Things were easy when the boys were small. Birthday parties maybe involved booking the swimming pool or local bouncy castle for an hour or so, a few sandwiches and crispie cakes, grapes for the health conscious and a party bag or two. We went through taking a few friends to the pictures and then it all went quiet for a while before we got to paintballing.
So, this year… “Mu-um?” “Yes?” (note the nervous upward inflexion).
“Can we have a few friends in? And will you go out for the evening? Maybe you could stay out overnight?”
“How many friends? Who? And there’s no way we’re staying out overnight.”
We hummed and haahed. We prevaricated. Eventually we gave in and warned the neighbours. And, as chance would have it, an invite arrived to a firework party/house warming. (Yes, they did the jokes about house warming bonfires.) But, as the neighbour pointed out, it’s a sure sign your children are growing up when you go out to the firework party and they stay in to entertain.
“Don’t worry about food, Mum, we’re going to cook a curry. And there’ll be a few people staying over.”
“And I don’t want anyone smoking in the house.”
“For goodness sake, Mum! No-one smokes!”
The guest list grew until there were about 20 of them. The girls from Dundee negotiated the bus system safely and arrived with a French horn but no sleeping bags. “I told you to tell them to bring sleeping bags!”
I bought some chicken pieces, left out the rice and we went off, too late for the fireworks but the mulled wine was good.
I have to admit, I was just a little nervous about the chaos we’d find as we headed back upstairs later that evening. But the kitchen was moderately tidy. No-one had thrown up over the carpet. It was relatively quiet, given the number of bodies. We sat drinking tea in the kitchen and various teens ambled in and out for a chat. All very civilised, really.
A few of them left. Work in the morning, they said. I unearthed a few quilts and blankets. We went to bed.
“Go to sleep somewhere or I’m calling taxis to send you all home!” They found somewhere to sleep. It all went quiet.
The next morning…
I stuck my head around the sitting room door and wondered how anyone was still alive. The smell of teenage boys was asphyxiating. Were the girls still breathing? There were bodies on every square inch of floor and furniture. I thought it best not to look too closely.
Midmorning came and there I was cooking bacon, sausages, eggs in the hope of creating some movement. The teenage equivalent of party bags, perhaps. One of the lads thought he’d eaten too much toast and nipped down to the shop to buy a replacement loaf. There were buses to catch, rugby matches to go to, hangovers to nurse. The numbers dwindled. As afternoon came, I approached the living room with the vacuum, opened the window and chased out the remaining diehards.
Eighteen and a half hours at my estimate.
I was chatting to a friend the next day who told me her son had come home and said “Mum, I wish you’d be more like GPM! She was so relaxed – didn’t mind about the mess or stuff being spilled.”
Compliments, indeed. But if only he’d known.
And the next time you mums out there complain about a group of toddlers for an hour or two, just think what the future has in store for you.