Sebastian and Elliott

I arrived home from work to find a man tidying up the basketballs and scooters strewn about my driveway. He introduced himself as Hughes’ dad. With a smirk and a shrug, he said he tracked his son to my house using the GPS function on Hughes’ phone. He was having trouble getting in touch with him, and they were late for the younger brother’s birthday party. He seemed like a nice guy and this was an impressive use of technology for sure, but it occurred to me that I had no idea who Hughes was. Just then the kid emerged from my backyard and thanked me for having him over. Nice kid. You’re welcome, Hughes.

Scenarios like this have become commonplace. Elliott has made a lot of friends at middle school, so weekends bring new faces by the house. I don’t know if there is a scientific name for it but it’s as if all sixth-grade boys have had a partial lobotomy. Elliott could wake up on a Monday and left unprompted, he may not complete the 10-minute walk to school until Tuesday afternoon. But now that I’ve met many of his cohorts, it’s at least comforting to see this is relatively normal.

People say we should be happy that ours is a house where the kids like to hang out, and generally they are on target. It can be amusing and there hasn’t been a “Bad News Hughes” in the bunch, not even Hughes. I’m okay with investing in huge quantities of breakfast cereal and potato chips to keep the troops happy but being a party to a missing child file is never appealing.

When kids show up at our house wearing basketball shorts in 20-degree temperatures I wonder, is it form or function? (Hint: It’s really neither.) I routinely find single, foreign socks around the house which I guess means somebody left here wearing only one? How comfortable could that be? I’ll drop kids off at their homes to directions like “go over there, and then when you see like, a white house or something, turn.” And then invariably, “you just passed it.”

Apparently one kid texted his dad at 3 a.m. from our house asking to be picked up by 8 a.m. (reasons unclear). Everyone in the house was still asleep when the doorbell rang, including the kid, including me. Not that a 7:45 a.m. meeting with a stranger in your underwear is awkward or anything. I think he asked me what I do for a living. I think I answered “coffee.”

A couple Fridays ago, Elliott showed up after school with seven friends, three boys and four girls. Kristen and I had just completed our Dry January, so we planned to celebrate with drinks at a neighbors’ house. Evidently though, we were hosting a tween party. We decided to take the mature route by ordering a couple pizzas and putting Margo in charge.

Just as we reached the neighbors’ house, Kristen had a text from one of the kid’s moms. He was sleeping over and she wanted to stop by and meet us. So, Kristen went back home only to find the kid had set off on foot to his house, a mile away, at dusk, to get some stuff. Why these kids even bother is beyond me. Rarely is a toothbrush even unpacked from the overnight bag. In fact, I’m pretty sure this bag of stuff is still sitting in my basement.

So now there was a concerned mom we’ve never met before in our kitchen, her 11-year-old son was unaccounted for on our 9-year-old daughter’s watch and Kristen didn’t even get her drink yet. Everything turned out to be fine, but the moral of the story is twofold: A) it was definitely Kristen’s turn to have the awkward parent encounter and B) Sixth Grade Syndrome—can I get credit for naming it?

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at

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