Blue or red-checked?
I agonized over what pattern I should opt for in the sleeping bag my mom was purchasing. What would look the coolest? I couldn't fail my first sleepover, especially when every girl in my class would be there.
It wasn't until 4th grade that my parents finally acquiesced in letting me go to my first sleepover. I was late to the game, as many of peers had been attending sleepovers since Kindergarten or first grade. My first sleepover was a birthday party, and pretty much everything you'd imagine in an overnight bonanza: gluttonously grubbing on food, listening to music, playing Truth or Dare, gossiping and a lot of giggling. Just about anything but sleeping. I went home the next day in a zombie state, having had a scant amount of shut eye while my blood coursed with pure sugar.
Over the years, I spent many a night over the houses of friends - too many to count. Some were group sleepovers; others just one-on-one. I think back on these nights fondly (if not sleepily).
Now that I have a second grader, the sleepover requests have begun. There haven't been any official sleepover birthday parties (yet), but a few inquiries of having a friend stay the night.
And I'm conflicted.
Sleepovers were a definitive part of my childhood, but, as a parent, I feel there are so many things to consider. Part of my hesitancy comes from my pre-kids work with Children, Youth and Families. I have so many stories, friends. Insane, sad, mystifying tales of the things that happen to kids. The disturbing reality of abuse is that perpetrators are almost always someone a child knows, and happens in a place a child would consider "safe."
One can't unknow, unhear, unsee the things I counseled as a caseworker. Some cases still haunt me. While this is a huge roadblock for me, there are others. I am concerned about not knowing parents well enough. Who are the people taking care of my child? Is the house safe? Are there weapons? Drugs?
I also think of the mischief I got into during sleepovers. Most incidents were innocuous enough: prank phone calls, Truth or Dare, unsuccessful cooking experiments. But I definitely encountered activities that bordered on age-appropriateness. And with bullying (particularly in social media) such a serious social issue right now, I worry that sleepovers make unsuspecting kids easy targets.
There is also the question of whether or not a kid is simply ready.
My friend, Julie, of Juliverse has a great post which serves as a checklist for whether or not your child is ready for a sleepover. Both of my girls mostly pass the obstacles Julie covers, and I feel they are generally ready, socially and emotionally. Chica has some issues with nightmares (previously, night terrors) and talking in her sleep. So, that's also a definite reservation.
Where does that leave me? I vacillate between embracing the innocent fun of sleepovers and wariness of the potential hazards. I know kids need to learn independence, and I am hardly what one would consider a Helicopter Parent.
But it's also our duty to keep our kids safe. Were sleepovers "less dangerous" when I was a kid? Of course not. There are new struggles today, though, that we didn't have to contend with ten or twenty years ago; namely, social media. And that's not something to overlook.
So, I'm still undecided. I'd love to hear others weigh in on the topic:
Are you okay with sleepovers?
What age is appropriate to begin overnights with friends?
What safeguards, if any, does your family have in place when it comes to sleepovers?
Join the conversation - leave a comment because I'd love to consider your thoughts.