Home alone is a vacation compared to a 13-year-old and his sleep-over pal

February 01, 1996|By Kevin Cowherd

Another evening in paradise:

5 p.m. -- The 13-year-old asks if his friend Derrick can sleep over. In a smooth, reflex action honed by years of practice, I say no. That's part of the fun of being a parent: seeing the little light go out from their eyes when you crush their hopes like an empty beer can.

The boy accepts this decision gracefully, stomping up to his room and loudly asking if he was adopted.

5:04 -- The boy asks if the no-sleep-over decision could be re-evaluated. He cites a recent hike in his grades, improved relationship with his sister, heightened religious commitment, etc., painting himself as the logical successor to Gandhi in terms of selflessness and overall human decency.

OK, OK, I say. But you have to ask Derrick's mom first.

5:05 -- Derrick materializes from the next room. He says he already asked his mom, it's fine with her.

Right away I'm thinking: What the hell is WRONG with Derrick's mom, anyway? I've only met her once, a perky woman with a mouthful of teeth that gleam like Chiclets.

Now it's clear she's one of those annoying do-gooders, the sort of person who probably volunteered to sell ads for her high school yearbook.

7:00 -- Derrick arrives for the night. He's lugging a backpack big enough for scaling the north face of the Matterhorn.

"Whatcha got in there, Derrick?" I say. "The usual stuff: microscopes, slide rules, biology texts?"

Derrick pulls out a Super Mario video game, CDs by Blues Traveler, Nirvana and the Dave Matthews Band and a bag of Doritos the size of a water heater.

Clearly, here's a phrase we won't be hearing from these two guys: "Good news, I've been accepted at Yale!"

7:20 -- The boys decide to play some Nintendo.

It's a friendly game of Mortal Kombat III featuring a host of dysfunctional screwballs, among them: Sub-zero, who shoots deadly, decapitating ice balls from his hands; Sheeva, a freakish Amazon with four lethal arms and a major attitude problem; and Kabal, a whirling dervish who slices his opponents with this can opener-like device.

I guess a game of Scrabble is out of the question.

8:55 -- It's quiet downstairs. TOO quiet.

I creep softly down to the family room like I'm Kojak on stake-out and . . . good God, what's THIS?!

They're watching a cable movie, "Leprechaun.' It's about some psycho leprechaun who goes around wasting people by biting them, slashing them with his belt buckle, catching them in bear traps, etc.

"Guys, I don't think this movie's for you," I say. "How 'bout watching 'Step by Step?' "

They look at me as if I had suggested "The Fox and the Hound."

9:10 -- The boy comes to me, clears his throat and says: "You know I never ask you for anything "

"You ALWAYS ask for things," I say.

"Name one," he says.

"You ask for money, clothes, shoes, food, medicine, sports equipment, rides to the mall, rides to the movies, beach vacations, video games, school supplies, haircuts "

"Can we order a pizza?" he says.

9:40 -- The pizza arrives.

Apparently the kids ordered extra cheese, extra pepperoni and extra onions, because the pizza weighs as much as a manhole cover.

11:00 -- There is a philosophy which says that the only way to get kids to bed during a sleep-over is to start early and wear them down psychologically -- worse than what the Viet Cong practiced on downed American fighter pilots in 'Nam.

To that end, I go downstairs and say: "Time to get ready for bed."

The two of them look at each other and go back to their board game.

"That's a good one, Dad," the boy says.

11:45 -- There is a philosophy which says that the only way to get kids to bed during a sleep-over is to lean on them Don Corleone-style.

"You're going to bed in 15 minutes, or you both sleep with the fishes," I tell the boys.

They grumble, and the grumbling has a dark, mutinous edge to it.

I might have to use the pepper spray.

What's with these little brats, don't they ever get tired?

Next time, I'm gonna have them put Darvon in that pizza.

12:45 -- Finally, lights out. I still hear them laughing and talking, but the worst is over. I can put away the pepper spray.

You never like to use that stuff. Makes the guests feel like they're not welcome.

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