This week, my husband is traveling, which leaves me home with the kids. In my house, that means a revolving door of neighborhood pals and school buddies, and that our house is unofficially sleepover central.

It’s messy, chaotic, sometimes expensive, and a lot of work. But I love it. Here’s why.

1. Their laughter is the balm of my soul.
My teen can be sullen and crabby. My tween is reserved and often keeps to himself.

But when their friends are over, our house bubbles with laughter. They could be splashing in the pool, shooting hoops, coasting on the tree swing, playing video games or stuffing their faces.

Their laughter permeates and multiplies when they’re with their chosen people. And it’s music to my mama heart.

That alone is worth it, but it’s not the only reason I love a house full of middle-schoolers.

2. I get to know my kids’ friends.
I know who says “please” and “thank you”. Who yearns for some one-on-one adult conversation. Who cherishes a home-cooked meal. And who puts his dishes away without prompting and offers to load the dishwasher.

I know who stays home alone most of the time and who’s responsible for a younger sibling. I know who has strict parents and whose dad works three jobs to keep the lights on. Who always needs a ride. And whose mom will show up early and text me twice beforehand.

And yes, I’ve even discovered who swears behind closed doors but lays on the charm in front of my face. And who doesn’t follow my rules and has a negative influence on my child.

Just being around these kids, having them hang out at my house for hours on end, I’ve learned more about my children’s friends than I could have ever hoped. And, trust me, it provides endless fodder for insight and conversation with my own offspring, once the crew has migrated back to their own residences.

3. And simply, I can.
I used to get annoyed when my kids didn’t get reciprocal invitations. Especially when they were younger. But I stopped with that. Sure, it’s nice to ship them over to their buddies’ houses on occasion, but a few years ago I decided to keep the invitations flowing no matter what.

I finally realized that other parents have younger kids at home, rigid work schedules, custody agreements, health issues, or they simply aren’t comfortable turning their homes into Grand Central Station for the sake of their children’s social lives. Trust me, I get it.

So I’ll volunteer. I’ll stock my fridge with root beer. I’ll clip the pizza coupons and buy the big boxes of spaghetti and pancake mix. I’ll do some extra vacuuming, dishwashing and taxiing around town. And wash another load of blankets and towels. Because I know the chaos is fleeting. I know the constant sleepovers and lingering stench of teenage boys will eventually fade away.

So I will host them now, and every weekend I can.

Because the loud dinners with five boys scrunched around my kitchen table, laughing and joking and consuming massive amounts of pasta, thanking me profusely for that extra helping of garlic bread, sharing a little about their teen and pre-teen lives, is just as wonderful for me as it is for them.

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Jacqueline Miller

Jacqueline Miller is the lone female in a house full of guys. She travels freakishly light and can balance two kids on her Dutch bicycle. Her recent articles appear in Scary Mommy, Her View From Home and Sammiches & Psych Meds, and she’s working on a book about her three years in the Netherlands. If you enjoyed this, you can follow her at www.boogersabroad.com and https://www.facebook.com/boogersabroad.