Family / Kids / Parenting

Party Out of Bounds



Robert Shaffron and his husband John are permitted to remain in their residence through the generosity of their two magnificent sons, Benjamin and Jordan, in Maplewood, NJ. Robert has been, variously, a playwright, and advertising creative director, stock boy, dishwasher, actor/waiter, and is currently a stay-at-home LGBT activist. He also bakes a wicked lemon square.

Parents: Don’t act like you don’t know this one by heart. TREPIDATIOUS DAD: (Okay, Me)

What kind of birthday party do you want this year, sweetie? 


A sleepover.


You had a sleepover last year. And the year before that. And the…how about a bowling party?


I want a sleepover.


Miniature golf! You love miniature golf!


Sleep. Over.


(Sweating) S-s-s-Six Flags?



Can you conjecture who won the above debate? (HINT: What’s the difference between a 10-year-old and a Hockey Mom? Party Affiliation.) (We don’t have any lipstick in our house. We’re gay, but not that kind of gay.)

Now, this may just be my own personal delusion, but I have a theory that LGBT parents tend to be a wee bit more indulgent than the other kind of parent. Because we have to work so hard to get ‘em. Or make ‘em. Because many of us never even expected to be parents, and so we regard our children as we would regard winning Jeopardy!™ Because we’re afraid the rest of the world might be extra mean to them because – well, you know.

Smash cut to seven 10-year-old boys running rampant through our little suburban home. (Needless to say, there were no girls invited. As it happens, we are barred from even uttering the G word in our house. Jordan has already informed us that he’s going to be gay like Papi and Daddy so he doesn’t ever have to marry a girl. A sure sign that our son is irretrievably heterosexual.)

After about 46 hours of Xbox, pizza, Capri Sun™, and buckets of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, we urge the children to go to sleep. Some three weeks later, they have found their way upstairs, changed into a bizarre selection of sleep ensembles, and pretended to brush their teeth. Seven tiny sleeping bags are arrayed cheek-by-jowl on the floor of Jordan’s modestly sized bedroom. Sleepover. Sleeping bags. The only thing missing is actual sleep.



My husband and I (full disclosure: we aren’t married. We’re officially Domestically Partnerized. And legally Civilly Unionated. But in our state, a certain governor and late-night talk show guest has determined that it’s in his best interest for us to remain in a non-married arrangement. But after 26 years together – thank you, it is fabulous, isn’t it? – I reserve the right to call him my husband, as well as a number of other, um, endearments) are only one room away, gazing blearily at our TV, accompanied by the muffled, heartwarming sound of young boys Googling “boobs” on somebody’s smart phone. And some time between Rachel Maddow and Lockup, it hits me.

All of Jordan’s friends’ parents have placed their prepubescent boys in our overnight care without a second thought. Two men. Two gay men. Would this have happened without incident 20 years ago? Would this have happened without incident 10 minutes ago in Oklahoma?

And so I give my husband and myself a little virtual pat on the back for being part of the generation that has brought us this far. And then I groan out of bed and trudge down the hall to threaten a roomful of mouthy little boys to GO. TO. SLEEP. DAMMIT!

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  1. Robert, I love this! Perhaps because I’m about to live through your West Coast doppleganger version of it (9-year-old girl sleepover, AKA “girl-maggedon,” starts tomorrow). Only substitute a Ouiji board for the Xbox.

    I think you are right on about us being maybe slightly more indulgent, due to how hard we fought to get these kids in our lives. Perhaps again I agree because that rings so true to me.

    Main thing is: as sleep-deprived and raggedy as I expect to be come noon Sunday, I am, like you, amazed and grateful for it all.

  2. I love this piece. I love that none of the parents questioned. I hope the next generation doesn’t even have to be thankful that none of the parents questions— because it won’t occur to them to be a worry/ something to be thankful for. It will just be life.

    Thank you so much for sharing a piece of your family with us.

  3. Hahaha. Almost 20 years ago, I told a friend that when I stayed overnight at a friend’s house “two girls tried to get in bed with me.” Once her jaw was done dropping I added “They were 5 and 6 years old & thought I was their mother.”
    I adore Robert & John & Ben & Jordan.

  4. I have a 12 year old boy and an 8 year old daughter. My daughter had a slumber party for her 7th. At midnight, I went downstairs and said, “Get inside your sleeping bags and stay in them please.” A half hour later, they were still laughing and making noise. I went back down and they were all in their sleeping bags jumping around. It looked like a dance party of caterpillars. All of the girls were very close family friends (like nieces to me), I said, “You don’t seem to be listening.” One of them replied, “Yes we are. You said to stay in our sleeping bags and we did.” My son hasn’t asked for a slumber party yet. That idea strikes fear in my heart.

  5. My daughter is not quite seven and a half and already lobbying for a sleep-over when she turns eight. Her older brother never wanted one so it’s new territory for us. Scary territory.

  6. You are brave, brave men. We haven’t yet had to weather the birthday sleepover party, and I, too, dread the day.

  7. I just Googled “boobs,” and have decided to confiscate all smart phones at any and all slumber parties at our house. Also, I can’t believe that was the first time I Googled “boobs.”

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