The Sleepover

Gal Smiley has been invited to a sleepover, and it’s causing me some anxiety.

It’s not the first sleepover invite she’s received. Last year, when she was in grade 2, she made friends with a girl in her class who is very, very, into sleepovers. Early in the year she started inviting the Gal for sleepovers.

This girl seemed perfectly nice and her parents seemed perfectly nice but we were a little nervous about the concept. Gal Smiley was into it, make no mistake about it, but we were the ones holding back. She just seemed too young. We didn’t know the family at all. It was a big step and we were not ready for it.

So we deferred, made excuses. The Gal went over for playdates, but we picked her up before bedtime. Still, the friend continued to press for a sleepover, making elaborate invites detailing all the plans she had for this epic event. I started to feel really guilty about saying no all the time, when it was clearly so important to other girl, and her parents really went out of their way to make us feel secure about the whole thing.

So when spring rolled around and we got one more invite – this time for the girl’s actual birthday – we decided to go for it. Everything was great, Gal Smiley got zero sleep but had an amazing time, all good.

Of course, she was invited for a sleepover the very next week. That girlfriend likes her sleepovers. We went back to making excuses.

Now it’s a new year and a new grade and two weeks in, we got our first lovingly handcrafted, extremely detailed invitation for a sleepover. GAH.

I can no longer tell if I am being a paranoid, helicopter parent, or if I’m being remotely reasonable. I’m out of excuses and I can’t really explain that I have to say no, even when both girls are excited about the idea, because it’s just too much for me, as a parent. When I was a kid, I had exactly two sleepovers, both in Grade 5, both with a girl who was my super most excellent bestest friend ever, and we were inseparable. They were amazing, but clearly defined special events. Unique experiences that would not be repeated on a weekly basis. Have times changed?

I think I am having some kind of knee-jerk reaction where I fear Gal Smiley being slowly enveloped into another family. They are more than happy to have her sleep over every weekend. But it’s not okay for me. Sorry, Gal.

I am acutely aware lately of how fleeting these days are with my children. Of course, they’ll always be my babies, but these times when I tuck them in at night with a story and a hug, then see their sleepy eye-rubbing first thing each morning, are precious and few. I love my mom and would consider us close, but the truth is I have not lived at home since I was 18 years old, and now that I live a seven hour drive away and have three kids of my own, I only see her three times a year for a couple days at a time. Maybe someday I’ll be cool with that, but while I have the chance to keep my own children close, I’m going to take it.

I like the feeling of curling up on the couch at night knowing all my kids are snug in their beds. I like the feeling of us all being together, safe in our home. I like the feeling that my family is still intact, just us, together.

Is that weird?

I used to think I’d be the kind of mom that welcomed every kid in the neighbourhood over. Who kept an open door policy, and our house would be full of my own kids, and their friends, and their friends’ friends, while I kept everyone full of cookies and apple juice (while wearing a really cute 50s style apron, of course). Now I fear I am the exact opposite – I want my family here and everyone else out there.

I know it can’t last forever – but why rush them out the door?

So for this week’s invitation – we decided not this time. Playdate, dinner, okay. Sleepover – not okay. I’m sorry, Gal – I know you’d love to go. I know this other family is kind and nice and would love to have you sleepover.

But I am going to be selfish. This time, the next time, and for as long as I can hold on.

19 thoughts on “The Sleepover

  1. CapnPlanet

    GS’s friend sounds way, way too obsessed with sleepovers, and that’s something I’d be concerned about.

    OTOH, I confess that, as much as I do dearly love my kids, I would totally welcome the opportunity to have a night off (or a quieter night with only one child to look after) by sending one of them to a friend’s house for a sleepover once in a while.

    You still have literally thousands of nights to spend with your kids before they go off to college. If it’s exciting to her (and it sounds like it is) why not give yourself a break once in a while? (Maybe with a different friend who isn’t creepy obsessed with sleepovers though.)

    That said, I’m quite curious to see how others will respond to this.

  2. I am just like you Lynn! My older son has only had a couple of sleepovers and they’ve been with a family up the street. We met when my son was six months old and their son was nine months old and our whole family knows their wholel family (we even went to the parents’ wedding).

    It’s not that I worry about him – it’s just that, like you, I feel like our family is incomplete with one missing. It makes me sad to go upstairs to brush my teeth and see his room empty.

    With this particular family, though, there’s no pressure. The boys go to different schools and sometimes don’t see each other for weeks. Then they’ll play together one afternoon and that turns into a dinner invitation and, sometimes, a sleepover. It’s relaxed and casual and, at each step we can say yes or no.

    He did have one friend a couple of years ago and the friendship disintegrated under the pressure of this other child wanting him over all the time. Pretty much every day for an after-school playdate. My son is a natural introvert and, on his own, started saying no. It wasn’t personal – it was just him needing his own space – but the other boy took it personally.

    Maybe you need to set a reasonable expectation for your family and the other family. Say, for example, one sleepover a month is OK and only on a certain night (Friday or Saturday). Then you can all plan ahead and the girls can look forward to it without you being put in the awkward position of saying no multiple times.

    1. I know, I need to man up and actually talk to them about some ground rules. Man, I hate social confrontation :). I always envisioned our first sleepovers to be with families that we knew well and were close with, possibly even cousin-type people. I’m new to this whole thing…we’ll see how it works out.

  3. What about inviting the other girl to sleep over at your place? Then everyone would get what they want. Though you might not get much sleep yourself, if the sleepovers I remember are any indication! 🙂

  4. smothermother

    I loved sleep overs! And I would have them often and often sleep at friends houses. I think they started in earnest in grade 7 (almost every weekend), but I remember having lots of them starting in grade 2 or 3. But I also had a very different childhood and welcomed having friends to be with on the weekend.

    I like Jennifer’s idea of inviting the girl over. Though a little more difficult when you already have three kids in the house! Quick question, is the girl an only child?

    I don’t think you are being paranoid, but I think it would be good to allow it every once in a while. It will teach GS some independance and you can have a little more time with the two at home. Every weekend is a little much, but every couple of months is fun and exciting and gets them planning fun stuff.

    Then again, this is just my humble opinion and every parent will do what they are comfortable doing. And that is OK. No mommy guilt here!

    1. She’s not an only child, she has a younger sister and they often both have a sleepover on the same weekend. I will try to be more open minded – having people comment here about how much they loved it and how they encourage it has been heartening!

  5. Uh Oh. I’m odd mom out. My kids had tons of sleepovers – here and there. My son was less into it until he got older and it became easier to stay than to be picked up late. But I would say that almost every weekend one of the kids was either gone or someone else slept in my house. It wasn’t the same kid, going over to the same house all the time though. And when I was a kid, I slept at my best friends house a lot. She never slept at my house because…well..she was scared of my dad and he could be scary actually. But the imbalance always bothered me. I think sleeping away teaches kids a whole lot. And at 17 and 19, they so far still love me and want to be around often so I think that’s good. And I still wake up to people in my house. I nearly sat on my nephew last Saturday morning, before I realized there was a body on the couch, lol.

    1. Well, you’re fast becoming my parenting ideal so I’m going to try to get on board with the sleepovers, at least sometimes…if I can take it!

  6. MrsCarlSagan

    I am completely on the same page with you Lynn – especially if you don’t know the family well, I would also be reluctant.

    I slept over with a friend several times a month but that wasn’t until grade 8 or 9. When they are this young yet, I think it’s okay to let them have a sleepover as a special occasion, but not as a given every weekend. For our family right now, the weekends are family time and it just wouldn’t be the same to have one of them away….those days/years are coming, but they don’t need to be here just yet. One of my concerns with sleepovers for my kids, is that our weekends are full of activities – swimming, chess club, piano practice, family outings etc., and my guys all still need a lot of sleep – the lack of sleep would surely be felt the next day and it just wouldn’t be worth it at this point.

    1. Yes! You have hit on something I left out of my original post – that weekends are family time. Since I stay home, I can do all the cleaning/shopping/laundry during the week, which means we often have plans for the weekend that are day trips or fun outings. Plus there’s classes and courses and other activities to squeeze in. That’s what I would miss!

  7. Interesting. Grade 2 seems really early for this (age 7 or 8, right?). Especially if it’s not a family you know well. We’re probably overprotective, but I don’t think I’d be ok with it until age 10 or so for friends where we don’t know the parents well. Sooner if the parents are our friends too.

    1. I think I’m solidifying the same set of guidelines in my mind. I don’t know why 7 and 8 seems so much younger than 10, but it does. Now to figure out how to articulate the rules without sounding like an idiot :).

  8. Pamela

    I completely understand how you feel……I have never been a big fan of this idea at all. Why on earth would anyone want to sleep on a floor/sofa and get no sleep at all when you have your own lovely clean soft bed, hours of sleep and a mom to tuck you in and kiss you good night……call me a helicopter mom but I know how fast the time goes and I want every minute of it.

  9. Well. I don’t have kids, but I do volunteer work with kids, so that’s where I’m coming from.

    In Brownies (7 & 8 year olds), girls typically go to camp without a parent. By 9, they’re in Guides and camping in tents. Both of these things are much easier for children and parents who have done the sleepover thing beforehand – particularly since camp can be an hour away from home, as opposed to a few blocks over. Of course, not everyone is in Girl Guides, but there are school trips and sleep-away camps and other such activities that will go much more smoothly at 12 if it’s not the first time the child has been away from home.

    And when the child is ready but the parent is not, it can turn into the child having to pass up on opportunities to make the adult comfortable, which is not healthy.

    Now, obviously that’s not the case here – you are allowing her to go on occasion – but taken to extremes it can become a really bad dynamic.

    Having said that, I agree with some of the commenters who suggested setting limits and having sleepovers at your house on occasion. Every weekend is excessive – but the best way to deal with that is probably to talk with Gal Smiley and come up with rules for when sleepovers can and will happen (once a month, on a Friday or Saturday when you don’t have X the next day, you must know the parents, must be planned 3 days in advance – whatever works for you) and then let her be the bad guy. 🙂 If she comes home with an invitation that’s too frequent, you can figure out together whether it meets the rules you’ve agreed upon.

  10. Honestly, when our 7 year old was invited to a family we know fairly well who has an only child a year older than Benjamin, we simply said no. The parents didn’t take offense even though their boy has playdates and sleepovers so regularly, it’s almost like they want them to happen. And they are ok with having the kids sleep at their house.

    But I’m not ready mostly because I don’t think our boy is ready. He hasn’t pushed it, but we haven’t been cornered or obsessively encouraged by the kid or the parents, either. Frankly, if you want your kid to sleep at home a little bit longer, what’s wrong with that?

    Having read this post I’m seriously thinking I should start a list in my blog. You know how people have the 40 before 40 things to do or whatever? Well I’m over 40 but my list wouldn’t be about me, rather it would be about all the things I will have to deal with as my kids get older. Because this sleepover topic has not become an issue here (yet) but it could be, especially with the younger one who is much more social and much more into this kind of thing (and also a girl. Sleepovers is a heavy girl topic, it seems)….

    But I stand by my opinion, for now. If I’m not ready because I feel that the child is not ready, then so be it. Certainly telling the parents of the girlfriend in a positive way so as to not alienate the friendship might help with the pressure a bit.

    Then again, I don’t know if I would be able to do it, or how to word it. I’ll check back in to see if there is an outcome.

  11. So I have no kids but I came here to read the comments and to chime in because this became a Thing in my family.

    I grew up in a small and kind of dark house, and my mom wasn’t great with us having company. I also think my friends may have found my house creepy?) I maybe hosted about fifteen sleepovers throughout my entire school years before I moved away from home. But my friends invited me over a lot and I mostly got to go–but only rarely until about 5th or 6th grade, and even that was only because my best friend moved to a different school.

    And that’s where I feel like sleepovers are different than the kind of relating you can do at school or during the daytime–there are all kinds of secrets that you can share one on one, in the dark when everyone else in the house is asleep, that feel a little safer than they do anywhere else. it’s so intense. And it’s very very intense of the friend to want this every weekend. I like Colette’s idea of the schedule/quota.

    (And I’m fully aware this is such an old post that you have surely figured out your plan by now.)

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