WAAAAAYYYYYY back in 1982, it was the summer before my 8th grade year, I attended a sleepover at my friend Lisa's house. My memory is a bit rusty at this point... but, I recall there were six of us running around the little bedroom community we lived in. Elm Grove, Wisconsin...The Grave for short. Anyways, we had snuck out to t.p. the home of a [male] classmate who lived about a half of a mile away. I was 13-years-old and that's whatcha did "back in the day" when you had a bunch of girls sleep over. The Grave was a sleepy little village that all but shut down by 10 p.m. The six of us ran through the dark streets giggling and dodging car lights, singing our favorite 80s pop tunes at the top of our lungs (think Journey/Foreigner/ACDC). Innocent fun. Lisa's parents had no idea we had even left the second floor of their home...we returned a few hours later and many, many t.p. rolls lighter, none the worse for wear.
Sleepovers took on a new meaning by the time I was sixteen. At that point I was using them to be able to go with girlfriends to seedy bars in downtown Milwaukee where we would be served [plenty of] alcoholic beverages and then [somehow] get ourselves back home to the 'burbs in one piece. Best to hold these sleepovers at the home of someone whose parents (a) went to bed early and didn't get up when a bunch of noisy girls walked in the door or (b) partied themselves. A bit dicier than our earlier antics, but everyone was doing it so I went along for the ride. I never really spent much time considering what the consequences might be...after all, I was sixteen.
Fast forward to the mid-90s. My oldest son [occasionally] had friends sleepover. And he would sleepover at friend's homes as well. It wasn't very often, boys don't "do sleepovers" as often as girls (at least that's been my experience). However, we discontinued all sleepover activity for him once his 16th birthday "sleepover party" rolled around and he and some friends got caught by the local police smoking cigars in the park. I know, it could have been worse, but it was enough for me to begin thinking about what I had been doing at sixteen.
Son number two had occasional sleepovers, and did the same throughout high school. Once it was even a school night before an all-day varsity tennis tournament. That was never repeated, I'm not sure what I was thinking ...we all know you don't actually sleep at a sleepover. How well do you think he did in that tournament when the coaches were counting on he and his teammates to play their best?
Son number three, now a freshman in high school, had sleepovers on and off until about a year ago, when, after Tom and I rethought the sleepover concept, we instituted a "NO sleepover" rule at the Muench house.
I know, it sounds harsh. We risk being labeled "boring", "no fun", and the ultimate slight..."too strict". I thought I would throw our logic out there, not for you to judge, but so in the future when we are asked I can just say, " Go to my website, see the post dated September 24, 2012, you will better understand."
So Kim, why don't you allow your kids to participate in one of the most elemental, joyous rites of passage in childhood?
1. I remember the kind of crap I used to pull as a teenager, not that my kids would automatically do the same, let's face it we all hope our kids do things differently than we did. But, they do have a genetic link. On top of that, I rarely allow my kids to walk around our "very middle class" neighborhood in broad daylight, if I discovered they decided to run around t.p.ing someone's house in the dead of night it would cause me to have a coronary...and I don't want to have to blame anyone else's parents for my child's bad decision. If they sneak out of our house there is no one to blame but me. (BTW if you are one of my minor children reading this post I wasn't kidding about being a really light sleeper...)
2. I have had enough experience with sleepovers to know sleeping is the last thing that actually takes place. This means a tired, crabby child is coming home to me, no thanks. Why don't they just call them "up all nights"?
3. Sure, when they are 7,8,9,11, maybe you can control the sleepover a bit more...quiet and asleep by midnight is the rule...but I am old, and when I want to go to sleep I do not want to be disturbed by loud talking/laughing, my kitchen being open all night long (not to mention waking up to a ton of dirty dishes), inappropriate television or movies being watched at 2 a.m., the thought that I have to get up and check in at 4 a.m. to make sure kids are actually in sleeping bags. And, I have learned from experience it is very challenging to tell your kid at sixteen "Sorry, no more sleepovers...I'm just trying to protect your best interest honey. It's not that I don't trust you, it's just I know the older you get the more you'll be tempted and by sleeping in your own bed every night I am eliminating one source of potential conflict for your conscience." I will not have the stamina to do that when my daughter hits her teen years. Long story short, if you have never been able to attend, or have, a sleepover, then they never need to have to be stopped later.
Sounds logical, right? Both Mia (7) and Maddux (9) have been invited to a number of [birthday] sleepovers in the past few years. By kids who have been over to play many times and they have parents I know and trust. This is not, in any way, a judgment on anybody else's parenting skills.
So, here is our plan for the three kids left under our roof...you may go to the party, but we will pick you up at 10 p.m. (obviously it is a bit different with the 14-year-old). If you don't like it, you don't have to go [to the party].
Part of the logic which has been, and will continue to be expressed:
I am not here to be your friend, I am here to be your parent and we won't always see eye to eye on things. The decisions we are making for you are in your best interest [insert eye roll] and won't always be the outcome you'd like or think is fair.
It has been challenging already, especially with Mia. She's got a new request, "Can I just have two friends sleep at OUR house for my birthday, please mom...please, please? It's only once a year?!" Slippery slope...I want to indulge her birthday wish, it is simple, cheap and would make her day. But I won't. That hurts me more than you would think. Really.
I know there will be some parents who think I am overdoing it. That's fine, I absolutely respect that you allow your kids to have, and go on sleepovers...just be sure they don't t.p. our house!