*Author note: Before anyone gets their panties in a wad over this “article” I want to be super clear.. This is just an opinion. It just happens to be MY opinion. This is NOT a statement of how I think of your parenting. I don’t hate you. I just hate sleepovers. There is no guilt or judgment of those who love and adore sleepovers for their kids. This is merely a profanity laced opinion piece. I AM NOT JUDGING YOU. So pull your panties out of your crack. Relax and don’t take my rant personally. Because, really, it’s me. Not you.
I am not a “fan” of sleepovers (and by “not a fan” I mean I hate them. With capitol H). I. Hate. Them.
I have said this about a bazillion times over the past 7 years when I teach my parenting workshops on child safety. When the subjects of sleepovers come up, I can almost feel the tension in the room. People either love them or hate them. So when I am upfront about my dislike of sleepovers, the folks who love sleepovers often begin to staunchly defend this childhood tradition and pretty much think I am crazy. Or no fun. Or both.
Perhaps I am crazy, no fun or both. I could care less.
There was this blog a while back that mentioned a “seminar that advises against sleepovers”. Although I was not specifically mentioned, I knew it was probably my seminar she was talking about. She was shocked. Then I was lumped in with all the other folks who are “sucking the fun out of childhood” She obviously did not agree with me. That’s cool to disagree but labeling someone as “Sucking the fun out of childhood” because of safety concerns. Not cool. The blogger of course had fond memories of her shenanigans at sleepovers and hoped that her kids have the same experience. I hope they do too. Her kids also looked to be under 9 years old. Sleepovers can be cute when they are 9. They can be a nightmare once they hit middle school.
Coincidentally, not even a week after that blog was posted, a parent from a workshop shared that her sister in law happened upon two 14 year old cousins making out at the big cousin’s sleepover party at a recent family reunion. Let’s take a minute for that to sink in. Shall we? The cousins were making out.
Making. Out. (That means tongue folks).
Horror abounded of course. Yet, another parent who was also standing there listening to this whole story being told, chimed in with her own cringe worthy stories about “kissing cousins”. Apparently this is a thing.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I have not tried to embrace sleepovers. I have both hosted and attended sleepovers (as a host parent and as a child attendee). I have experienced them to the fullest. The good. The bad. The ugly. A pathetic lack of sleep and a candy hangover in the morning was the least of my worries. It was the fact that some of those sleepovers ended so badly they included (but were not limited to) general kid shenanigans and/or eventually leading to police involvement.
I had sleepovers as a kid and my relationship with them has always been complicated.
Truly, I LOVED the IDEA of the sleepover, but often was left not wanting to return to a particular house because I began to realize that people don’t even remotely try to hide their crazy when someone else’s kid is at their house. I slept in houses that I felt were “dirty” (There is a word for it now. We call it hoarding), there were homes where I was scared of the dad (turns out he was beating the $h!t out of the mom and kids) or there was just REALLY LOUD arguing going on. All. Night. Long.
I began to realize that sleepovers nearly ALWAYS put me in some sort of predicament that I needed better skills at getting out of. Most of the time I failed.
Now before you think that my parents were not on top of things by not vetting these homes out before I went over, you need to remember this was the 1970’s and it was a classic example of don’t ask / don’t tell. The families looked “normal” on the outside and my parents were not trained to ask about such personal stuff and I just did not think about telling. Boom. Train wreck sleepovers in the making.
Middle school sleepovers were just a hot mess of mean girls. However, a particular highlight at one house, was the hot “older” guy (he was probably 25 years old) with a bitchin’ Camaro who lived next door to my friends’ single mom and let us talk to him in his yard until the wee hours of the morning. WTF?
By high school I liked sleepovers a LOT more and for all the wrong reasons. There was little sleep and lots of fun. “Fun” should be specifically translated to mean boys, parties, drinking, etc.. This, coming from a kid who was pretty much a goody two shoes. Even being the goody two shoes, I managed to get my kicks and it was always during a “sleepover”. It did not matter if the parents were strict or lax in their rules. We found a way. They always find a way.
If my own experiences were not enough to put the final decision nail in the sleepover coffin for my kids, it only took me about 3 months of teaching child safety to really hate them. Wanna know why? Parents share stuff with me. Terrifying stuff.
Here is the top ten list of the most commonly reported issues that crop up during sleepovers. These have been shared with me, by parents within the last 6 months. Typically kids between ages 11 and 14. In no particular order of horror. Here they are:
Making out. (Same sex, opposite sex, kissing cousins)
Porn. Lots and lots of it.
Chatting on chat roulette sites with naked people.
Mean girls/bullying. Lots and lots of it.
Sending naked pictures of themselves and sexting that would make you blush (boys and girls)
Drinking and Smoking pot
Vandalism (This seemed to be exclusive to boys)
I get it. There are lots of places where kids can seek danger. Sleepovers are not the only cesspools of trouble out there. I am not saying all sleepovers are full of inter-family make out sessions and car thefts but I think that all parents need to be open minded to the fact that sleepovers DO present special and unique opportunities for debauchery and rule breaking. Sleepovers are a magical mix where there are extended periods of time where the kids are together, hopped upon caffeine and sugar (Plotting and planning) combined with being totally unsupervised. Be real. Parents will not be hovering over the kids between 12 AM and 5 AM. In fact, even during the awake hours the parents are probably upstairs having a cocktail and trying to drown out the awful music and incessant noise coming from the kids. Kids are tricky and determined and will find a way to get to the fun, even at “respectable homes” where “responsible parents” take away the electronics, or whose kids are straight “A” students. Danger looks like fun, sounds like fun and IS FUN. Kids like fun. Heck, remember how much goody two shoes me liked fun? “Fun” crosses all demographic and socioeconomic lines. So I think the less you stop thinking “My kid won’t like that kind of fun” and embrace the “My kid is gonna probably really like that kind of fun” you won’t be shocked when you get wind of the sleepover bullshit that transpired 3 weeks ago at little Johnny’s house or YOUR house. For the love of sweet baby Jeezuz, Stuff even went down at MY house!
Simply put, it’s smart to assess sleepovers like you would any activity your child does and decide if you are comfortable with that particular risk. My kids think I am a jerk sometimes for not letting them go to sleepovers. I am TOTALLY OK being the asshole parent about this. However, I am their hero since I am totally OK with letting them ride bikes in the neighborhood, stay home alone and eat a shit ton of their candy at Halloween. There are other parents who are not comfortable with that risk and that is OK !! Those parents might love sleepovers and that is OK too.