I don’t remember sleepovers being a big controversy when I was growing up. There were successful sleepovers, with organized and chaperoned activities among classmates and friends that got along. There were sleepovers where we snuck out at 3 AM and also watched every installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. I can remember girls ganging up on one or two girls because (insert any reason a preteen girl could be a total bitch to another.) In my experience, kids are more than likely to go against what they know is right, when it’s way past bedtime and they are feeling strength in numbers.
Over the years, I spent the night with friends and they, in turn, spent the night with me. Other than a few awkward moments and a few situations where there could have been potential trouble, I escaped my childhood unscathed. I have great memories of sleepovers with one of my closest friends ever…my very first friend next door. As I got older, another friend a few streets away had awesome sleepovers. We’d watch Dallas on Friday nights and her parents would make us French toast on Saturday morning. In high school, I feel like I practically lived at one friend’s house. We’d listen to music, talk to boys on her Swatch phone, go out ’til later than we should, and sleep away half of Saturday. While I can’t predict WHEN our stance on sleepovers will change, I can comfortably say that it’s a firm *no* for the near future.
Why are we so firm on this decision? I can start with the easiest reason and work my way to the most paranoid and tricky reason so I don’t look entirely crazy and overprotective. First and foremost, my kids need sleep. They need sleep because I need sleep. I’m running off of twenty-four years of motherhood and sometimes Mama gets tired. They need sleep because without it, their routines and behavior are greatly affected. I like having kids that aren’t a-holes. Without proper sleep…it can get kind of dicey here. I’m ok with admitting that I don’t want to rock the boat. They operate on 10-11 hours of sleep a night and that is a non-negotiable term of our parenting policy.
Our youngest is prescribed a medication for her diagnosed ADHD. She needs to take it during a specific window of time in the morning. Even on mornings I want to sleep in, I have to set an alarm so she can take it between 7:00-8:00 AM. That allows her a full day of support and a proper wind down period in the evening. Her medication, diet, sleep and wake cycle, and routine anchored lifestyle are all crucial elements of her ADHD plan. I don’t want that responsibility resting on someone else. It’s between us and our daughter.
Both of our young kids are still tucked in nightly. It’s a necessary anchor in our evening. We love this extra dose of family time before the day ends. We missed out on approximately the first year to year and a half of their lives, since they were adopted as older babies. They still crave a lot of snuggle opportunities and a bed surrounded by comfort items.
Our bedtime routine might also include a bedtime story and little bit of bedtime drama. The kids still need us at night sometimes, too. We haven’t left them overnight much during their lives. The only times they have been without us, since they were toddlers, their adult siblings stayed with them. It’s an arrangement that works for us. We are over seven hundred miles away from their grandparents, so sleepovers with Memaw just don’t happen.
We are really dead-set on limiting technology and screen time. They have absolutely no access to online gaming. Even with gaming offline, their access is very limited and it usually entails lower quality graphics and calmer games. Both of our kids have a low tolerance for sensory overload. We are very choosy as a family as to what they are exposed to in regards to violence, sexual content, and bad language in movies and television shows. We base our decisions off of our own family values and extensive research done over several years, in regards to the effects of violence and too much screen time on children. I could go on for days about TV shows available, even the ones “rated” for their age group. Nope. We simply don’t have time for crap TV and our parental controls are set fairly strict. I can’t scour every potential friend’s home for appropriate-for-us content. It’s not their job to cater to our family’s wishes but it is my job.
Other than bedtimes, sleep schedules, TV, video games, and screen time in general (as if I need more reasons to skip sleepovers) I want my child to feel safe and protected at night. That might mean safe from inappropriate behaviors and actions displayed by another child or adult. While I trust our friends and their children, I don’t personally know every single child and family that my kids wants to form a friendship with. It’s easier to have a blanket statement of “No thanks! We don’t do sleepovers.” I don’t have the time or talent to thoroughly weed through a checklist of someone’s home like I’m a foster care social worker, looking for unsecured firearms and fingerprinting pervy uncles who sometimes sleep on the couch.
My last reason is my most selfish. At this point in the parenting game, I don’t even feel sorry about it. I won’t send my kiddo to a sleepover because I seriously do not want to reciprocate. I don’t want a house full of other people’s kids. I don’t want to entertain. I don’t want to be up late making sure kids are feeling happy and safe. I like my sleepy time and I love my family being so routine oriented. I’m not willing to give that up or to sacrifice a weekend night to facilitate that. We work hard and weekends are precious. I’m barely cool with play dates, but that’s another post entirely.