My twins, age 16, individually texted me yesterday asking if they could have their friend Tyler over, to spend the night. I was in downtown Portland with my friend Michelle at the First Thursday Art in the Pearl event, and they were at Rosemont Ridge Middle School tossing a Frisbee with their friend Tyler on that warm, summery evening.
One of my twins had also tried to call me but my phone was pretty much out of juice when I realized it. My friend Michelle smiled at me and said, “I’ll be your new best friend- check this out, it’s an automatic iPhone charger.”
Magic. So, there I was, with a phone that worked, so I called my sons back.
Then came the question.
Now, in normal circumstances, this may not seem like a huge deal, this question, my kids asking for a sleepover on a lazy summer night.
But two days before this, my husband had said no more sleepovers for a month, as he got frustrated during the last sleepover with a different friend; they had been in our backyard on our trampoline and had had a hard time falling asleep. Both my husband Chris and I had to tell the kids a couple of times to go to quiet down, once at 1 a.m., 1:30, 2 a.m. My husband got tired of it and grounded them for a month.
A month is a long time, but a month is a really long time in the summer.
So, the kids do what they usually do when they want something.
They ask me.
They’re 16, not 6.
My husband and I usually try to back one another up, but 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 the sleepover, I asked them what their dad had told them about future sleepovers, and they didn’t answer directly. Chris had made it clear to me that he wanted no sleepovers for a month, but I wasn’t comfortable with this. It is summer and I want our home to be a place where our kids can bring their friends. But, I still needed to talk to my husband about it so I told my boys that I’d call their dad, again grateful to my friend’s charger. (My twins should be grateful for my friend’s charger!)
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 influence on our boys; he’s a strong Christian and we need to help our kids be surrounded by good kids. Can we make this exception to your month long ban?”
My husband wasn’t moved by my argument.
I don’t want chaos, 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.
“It’s summer, Chris, I think we need to reconsider,” I reasoned. “Our kids want to be in our home, to have their friends over. 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,” I emphasized.
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 pm. That’s just not the way it works.
I believe we need to think of our home is a ministry, as an outreach, as a place of belonging and security. It is a place where there is love and we can be real and we can be ourselves, even if that means loud. Our home is not ours to hoard but instead it’s 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. 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. But, our home is our ministry and it is our gift and it is our calling. And it is a place where our kids go and belong.
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. 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.
Yeah, it’s an interruption and yeah they’ll keep you up and yeah it’s chaos but family life is messy and opening up your home to kids is oh so important. They want to be in your home with their friends, how cool. Make your home that kind of place. Stock the fridge with food, offer them popcorn and ice cream and homemade cookies. Sit and be there with them, ask them questions, care. Be glad your kids want their friends in your home, be glad that your kids see your home as their home, and a place to gather.
I had texted them before returning home and also asked if I could bring them some ice cream home and they said yes, Tillamook Mud Slide, please. And, I did ask them to definitely keep in mind their noise level with their dad needing some rest, and I asked them to not sleep on the trampoline.
When I walked through the door, Tillamook Mud Slide in arms, they were quietly playing some x-Box games and hanging out. I offered them 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 not. It just feels good to have my kids home with their friends. Or alone.
I’ve heard that saying from the past, that question that asks, “Do you know where your kids are tonight?”
Yes, I do.
Home. A place to be. A place where there is love and acceptance and fun, and where our kids can bring friends to hang out. Home.