A Lesson to Parents of Pre-teen Boys



It is Sunday morning before 5am and I hear it. The first kid's heels pounding on the hardwoods downstairs while they seek water, food or a restroom. You never hear just one. Like wild dogs, they typically travel in packs. But nonetheless, it is before 5am and nine 10-11 year old boys are now awake in my home. When I talk to them and ask them how they slept at a more civilized hour, like 6am, they will all speak of a great night's sleep somehow trying to convince themselves as they surely know that I know better. As I sip my coffee at 5:30am all I hear is “I can't believe you have 2 of that one”, “mine has reverse powers”, “all I need is three more to complete the set” and “I looked up how much I could sell these for on eBay and I could get $23 dollars for my set.” I'm sure one day I'll look back and long for the Pokemon chatter out of my boy and his friends. I also might look forward to the kids sleeping in a bit more (they will wake past 6:30am on weekends one day, right?).

Each year when our oldest asks to have a sleepover with more than a friend or two Cindy and I look at each other as if the MIB guy waved the silver wand in front of us: no recollection of how painful 6-10 kids sleeping over in your home can be. Especially boys. See boys are loud. They don't talk to each other, they talk at each other. Actually, they talk over each other. Rather than talking to be understood they talk to be heard. 5 boys talking at once is only license for the 6th to top their volume. The fact that other humans in the house (or neighbors next door for that matter) desire sleep never crosses their mind. Like bad breath from not brushing their teeth, what could it matter, right? Well, they have clearly underestimated the grumpiness of a 40 year old father of three. Here are a few tactics I found myself employing during the sleepover event (none of which I am particularly proud of mind you).

  • 6:30pm: Pizza Time – hop in the garage looking for a tool of some sort that I had no use for just to enjoy some peace and avoid thinking about how much pizza is being transferred from their hands to the floor and walls. Plus, most words are about Pokemon or Minecraft. Italian, a language I don't speak, is easier to comprehend.
  • 7:30pm: Cake Time – As official photographer (the one with the phone connected to iCloud), I take the pictures. I corral the kids to the back porch where once they candles are extinguished and the pictures are taken, I ask that they remain outside while cakes service is moved into the kitchen. Partially a tactic for momentary peace but admittedly a tactic to reduce the endless combination of cake selection and ice cream flavor requests. There are not enough prime pieces of cake and too many ice cream demands (“I don't eat ice cream with nuts”, could I get a half scoop or chocolate with a full scoop of cookies and cream?”, “why no strawberry?”, “do you have sprinkles?” – as an aside, fruit doesn't go in Sutton desserts and the idea that a cookie cake, icing and ice cream just isn't sugar enough without adding sprinkles…well-played but not happening) to have handled it within earshot of the sugar-obsessed crowd. One more aside, the person who comes up with all corner pieces in a cake could make millions…
  • 8-10pm: Anarchy Hours: so long as you don't come out of the designated party space, in our home, the bonus room, then pretty much anything goes. This roughly translates into more screaming over each other about Pokemon and Minecraft. An age appropriate film plays in the background, but animated movies to this crowd is like Musak to grocery shoppers…the parents are downstairs wondering if there's any way to plug headphones into our TV. We can't hear a thing but we look at the moving pictures all the same.
  • 10-10:30pm: Inner rebellion begins. Two factions form: 1) the group who wants to sleep vs. 2) the group who wants to rage all night. Sentinels are sent to the adult area to form a treaty. One of two approaches exist in treaty-making: tears mixed with apologies for the prior 2 hours of noise-riddled rebellion (don't they know we couldnt hear a word of “Chopped” and “Shark Tank” we had on DVR???) and an exchange for silence and immediate sleep for the small cost of authority making the “ragers” succumb to their way. The other sentinel type comes in endless “Mr./Mrs. Sutton, could you be so kind to point me in the direction of a glass for a sip of water?” requests. Under my breath I mutter back, “Why of course Mr. Haskell.” I counter their offers with something like “can you help influence some of the kids up there to start settling down? It is getting pretty late and Mrs. Sutton and I will want to be able to get up early and in time to go get donuts before the sleepover ends tomorrow.” I know, maybe too subtle for this group. They are smart enough to know my good cop will surely be followed with the bad cop and you don't want Cindy to bring out her bad cop.
  • 10:30pm: tears, screams of jumping-on-my-furniture joy, sleeping bag covered muffled yells of “be quiet or I'm going home!”, and a TV pegged on volume marker 39 emerge from the jungle, uh, playroom. ENTER BAD COP CINDY. She takes her phone with her to potentially use the I'm calling your parents move. I'm actually a little concerned the party might come to an abrupt end. I follow 5-7 steps behind to show a united front and prepare some of the “and you don't want her to take that step, do yas?” But magically, silence ensues and even more magically, it stuck!

Cindy and I return to the family room and debate whether to restart Shark Tank. We don't. Instead we make a pact to never, ever, no matter how much time passes and how harmless it sounds weeks in advance, hold 6-9 kid sleepovers again. Sorry younger kids…and you are right, the olders do have it better sometimes.

Several weeks post-party and I actually hear myself thinking, “that wasn't so bad, right?” Must. Never. Forget.

Here is a slideshow from Will's party. Looking forward to an outsourced, non-sleepover for Stewart's 9th.



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