University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik experiences spring break 2012, with all three of her kids in the picture, which may or may not involve the breaking of her house.

If you have reached this level, you have worked your way through decades of preparation. This challenge will require all your skills, as it involves a young child living in the home (“Nipsey”), an older child visiting from college for spring break (“El Capitan”), and the off-screen interference of a third piece of malware, the oldest child, who lives in an apartment full of big-screen TVs and drunken 23-year-olds in another part of town (“Donald Trump”).

There are no other adults on the premises for the duration of this challenge, which begins late in the evening when you are already tired. Like the contestants in The Hunger Games, crawl over to the cornucopia and get whatever weapons you think you may need. Just remember that unlike those kids in the movie, you win only if everyone lives.

10 pm: Bedtime My Foot

Your troubles begin gradually, when Nipsey and her friend staying overnight unleash the usual demands. They want to sleep on the floor in the living room, they want to watch Twilight, they are hungry, they aren’t tired — in fact, they are squealing with manic energy. In addition to the ordinary reasons for opposing these requests, you know that El Capitan and his girlfriend Blondie will be returning from their bar tour eventually, possibly with friends, and will require the living room.

Your resistance is met by your pre-adolescent opponent with a bitter torrent of tears, snooty facial expressions, and melodramatic incriminations. The successful parent must now bellow threats (“I’m calling

Ava’s mom to pick her up right this minute!” “This is the last sleepover you’ll ever have!” “We do not use the word hate in this house!”) then disarm the rebels with a compromise. They can watch Twilight upstairs in bed on a laptop.

11 pm: Apocalypse Now

Normally you might not wait up for the return of El Capitan but under the circumstances — his first day home, little girls upstairs — you feel you must. You are on the couch, nodding off into a screenful of Amazon-Prime-eligible memory-foam mattress toppers when there is a commotion at the front door. Rushing to check it out, you witness a taxi pulling away as Blondie weeps on your porch and El Capitan pounds senselessly on the door jamb. It looks like an anger management relapse — use the next seconds to secure small electronic items and other breakables as well as any booze you have lying around.

What has happened? How has the joyous reunion of the long-distance collegiate lovers gone so wrong? Provide Kleenex and large glasses of water as the story is revealed. A long day of drinking with Blondie’s bffs left El Capitan in poor shape. Though he would have liked to return home with Blondie a.s.a.p., he was persuaded to take a cab across town to meet up with his older brother, Donald Trump. Here things broke down further as Trump was not home as advertised. Text messages established a rendezvous at a party to which Trump was allegedly on the way.

By the time Trump made his appearance at the “retarded preppie-ass” gathering, El Capitan was fuming. But Blondie wouldn’t leave without her friend Boots and Boots had no interest in departure as she was enjoying cocktails and conversation with an unattached hottie from Trump’s entourage. Masterfully, Trump sliced through the dilemma by ordering yet another cab and putting El Capitan and Blondie in it with a pile of cash and a few cans of beer.

These revelations devolve into frustrated wails as El Capitan insists that Blondie does not love him anymore and she wails that he doesn’t understand her. Unless you get these two settled down fast, you are doomed. Blondie is already half-comatose and can be herded upstairs to the bedroom but El Capitan is over a foot taller and seventy-five pounds heavier than you. Your secret weapon — he is programmed like a missile to track Blondie. Start herding.

1:30 am: The Only One Asleep in the House Is You

…and you are woken by Nipsey. Oy vey. The ruckus has restarted and Nipsey has had about enough! This is very embarrassing for her! Can’t you do something? Like rent another movie? How ’bout some Fruit Roll-ups?

Get Nipsey and her pal back in bed using whatever imprecations come to mind, though excessive profanity in front of the friend incurs penalties. Next, separate El Capitan and Blondie. Expect constant reappearances from the pesky little girls and phone calls from the neighbors.

3:30 am: Desperate Measures

El Capitan has been raving for hours on the couch and only by lying on the floor next to it as a human electric fence have you prevented his return to Blondie in the bedroom to determine for sure that she does not love him anymore. You have long since abandoned colloquy and are simply repeating, “You cannot go upstairs and wake that poor girl.” Also, “Don’t break my house.”

The wiliest of parent-warriors will now pop out 75 milligrams of Benadryl gel-caps and force them down El Capitan’s throat, using the technique perfected on the family dog.


Look at this — Blondie’s friend Boots has showed up in your kitchen, the crestfallen lovebirds have joined her at the table, and you have only to serve pots of coffee and bagels and, somehow, the hungover trio will depart as planned.  Nipsey and the friend will sleep till eleven, at which point you can mend your fences with French toast and hot chocolate. Bonus points for powdered sugar, whipped cream and marshmallows.

Rest up!  You have just two months to prepare for the summer 2012 release of SCHOOL’S OUT — FOREVER! COLLEGE GRADUATE EDITION!

Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.

University of Baltimore Professor Marion Winik is the author of "The Big Book of the Dead,” “First Comes Love,” and several other books, and the host of The Weekly Reader on WYPR. Sign up for her...

10 replies on “Overnight Parenting Adventure: Spring Break Mega-Challenge”

  1. Suffice to say, you have hit the nail on the head. Given the fact each and everyone one of those individuals were kind enough to act the role, there was nothing left to do but hand out the awards for best scene is a school-break sleep-over, family re-union show. (Give it to Nipsey — otherwise, look out for the sequel).

    Well done as always Cousin!

  2. Was this column really written by the same person who is writing about “The Hepatitis Chronicles? Good grief, Marion. I need to lay down and rest after reading your columns. You are THE master of “bad reality makes great anecdote”. As always, awestruck and amazed by your writing.

  3. I guess this is why my husband wanted to dig out the crawl space of our house and put all the kids down there…

  4. This is priceless. I hope to never have to referee this event with my own El Capitan and his Blondie ……

  5. Wow! I think I ran out of energy for that type of night when I was 38 and a half, 27 minutes and 34 seconds (at 1 AM.) I am totally impressed with anyone that can handle it even one second older than that. Ok – It’s 10PM, I’m going home to bed, now. Party on, dudes!

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