I’m starting the work week well-rested and cheerful. The house is neat, the bathrooms are clean, the refrigerator is stocked, my patience is untried.
This is notable only because my 11-year-old son invited three friends to a sleepover this weekend. It was an event I approached somewhat grudgingly, knowing that two months after his birthday we owed him some kind of celebration but still not genuinely enthusiastic about the plan to fill up his room with fifth grade boys for the night.
I worried that they’d be loud and messy and rude – not because any of these particular boys has ever shown any of these qualities to me, but because I had an innate wariness about combining that many male tweens and being responsible for them for eighteen hours.
But I needn’t have worried. Beyond not being any trouble, it was a delight to spend time with the four of them together. They played football in the driveway. My husband took them bowling and out for pizza. They played pool in our attic, raved about the ice cream pie I served after dinner, were kind (or at least exhibited an absence of unkindness) to Holly, played Wii into the wee hours, went to bed at the agreed-upon time (11, so not a huge sacrifice, but still), slept until 7, woke cheerful, raved about the pancakes and bacon I made for breakfast, trooped out to the barnyard to help me feed the cows and let out the sheep, worked on making a poster together, and packed their stuff up when it was time to leave.
They are great boys, and my son is so lucky to have such kind friends. Holly has wonderful friends too, and I feel fortunate on both of their behalves. So much rides upon the question of who your child makes friends with – and there’s so little a parent can do about it. Worst-case scenarios can have unthinkably awful consequences, but even middling scenarios can keep a parent awake at night, stressing out over a child’s dangerous liaisons. My children have both been lucky enough to find peers who are thoughtful, self-disciplined and generous.
That’s not to say we won’t face any friendship problems going forward. Tim already seems to be quite effective at deciding whom he wants to hang out with and whom he wants to stay away from, but Holly is immersed in more of a typical girlhood, and no doubt there will be drama along the way. In fact, I fully admit it’s likely she’ll be the one causing the drama sometimes. I try to teach her to be a good friend, but as Rosalind Wiseman writes about in Queen Bees and Wannabes, girls find their way into a quagmire of social issues despite our best intentions.
Be that as it may, right now I’m still ensconced in a cheerful glow from our wonderful weekend with Tim’s friends. They played outside; they left the bathroom neat; they didn’t keep anyone else awake at night. They complimented my cooking. (Ice cream pie and pancakes: you could argue that those are two can’t-misses, but still. They could have eaten and kept silent rather than complimenting.) Almost every day I feel grateful for my own kids. Today I feel additionally grateful for the terrific kids with whom my children surround themselves.