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Congratulations, You Have Two New Boys

Last week our household gained two new members: in addition to my teens (Son and Daughter), we now had two more teenaged boys.

(Names will be changed to protect the innocent – me, them, none of us, whatever.)

Last week we hosted two nice young men (hereafter referred to as NYM1 and NYM2) from Central America as they attended the weeklong The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN).

Each year some 3,500 students from around the globe converge on the World Forum in Den Haag to participate in mock General assembly and subcommittee sessions, draft and vote on resolutions, and debate the full range of pressing issues facing our world.

In order to defray costs for the incoming students, families of local international school participants from this area agree to host two students.

It’s basically pick them up, provide a bed to sleep in/breakfasts/dinners, ensure they get to the appropriate daily bus or tram, and drop them off when it’s time for them to leave.

Piece of cake, right? It’s not as if we were newbies to hosting students.

We’ve done so many times as Son’s and Daughter’s school requires hosting of visiting athletes (also musicians, actors, debaters and so on). In turn, our kids are guests with host families of other international schools when they travel for activities.

But that’s often for one night only, maybe three if they’re here for a tournament. 

Guest athletes usually have an earlier curfew and aren’t allowed to go out in the evenings unless with their host family. And they are often too tired from having traveled here and just played a game or competed in a match , with another early the next morning, to be up for much in the way of sightseeing.

Still, it’s a great way for our teens to meet others in a similar position, and find out their life stories (how’d you end up in Cairo? Paris? Frankfurt? Waterloo?). They learn how to be good hosts and (hopefully) good guests.

So how did a week-long doubling of the number of children ( all teens – ACKK!!!) in the house go?

In four words: Great and cumulatively exhausting.

Let me reiterate that NYM1 and NYM2 were very good guests. Thoughtful, engaging, flexible, appreciative and adaptive to the household. All-around nice guys who are invited to stay with us again next year.

So why the exhaustion? Mornings had taken on the precision of a carefully orchestrated military operation.

I continued rising at the crack of dawn to ensure Daughter was up, getting ready and out the door (still in the darkness) to catch the bus to the international school.

Son was also participating in THIMUN, but in a different capacity than NYM1 and NYM2. Just as Daughter was leaving, he was finishing getting ready. He’d grab a quick breakfast before heading out.

(We happen to live within walking distance of the World Forum, a fortunate blessing that our guests came to appreciate greatly. Most other participants had to rise earlier to catch buses or trams.)

As Son was heading out the door, the real logistical hijinks began. NYM1 was quite good about setting his own alarm, and the agreement between them was that NYM1 would shower and get ready first, then wake NYM2 (not as much of a morning person).

However, they had to work around Husband, who was waking at slightly different times each day due to this earlier-than-usual morning meeting and that last-minute-report to turn in.

Let me tell you, the current hit ballet movie Dark Swan has nothing on these three as they practically pirouetted around each other in the hallway on the way to and from the shower. 

By the time we got NYM1, NYM2 and Husband out the door, Oli would literally pass out on the carpet and fall into a deep slumber for several hours. (He takes his job as protector/overseer very seriously.)

Only then could I turn my attention to whatever projects I needed to get done.

Late afternoons and early evenings became almost a reverse of the morning rush, except that none of the 4 teens ever returned to the house in the same order. I was used to thinking ‘Oh it’s Monday, Son will arrive at this time and Daughter needs to be picked up at that time.’

Adding two more to the equation almost blew a circuit in the scheduling part of my brain. You feel responsible for them, watching over them as you would want someone else to watch over your own kids if they were in a foreign country.

And these were well-behaved kids. Can you imagine what it would have been like dealing with four teens who liked to push the limits, test boundaries??

I can barely handle two. I haven’t a clue how folks with more kids do it. 

I’d plan dinners and buy groceries assuming we’d all be home for the evening meal.  When we all ate together we had a very enjoyable time. The three boys were all enjoying THIMUN immensely, and excitedly shared the day’s highlights.

Sometimes we’d plan on a family dinner only to have NYM1 and NYM2 bow out at the last minute due to a conflicting evening commitment with their school delegation. Face it, they’re teens: they don’t always remember what their school trip coordinator told them regarding the scheduled events, or else they might forget to tell you of said aforementioned event.

Don’t even get me started with the curfew requirements. NYM1 and NYM2 were always respectful of their evening curfew, and never missed it.

The rules that NYM1 and NYM2’s school went by were that if they went out with friends or the host family on a night that didn’t have a school-required activity, they had to call and report in to the school trip coordinator as soon as they returned home.

If they missed the curfew on a night where they’d been out at a school activity and then missed curfew, whether through missed transportation or stopping along the way home or just plain straggling, the host parent was required to phone their school trip coordinator who then would have to launch a search.

Needless to say, if you were the cause of the activation of such a response, you’d end up in BIG trouble. Not clear what that was, but NYM1 and NYM2 were terrified. Someone had clearly put the fear of God into them.

During the week my teens don’t tend to be out at night, so this was a little new to me. (Husband was having week from hell at work so I had taken over nighttime head counts and corralling of teens.) But even Son went out one evening to join a reunion of THIMUN folks he’d met and worked with last year.

Between the three boys’ evening activities, comings and goings, curfews and phone calls, it was like Grand Central Station (or I should say Centraal Station) around here. Like I said, NYM1 and NYM2 never missed curfew. Well, okay, maybe one night by a few minutes and there was a little scrambling, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The morning they left to return home, I was up at 5:45 to get them and their luggage to the chartered bus that would take them to Schiphol Airport. They thanked me profusely, we exchanged last minute info, hugged and said our goodbyes. Such nice, nice young men.

And when I got back to our house? I collapsed on the carpet next to Oli and passed out.

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