Last Saturday night, Wilson and I were at Eli’s baseball game, freezing our asses off in the dark and willing it to be over when we received a text. It was Aden who was with a bunch of friends at our block party, and he was asking for a sleepover.
Every time one of our kids asks for a sleepover Wilson’s visceral and immediate reaction is “NO!!!”
Wilson doesn’t get riled up over much but if there are two parenting scourges he despises most it’s Playdoh (hardened in the bottom of the toy box and carpet is his fav)….and sleepovers.
“No good ever comes of sleepovers!” he wails each time, as if I’m not aware of his feeling on the subject. “They stay up too late and come home tired and cranky!!”
And he’s right. No matter how many times they swear they’ll go to bed early, they always stay up late and teeter on a tantrum the following day. Or they get sick. Or break a bone. Or bring back lice.
When you host, there’s always the risk of the anxious kid tapping you at 2am pleading to go home…or the broken chips in the bottom of the sleeping bags and sticky juice spills on whatever surface was closest to the video controller.
What’s nuts is that they have zero memory of any of the negative effects the dreaded sleepover has on them. It’s as if their recall of raging, crying, and passing out in a bowl of rice at dinner the following day have been zapped from their brains.
I don’t care for sleepovers either– in the same way I don’t like the shiny synthetic sports shorts my kids wear daily– but I’ve accepted them as part of boyhood. Sometimes you have to let kids be kids, even when you know there’s a better way.
So I’m usually the one talking Wilson off the “NO!” ledge by offering reasons why spending the night at a friend’s house (or worse, at our house) might be ok. Wilson loves a good excuse, so our rule is generally no sleepovers if you have a game the next day before 2pm. One of the virtues of Hebrew school at 9am every Sunday is that it eliminates many Saturday night sleepover opportunities. Homework can also serve as a deterrent.
But none of those applied Saturday night. I texted the host mom to make sure she hadn’t lost her senses by opening her home to 3 pre-teen boys determined to play Xbox and text girls all night. She (foolishly) insisted it was no problem so Wilson relented and Aden was off.
Not 15 minutes later we got a text from Jacob asking to sleep at his friend’s house. While we wanted to say no– because the more he’s out of our sight, the more likely he is to get into trouble– we couldn’t come up with a legitimate reason.
Sleepovers at 15 are a whole other concern. We’ve developed communication avenues and trust with Jacob, and the “make good decisions!” mantra is so overused (I literally say it every time he leaves, even for school in the morning) it’s become almost comical.
But still. If he wants to be out of the house on a weekend night, there is a high possibility of shenanigans.
Part of the reason I give in when the boys beg for an overnight with friends is because I remember how much I loved sleeping over when I was growing up. Some of my favorite memories are of crashing in my friend Deb’s basement after crank calling boys, pounding Diet Cokes and having deep talks about life as James Taylor, Queen, and Steely Dan played in the background.
When we finally turned off the lights, there was a glow from the neon beer sign over her parents’ wood-paneled bar. We’d laugh until our sides ached or until one of us fell asleep. In the morning we’d eat Lucky Charms and gossip with her mom.
Good times! How can I deny my kids that bonding experience?
There are also life lessons to be learned in the 24 hours spent in another house. Navigating peer pressure, sleeping in a different bed, and respecting another family’s rules (and craziness) can be an education in itself. Sometimes it even makes kids appreciate coming home.
So when Eli asked to have a few friends sleep over for his birthday in a few weeks I said I would consider it. I’m certain I’ll regret it by 12:30am… and I’ll have to slip a Valium into Wilson’s beer to cut down on the griping.
But I’ll say yes, and hope the exhausted, crabby, ungrateful child we’re left with the next day will be overshadowed by a great memory.
What’s your take on sleepovers? Tell me in the comments.