By 5pm last Saturday night I was seriously questioning my ability to make sound decisions: decisions that keep the safety of children in mind as well as my own sanity. It was at this point that I realized that a sleepover birthday party with 10 of my son’s closest (male) friends – who range in age from 9-11 years – may not have been a good idea.
We were still at the pool – phase one of said birthday party – when the hand-to-hand combat, i.e. choking, began.
After quickly removing the 10 fingers that were wrapped around another child’s neck, I barked orders to both boys to sit out of the pool, commanding obedience like a referee at a WWE event.
All 10 of these boys are good kids. They’ve known each other for years and have practically grown up together. They have wonderful, attentive, Christian, loving parents.
But, they are boys, and I’ve just placed them all in the same pool for the same duration of time.
It was only 5pm. Soon, we’d be leaving the pool for my home where they’d be confined to walls, not just pool decking.
I’d actually gotten out of the water at least 30 minutes earlier, because I quickly realized I couldn’t see them all while in the pool myself. Sitting there in my chair, watching out of the corner of my eye a group of my adult friends from the neighborhood drinking beer and carrying on in a “no responsibilities” manner, I thought to myself, “I’ve invited 10 boys into my sphere of responsibility for the next 14 hours.”
But they’d already all been dropped off into what the other parents considered to be capable, trustworthy hands, and so it was too late to turn back now. I would not let these trusting parents down.
My thought during the planning stages of this party was that this would be Liam’s last birthday before moving to Korea, and I wanted him to be able to have all his friends over to celebrate. By planning I really mean, “sent out a text invite to the mothers.” That was the extent of my planning. No other real thought processes ran through my head. Maybe that’s because, oh, I don’t know, I’m moving overseas in T-Minus 72 days? Anyway….
Although I knew that this party would occur, even having the forethought to send out a reminder to the parents (via text) ahead of time, I hadn’t given much thought to what it might actually be like to have a herd of prepubescent boys all under one roof for an extended period of time. And not just any roof. My roof.
After what seemed to be an eternity corralling banshees so as to keep them from drowning themselves, it was time for pizza and cake. Liam blew out candles to the loudest Happy Birthday song ever sung in the history of boyhood. It was right after this moment of pure joy that I realized something; there were no paper cups or plates in the house. I forgot to buy them. I silently said a prayer that my glasses (because we long since threw out anything resembling plastic in the kitchen for fear of leaking toxins) and plates (again, not plastic) would not be shattered or otherwise thrown across the expanse of my great room by the end of this ordeal.
At about midnight I conducted my 50th headcount. I came up one shy. After doing a quick run-through of each room in the house I activated the “Where’s Dylan Alarm.” All boys immediately dropped what they were doing and set out on a manhunt.
Panic set in. Thoughts that I’d lost a child and how would I ask his mother if he’d somehow made his way out my front door without me noticing – after deciding he didn’t want to spend the night – and curled up into his own bed just 4 houses down ran through my mind like 4 shots of espresso.
“We found him!” I came running. Was he dead? How did I not find him myself? There he was, lying on the floor halfway underneath Liam’s bed, asleep. With 9 boys and a mother just coming down off a panic high standing over him, Dylan wakes, and then says while standing up, “Oh man, I just passed out for a quick sec.” The boys laugh, and just as fast as the manhunt began, off they went. Epic failure #27 averted.
It was 1:30am when Bill and I rolled ourselves into bed that night. Half of the boys had fallen asleep right where they dropped. The others were still whispering amongst themselves. By 2am I employed the, hand-over-one-ear-while-the-other-is-stuffed-into-a-pillow trick, something I haven’t done since the kids were infants. It’s the age-old Mom maneuver that blocks out unwanted noise that you really should be listening to by about 75%.
By the morning my all too familiar friend Dark Circles Under The Eyes was back. No matter, everyone was alive with limbs in tact and soon to be returned to a sphere of responsibility outside of my own.
With the last child safely in the arms of his mother, my home returned to a state of normalcy, if you overlooked the remains of my living room. It was all of a sudden so quiet that the silence was almost deafening – I’ve heard other people use this phrase before, but up until now had not experienced it myself.
It was in this moment of silence that it hit me. Not only had I not planned for this party, but hadn’t prayed over it either. I took on the responsibility of 10 boys for a day and half and didn’t ask God to help me, or even if I should even embark on such an “adventure” in the first place.
When you don’t include God in your plans you’re taking matters into your own hands, as if to say, “I don’t need your help. I can do this on my own.” Well, let me tell you, I just tried that route and barely made it out alive. I hung on by my fingernails, out of sheer determination and self-induced responsibility. It all worked out in the end – Liam later told me that one of his friends said that his party was the best he’d ever been too – but looking back, I should have asked God to be in the boxing ring with me, after all, He’s a much better referee than I’ll ever be. Lesson learned…until the next time.
…God delivered…because they cried out to him…. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him. 1 Chronicles 5:20