My twins 16-year-old twins individually texted me recently asking if they could have their friend Tyler over to hang out. I was at an art event in town and had missed an earlier phone call from them.
Then came the follow up question: "Can Tyler also spend the night?"
Now, in normal circumstances, this may not seem like a huge deal, this question, and my kids asking for a sleepover on a non-school night.
But two days before this, my husband had said no more sleepovers for a while, as he had been frustrated with the kids not going to sleep and keeping him up during the most recent time a friend of our kids was over. Indeed, it was a crazy night the last time, when a different friend was over.
But, a month is a long time to have a ban.
So, the kids did what they usually do when they want something.
They asked me.
My husband and I usually back one another up, but at the same time, I don't have a hard-nosed response to questions from my kids. I try to take circumstances individually.
When my twins asked me about this particular sleepover, I really felt like I wanted to allow it. I just was not comfortable with such a long ban on having kids over to spend the night. I so want our home to be a place where our kids can bring their friends, to hang out, to relax, to just be.
But, I still of course needed to talk to my husband about it, so I texted my boys back and said that I'd call their dad about the situation.
When my husband answered the phone, he was watching a movie with our youngest child, age 11.
"Hi Chris, the twins want to have Tyler over for a sleepover; I know you said you didn't want sleepovers for a while, but it's Tyler and Tyler's a great guy, and he's a good friend to our boys, and his family has similar values as we do. Community is important for our kids... Can we make this exception to your month-long ban?"
My husband wasn't initially moved by my argument.
"I'm tired of the chaos, I'm tired of the interruptions and I'm tired of no sleep."
Though I acknowledged that those were valid issues, I had my counterpoints based on my parenting philosophy, and added that I never signed on the dotted line regarding the month-long ban on sleepovers.
"I think we need to reconsider your month-long ban on sleepovers," I reasoned. "Our kids want to be in our home, to have their friends over. That's huge. Yeah, it breaks our perfect pattern of a non-chaotic life, and there might be some interruptions and it might be noisier with an extra kid, but life is messy. Our kids want to be home."
Welcome to parenting, welcome to real life, welcome to having teenagers. Our kids could be out partying or just hanging out at Wal-Mart or staying out till all hours of the night, but they are not. They want to be with us, to have their friends over, they feel comfortable here. We should be honored. Teenagers will not go to bed at 9 p.m.. That's just not the way it works.
I believe we need to think of our house as a home, as a refuge, as an outreach, as a place of belonging and security. It is not ours to hoard, but ours to share.
When my husband and I were first married, we were involved in youth ministry at our church. Kids came over to our apartment all the time to hang out. It's what kids do. They crave community. I reminded my husband of this, and that we have to at the same time view our kids that way, with purpose, as a ministry. I believe that if we don't help our kids hang out with good kids, they will find others. Kids will find community.
Yeah, it's messy and tiring and chaotic, but that is part of our parenting calling.
We have friends whose kids never get to have friends over because of the hassle factor. They just don't go there because of the interruptions and the mess it creates during and afterwards. The parents are tired and they work a lot of hours and they just don't want the trouble. No doubt, it gets messy, but isn't the best part of life messy?
So, with some prodding, we allowed the twins to have their friend Tyler over that night, and I did ask them to definitely keep in mind their noise level, and to remember that some of us would be going to bed earlier then they were.
Before I left the art event I was at, I texted my twins and also asked if I could bring them some ice cream home to share with their friends, and they said yes, "Tillamook Mud Slide, please." I try to have a fridge full of food and cabinets packed with snacks for just such occasions.
When I walked through the door that night, Tillamook Mud Slide in arms, my kids and their friend were quietly playing some X-Box games and hanging out. I offered them their ice cream, and I hung out and talked with them about how they are doing.
It felt relaxing and welcoming and nice. But, sometimes it is crazy chaotic. That is part of the deal too. It just feels good to have my kids home with their friends. Or alone.
I've heard the saying from the past, the question that asks, "Do you know where your kids are tonight?"
Yes, I do.
They are in our house. In our home. Their home. With their friends.
Home. A place to be. And, a place to bring friends. Which includes the mess and all.