked them up and life returned to our normal, but I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what happened. What did happen? And why can’t I shake this feeling of failure? I knew these boys individually, but together they formed a a tornado of energy that mathematically doesn’t make sense. 4 x 1 = 4, right? Four boys = four times the energy and noise. In this case, 4 x 1 = 37,000. It turns out they were a team of sleepover ringers.
I don’t love sports, but I hate losing and I definitely lost at sleeping over. Those little ringers gave me a parenting run for my money. Sunday afternoon, post-sleepover, my son said, “The only thing I didn’t like about the sleepover was you were so bossy.” Super. Well, at least I hit a memory-making home run. Parenting is all about creating unforgettable memories, right?