My older son, 9 yrs old, wanted to have a sleep-over party with his two neighborhood buddies. He asked us about it over dinner one evening and we agreed that he could ask them for the upcoming Friday night. This would be the second time our son would have a friend sleep over and he was thrilled. While he has two boys that he likes to play with regularly in our neighborhood, he doesn’t have a strong social network, due largely to the various demands his younger brother places on our time and attention and the fact that most little boys in my son’s peer group don’t see his little brother as someone cool to associate with. It usually isn’t a big issue – it just is what it is.
As we discussed the sleep over, my younger son (with Autism) was wildly enthusiastic about the idea and immediately assumed he would be co-host, to my older son’s dismay.
Our older son worried that his little brother, with his strange speech and odd behaviors, would make the evening “uncool” and that his buddies wouldn’t want to spend time with this weird little brother. He worried that his little brother would do something to embarrass him. We had a little talk with him and asked him to go along with his little brother’s excitement and just trust that the event would go off without any issues. Plus, we added, if it went well we would be happy to host such events much more often. With that carrot dangled in front of him, he happily agreed (with only a trace of trepidation lingering in his eyes) and we started to call his friends’ parents.
Our younger son, still in party planning mode, asked for help in coming up with a party “list”. He dictated the following (in order):
As with all highly important strategic family documents, we read the list aloud and tacked it on the refrigerator for reference. My older son rolled his eyes and announced that this was “a SLEEPOVERFORGOSHSAKES and cool dudes (where on earth does he get these terms?) don’t have lists, they just do fun stuff like play the Wii and eat pizza and stuff.” Younger son’s eyes filled with tears and he shot back “You goof brain!” Oldest son cried out “But its dumb! You’re a potato head!”
I first reminded everyone that we do not call each other names, then comforted my youngest with a “we’ll see how it goes and make sure we keep this list. It is a good list and we cannot forget the pizza!” while shooting my oldest a look that warned him to keep his darned mouth shut because we respect each others’ ideas and if he doesn’t there will be no sleepover list to concern himself with as there would be no sleepover and he’d better not forget that I control the ice cream distribution in this house young man…
So anyway… the big evening came and two little boys arrived, pyjamas and sleeping bags in hand. Younger son excitedly tore his list off the refrigerator, said “Here’s a list of what we need to do for the party!” and presented it to one of the boys, who glanced at the list, then made a face at my older son. Younger son tried to present the list to the other boy who just ignored him and turned away (I had to restrain myself from swooping in). Older son distracted them both by challenging them to a game of Guitar Hero (a Wii game where you “play” the guitar in a rock band – one of the boys brought it with him).
Soon the strains of “Slow Ride” began (the first of about 183 repetitions of this song) and the three boys happily took turns while my youngest, quickly forgetting the slight, adopted the role of groupie by cheering them on from his sleeping bag.
Later, we ordered pizza and the boys attacked it as if they hadn’t eaten in days. They happily munched and recounted stories from Guitar Hero (“remember when I missed that note and there was all that booing?”), questions about Pro-football (“who is your favorite… the Bears or the Colts?” note we’re in Atlanta and the Falcons weren’t even mentioned – darn that Michael Vick), and general 9 year old boy potty humor comments (“THHFIIPHPHFFFF“, “Hey! You farted!”, “Gross!”, “belch”, “I saw a dog with diarrhea…”” ). It was… fascinating… and our youngest, while not adding alot of content, continued his groupie role by faithfully chortling along with the others and adding his own trick – showing everyone the chewed up pizza in his mouth before swallowing (I am assured that this is a totally normal behavior, although it understandably doesn’t appear in any of the standardized testing our Developmental Pediatrician has used to date).
After pizza the boys went back to Guitar Hero (more “Slow Rider”) and then put in a movie. All seemed to be going well, we reassured ourselves. This is easy – we can do this – not a problem – we’re cool – the house is still standing, and no-one is crying – we’re good). After the movie they went back to some more Slow Ride… I mean, Guitar Hero. Our youngest wrapped up in his sleeping bag and fell asleep. Another boy looked heavy eyed and ready for his own sleeping bag. I suggested it was time for the slumber part of the party, but the boys rallied and loudly declared that they were going to stay up until midnight! They were dudes that stayed up late! They were just getting started partying! (and one went so far as to proclaim that he stayed up until after mid-night every night of the week!) I smiled and told them that they could stay up but needed to shut down the Guitar Hero and turn off the TV since the rest of us were going to bed. They said “no problem” and “Good night Mrs. X” and “this is a cool party, Mrs. X!” and “What are we having for breakfast?” As they scooted into their sleeping bags, I told them we would deal with breakfast in the morning, wished them good night, and climbed the stairs.
As I got to the top, I paused to listen to their chatter below.
“So what can we do now?” yawned one.
“I don’t know”
“There’s the list”
“Let’s look at the list”
“Here it is. It says Jokes first”
“We did that at dinner”
“We did that at dinner too”
“That was the movie”
“Maybe we can tell more Jokes”
At that they began with “Knock Knock”, “Who’s there?”, “THFIIIIIPHPHPFFFF”, “GROSS!”, “Do it again!”
I smiled. What a good list.