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Dodging the Sleepover Bullet

I think I was in fifth grade when I was invited to a sleepover at Becky’s house.  She was the new girl in school, a tiny school of only seven classes, one for each grade.   New kids were rare and exotic and either fiercely coveted for friendship or quickly deemed uncool.  Becky, who I later learned had moved numerous times in her elementary career, was savvy in the ways of fickle school girls and invited several of us over for a sleepover at her house that promised nail polish and pizza.

What we didn’t know-and certainly my parents didn’t know-was that Becky’s mom worked nights and that we’d be left alone overnight. I look back now and think how incredibly foolish it was to leave ten year old girls alone all night, unsupervised.  Of course, it never occurred to me at the time, I remember thinking how thrilling it was to have such freedom. We spent a rather harmless evening prank calling boys from our class and looking for raunchy movies on HBO. Apparently I survived the “ordeal.”

My parents were very involved parents, but in 1985, it just wasn’t that big of deal to send your child to spend the night when you didn’t know the parents well.  (For the record, I never told my parents about the lack of supervision that night, I didn’t want to get Becky or her mom in trouble.  My parents, not knowing, didn’t get the opportunity to help Becky’s mom figure out a better arrangement for overnight childcare for Becky.)

I’ll admit that I don’t fully subscribe to the free range method of parenting, so the thought of sending my children off to the care of people I have never met is mind boggling to me.  I can’t imagine dropping off my child for a playdate where I didn’t know the parents, let alone allowing them to attend an all night sleepover. Does this make me overprotective?  I certainly don’t think so, I think it means that I’m aware of who cares for my children and that I’m not going to trust complete strangers to the task.

All of this has come about because Carson, my Kindergartener, has recently come home skating around the idea of a sleepover.

“Tyler said I could come to his house for a sleepover,” he said nonchalantly one day.

Trying not to let my panic show, seeing as I’ve never even seen Tyler’s parents I said, “Oh.  Really.”

The conversation ended there (OH SWEET RELIEF!) until a few weeks later when he mentioned another boy, Matt, and another invitation to a sleepover.  This time we discussed what a sleepover was, that it would mean that he would take his pajamas and go to his friend’s house to sleep.

“And you know, Carson, I haven’t met Matt’s mom or dad.  I would need to get to know them a little better before I’d want you to sleep at their house,” I said, choosing honesty over total avoidance.

Carson looked confused.  “But, ” he paused, “Wouldn’t you sleep there, too?”

This is where I knew that I had my ace in the hole!  “No, Carson, I would drop you off and go back home.  Then you’d sleep at Matt’s house all night long, I would sleep at our house.”

Carson immediately decided that he didn’t want to go to a sleepover, “EVER!”

And that, my friends, is how I dodged the sleepover bullet.  For now.

How do you handle sleepovers?

(photo source)

Read more of Jennifer at her personal blog, Playgroups are No Place for Children and follow @playgroupie on Twitter

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