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Last Saturday evening, I witnessed the crushing defeat of a once insuperable warrior—a grand paterfamilias who had reached for (and all but grasped) the fruit of domestic demi-godliness.
But today, Frank is our fallen Achilles—sacrificed (perhaps unjustly) upon the Trojan fields of our son’s first slumber party.
Had we dared to peer into the nearly 7-year-old-mouth of the birthday “gift horse” when it was pleading for such an event, the tragedy might have been deftly averted as we spied the annihilation task force hiding within.
Alas, to our doom, we did not.
It was just before midnight, that Frank face-planted himself on our bed. The house was, at last, so silent that you might hear a guilty Tootsie Roll Pop drop on the wooden floorboards.
My husband, measuring a full 6’ 5”—a former offensive lineman for a big-12 college football team, ex-rugby lock forward for a well-known UK university/club and competetitive swimmer at state level—was manfully attempting to squeeze back the tears. (I could tell.)
“That was brutal!” he choked.
I was too weak to comment; a limp smile of commiseration would have to suffice.
“Never again!” he declared, rousing himself to a croak.
“I’d rather have red hot knitting needles jammed repeatedly into my genitals!” he added grimly, just to ensure I comprehended the gravity of the situation.
With the fraction of emotional tissue I still had living within, I did feel a flicker of sympathy. (Only a flicker.)
It had been a long, dark night into Alex’s 7th birthday slumber party. (An oxymoron. Children do not slumber at these events.)
It may come as a surprise that, by midnight, we were far from feeling our age.
It’s because we were feeling our parents’ age.
In fact, I felt as if we were two witless octogenarians out of the 1985 film Cocoon (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B00020HAV0?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00020HAV0) who thought they could jump in the slumber party pool with the aliens and get a new lease on life. (http://www NULL.imdb NULL.com/video/hulu/vi144048153/)
Because that’s what those kids were on that fateful night. Aliens.
We should have listened to the voice within—the grim-faced, dyed-in-the-long-johns, Bernie Lefkowitz (Jack Gilford (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Jack_Gilford))—who prognosticated doom for his roomies in the nursing home.
But we were bewitched, like Odysseus by the sirens. Only in our case it was the tender, pleading voice of our apple-cheeked little boy when he asked: “Mommy? Daddy? May I please have a slumber party for my birthday?”
As the parents of eight young boys (of varying sizes between 7 and 8 years old) dropped their children off with that special “You are braver than I” expression, or the “Better you than me” wink of the eye, Frank and I still didn’t get it.
We didn’t get it when the children brightly asked to open all of the birthday presents and assemble them one-by-one (incompletely) so that, by nightfall, the family room had become an instep-stabbing stew of Bionicle pieces, Lego bricks and Hot Wheels cars.
We didn’t get it when the crowd separated into several scrimmage lines that broke out like an avalanche into forbidden areas of the house, screaming through hallways, up and down stairs, across the kitchen and into bedrooms, armed with walkie talkies, spy cars and (normally innocuous) domestic tools now intended for violence.
And we still didn’t get it when, at 9 o’clock, we put a Hot Wheels movie on our pretend-cinema screen in the living room to “wind them down”, they exploded into a rampageous mob resembling the homecoming crowd (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=tAt8tV0_ASI) in Animal House (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B001CW7ZXA?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B001CW7ZXA).
We did start to get it, however, when 10 o’clock struck and there were little or no signs of abatement.
If those kids thought they were giving us old fools a damned good education, they were more than up to the task.
That was when Frank sunk into an armchair and, for a brief time, became an observer, rather than a referee.
“This is like being trapped in a saloon full of drunken, brawling sailors on a Saturday night” he said, failing to keep the awe from creeping into his voice.
“Laundry” I replied, realizing that my hearing was beginning to go.
“What?” he replied uncomprehendingly. Was his hearing fading too?
“Frank, I really need to fold some laundry right now. In our bedroom. I won’t be long.” (My tone was wheedling now.)
I figured no wife ever got shot while folding the laundry.
After eleven, my guilt overcame me and I emerged from our bedroom, mildly resuscitated—and now as determined as a kamikaze pilot, to the nail the target.
And there was Frank, in The Thinker’s pose (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Thinker), having sunken further into his chair as the party revelers danced around him, like the masses at Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Dick_Clark%27s_New_Year%27s_Rockin%27_Eve_with_Ryan_Seacrest), long after the ball has dropped in Times Square.
He was a broken man.
And I—well, I was his comrade. There was going to be no more pacifist Quiet Police. No more “Shhhhh! Use your whispering voice please!”
No more Mrs. Nice Mom.
In that moment, I remembered my mother (long ago passed away) when she caught us, as children, surreptitiously jumping on our beds and giggling, long past the bedtime hour.
Like a Hitlerian traffic cop, her outstretched arm would point down to the beds, her voice as shrill as a screeching whistle.
“That’s it! All of you! GET TO BED! NOW!”
And we knew she meant business.
In a modern world that panders (sometimes to a fault) with reverence to the whims and demands of the “whole child”, there’s still something to be said for old fashioned methods.
On the count of “three”, there was not another peep from nine sleeping bags, lined up on the family room floor, all in a row.
Happy Birthday to all and to all a good night!
A trembling sigh was heaved, in unison, by the two token octogenarian twits, still standing.
Those feeling a glimmering of concern for Frank should know, he is now in recovery. This was aided and facilitated when, the next day, Alex came to sit on his father’s knee.
“Daddy? That was the best birthday party I ever had.”
Note to readers:
In the post-apocalyptic slumber party days, I did a little research and found help in some unlikely places.
Ever the pragmatist, however, if you have a hankering for a little parental self-flagellation in the form of Animal House—The Elementary School Version, read this excellent article, because I wish I had:
http://www.jewishaz.com/issues/story.mv?060707+slumber (http://www NULL.jewishaz NULL.com/issues/story NULL.mv?060707+slumber)
Notes for this blog:
Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/) (www.flowerpowermom.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/)), a regular blog featuring news, commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40.
- (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/health/health-headlines/women-increasingly-going-online-to-seek-free-sperm-donors-1 NULL.1590245)
Angel on CNN(http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)
CNN Mother's Day: "Mature Moms" (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)(http://youtu NULL.be/atScMih4_d0) (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
AARP's "Inside E-Sreet" on PBS TV (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
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