For five years we’ve hosted an end-of-school party. Several families and dozens of kids. It’s part celebration, part chaos.

We try to keep the children out on the front deck and in the front yard, fueled with pop and snacks. While the covered back deck is the haven for the adults. Over the years, we’ve added a couple of couches onto the deck and hung curtains around the back. An ancient wooden bar from the 1970s also migrated from our basement to the back deck. It’s become an outdoor homegrown party pad.

But something happened this year.

We live on 12 acres and the kids decided to dig a trench out in the front field. They didn’t stop there. They filled it with water. Then, they dove in.

Yes, the children were daring each other to lie in it, jump in it, belly crawl through it. It was a grand time for the kids, and the adults, well, we stood by and watched.

Which was the problem. 

There had been a time, just a few years back, when this party was a thinly disguised excuse for the adults to belly crawl through mud holes. Back then, the kids were too little to imitate (or care about) what we were doing. They were busy innocently playing on the trampoline out front while we came up with stupid things to do out back.

There was the year that we took a tire off of Jake’s Jeep. The year my car was stolen and parked down the road with “FOR SALE” written in lipstick on the window. The year we had a Dogman walk through the woods, which made all the children cry. The time I briefly wrestled a child for stealing my “drinking bell.” And, my favorite, the year we put the couch in the yard and the guys posed like George Costanza on it.

We had a blast. We had lots of shenanigans and hijinx. We bartended and b.s.’ed. The party was held on the weekend after the last day of school and the parents had plenty of steam to blow off after our hours of idling in the pick-up/drop-off line.

This year, however, soccer tournaments hemmed us in. We were forced to have the party on the actual last day of school—a Wednesday. Too far from the weekend to really get crazy. (A Thursday would have been OK with only one unproductive Friday to face down. But a Wednesday? That’s nearly half a workweek to tangle with.)

So we sat on the back deck sipping our Wednesday-night cosmos, just one each, and traded low-calorie recipes. Whilst the kids ruined their clothes and performed belly flops out front, living out their parents’ dreams.

“Come see this!” they hollered.

Off we went in our sensible shoes and unsoiled shirts to observe their foolishness. A little part of me died inside. What was happening?!

Someone brought up our “glory days” and fears were raised: Were they really behind us in our early 40s? We assured each other that they weren’t, even as we checked our legs for ticks and sipped water.

The party seemed to be a disaster for the adults. Everyone was upright. I had bought the “ideal inflatable husband” to bartend but he had almost zero business for the evening. No one was shouting abuse at anyone else, and, worst of all, someone asked what time it was.

We had grown up. I was in horrors. We would, every one of us, feel fine tomorrow morning at work.

Sure enough, as the mud-diving children grew cold, their reliable parents started making noise about leaving. I thought of the days when 10 p.m. was kick-off time and took a moment to honor the memory of our youth.

But. Tim saved the day. While everyone was busy refusing to do our traditional “Sparkle Donkey” tequila shots, he carried on the tradition of party pranks.

With the help of another dad, a certain Jeep was Saran-wrapped shut. (It pays to have a builder for a husband because he had a huge roll to wrap pallets with.) In no time, the Jeep was sealed for freshness.

What a relief! We could still have fun. (I was only disappointed that Tim had been so sensible. No long-term damage to the paint job, etc.)

Nevertheless, it was a good prank and everyone got a laugh out of it.

Then, revenge was extracted. After bidding everyone an early-bird goodbye, I went inside to eat the leftover cake that all of my mature, calorie-counting friends had turned down.

And… the utensil drawer was gone. In its place, the towel drawer. My kitchen drawers had all been switched out. More hunting revealed bananas in the dishwasher and a saltshaker in the microwave. Jeep Jake had sought his tender-handed, age-appropriate revenge. Because what’s worse than ransacking the kitchen of a soccer mom? Nothing.

In addition, someone (Megan) had put a plastic crab in my bed. And Tim’s deer target stood in the shower. Again.

Tim and I were laughing. We could still get (mildly, sensibly, carefully) crazy.

And then, the signature close to the night rang out: The Jeep, trailing Saran Wrap in its wake, laid rubber as it hit the pavement at the end of our long dirt driveway. Ah, yes, the end of another successful party.

And the adults were home and in bed by a (work-appropriate, Sparkle Donkey-free) 10:30 p.m.

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