For his birthday, I let my 12-year-old have six of his friends spend the night. Here’s what I learned during their sleepover party about his particular demographic:
They never talk about girls.
Or they are very, very, very secretive and use code words so it sounds like they are talking about video games. If that is true, then all they do is talk about girls.
They will take every opportunity to wrestle.
They try to imitate moves that they see on TV. When they hurt each other, they take care of each other. Blood? The match will stop indefinitely. No blood and you’ll get two minutes of concern after which point you’ll get accused of faking it. As a parent, you have two alternatives: Ignore it, or break it up. I tried to referee to keep it safe and got accidentally kicked in the groin.
They love horror movies.
Some of them need to sleep with the lights on after horror movies. Everyone is OK with this, which I find touching.
They love to argue.
Cats versus dogs, Call of Duty vs. Grand Theft Auto, sweatpants vs. jeans. Anything is fair game for a debate. Arguments are often based on misinformation. Overheard: “Jeans don’t let your skin breathe.”
They love to brag about things that are not very impressive.
Or things that are impossible. One boasted that he can make quesadillas. Another can rake a whole yard in seven minutes.
They have extreme brand loyalty.
One would not drink 7Up, only Sprite. One wouldn’t drink anything but water unless I had Mountain Dew, which I didn’t (I’m not an idiot). One could tell the nacho cheese chips were Trader Joe’s brand. Not OK, apparently. Lesson learned.
They are self-governing.
All disagreements are settled within their group. No parental involvement necessary.
They can sleep soundly on the floor.
Without a mattress or a pad or anything. As if they’ve lost their passport so they’re camping out on the floor of a bus depot in Bangkok.
Some of them sleep insanely deeply.
Coma-like. One kid slept through a highly competitive game of Nerf basketball being played right above him.
They don’t care about their socks.
They leave them in every corner of the house and when they get picked up by their parents in the morning, they do not collect their socks. When I say, “Hey, you left your socks in the corner,” they pretend not to hear me.
Their socks smell.
Like a combination of stinky cheese, Fritos and mildew. The scent hangs in the nostrils for hours, even after all socks have been rounded up and put in the wash.
Some of them are extremely likable and have wonderful manners.
Some tell me how good my food is, ask me how I slept and thank me for “being so cool.” Others make no attempt to interact with me and leave without saying thank you.
The 12-year-old boy is a wondrous being, and I feel lucky to have one in my life for one whole year. Wedged between boyhood and manhood, my son and his friends live in this transitional space, and they’re more than OK with that. Their presence reminds me to roll with my own periods of extreme change—and that I should wash my socks from time to time.