Life of a Doctor’s Wife left a comment on this post, saying:

I would be interested in more on any of the topics you briefly addressed, but perhaps specially (and… not as… potentially personal) in the topic of first sleepovers. I feel stressed out about the idea of sleepovers and I do not yet have a child. How did you get to be okay with the parents and the overnight situation? How did Elizabeth feel in preparation – anxious, excited, meh? I suppose I am so interested because sleepovers were tough for me as a kid. I did not make it through many of them. (My poor parents. Who lived waaaaaay out of town and had to fetch me at odd hours of the night.)

I was Not Particularly Okay with Elizabeth going to a sleepover, but Elizabeth was so completely Relaxed and Fine about it, it made me wonder if this was one of those “No, in fact DON’T listen to your gut” situations. I mean, my gut was clearly telling me she SHOULD NOT GO—but my gut also tells me the kids shouldn’t get on the bus the first day of first grade, shouldn’t be left at birthday parties even when all the other parents are dropping off, and shouldn’t go up to other children at the park and try to play with them. So my gut is not really calibrated for being in charge of decisions.

In this particular case, I reasoned it out. I don’t KNOW-know the parents, but I recognize the mother enough to say hi if we cross paths. Their house is in the same neighborhood as ours. Another acquaintance of mine babysat for their daughter when she was a baby. The only other sibling is a sister (not, for example, a much older brother), and one of my older kids is in her same grade and knows who she is and has been on the same bus with her for years. I found out from Elizabeth who else was invited and what the plans were, and it sounded well-organized and well-thought-out (four girls total; plans to make cupcakes and watch a Pixar movie and stay up until TEN!! O’CLOCK!!).

Fine, I also went on Facebook and snooped the family. I looked through photos and saw pictures of the family at Disney, at what looked like a big family event, and in Christmas-card photos. I looked through wall posts and saw things like “Hey, great talking you the other day! Let’s have coffee next week! Thursday?” and “Sophia left her sweater at our house—I’ll send it to school with Ella tomorrow!” It’s not like non-okay families couldn’t have these photos and wall posts, I realize. Nevertheless, it added to my decision-making process.

I’ve heard of other parents deciding to allow things like sleepovers (or even playdates and birthday parties) only when they know the other family well—but I have almost zero social life, so that’s not going to work for me: I hardly know ANY other families well. If that were the cut-off, then my social life would have an inappropriately heavy and limiting impact on my kids’ social lives. (Or else theirs would have an inappropriately heavy impact on mine, when I was forced to form a large fake social circle to accommodate their friendships.) But this would be a great tip for people who know a lot of other families: I can picture being ENORMOUSLY reassured if Elizabeth were sleeping over at my friend Melissa’s house, instead of at the house of someone I only know to say hi to.

I also talked myself through it like this: Elizabeth is more social than I am, but at this stage she needs my help to arrange the logistics of her social life—and I have to try not to let my own social anxieties get in her way unnecessarily. I can of course say no to anything that seems genuinely dicey to me, but most situations are NOT genuinely dicey even if they make me nervous. If three other moms feel it’s appropriate to have a sleepover party at age 8, and if Elizabeth herself is fine with the idea, then I can either decide that she’s not ready and/or that I don’t want her to go—or I can let her try it, which is what I decided to do.

And it went great. I talked with her ahead of time about how to handle things if she wanted to go home early, even if it was the middle of the night. I also remembered that one of my own biggest issues as a child was not realizing that the other child’s parents were PARENTS and were therefore likely to be pretty easy to talk to if I had any situations (like if I forgot to bring something, or if I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to do something, or if I couldn’t find something), so I told a few anecdotes along those lines to Elizabeth. But she stayed the whole night and didn’t run into any issues except for forgetting to bring a comb, which she just did without.

Oh, and one more thing: I deal with stress via shopping, so I spent a lot of time looking for a good party gift, and I window-shopped for many possible purchases such as a sleeping bag, new pajamas, and so on. I think I must think things over while doing things like that, so that by the time I’m done filling an online cart with sleeping bags and pajamas I never end up buying, I’ve adjusted to the idea of a sleepover.

15 thoughts on “Sleepovers

  1. Christy

    Storing this information away for when my kids are old enough! So, what about sleepovers, or just playdates at YOUR house? Do you do those? I’ve been surprised as a parent by how much I HATE that, and how much it brings back the social awkwardness of my childhood. And my oldest is only a kindergartner! So I have many many more years of hosting HIS friends, the ones who are not necessarily the children of MY friends.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Ohhhhh, I haaaaaaate it! And I end up feeling so self-conscious in my own house! I’m so relieved when it’s back to Just Family again. But it’s also such good training for them to play host, so I try to push through it. So far we haven’t done any sleepovers here, mostly because my mind boggles at the thought of it.

    2. Melissa

      Thank GOD! I’m so glad it’s not just me. I shiver at the thought of hosting sleepovers. My girls are 10 and 5 and I hate hosting their friends here. I cannot fathom entertaining them for an entire evening and hoping they’d sleep well and their parents wouldn’t notice how inept I am at this. We have had one sleepover, with one friend, for the oldest, during the summer, we swam, went to a pizza place, but I was exhausted after that. I am sure we’ll do it more, but I’ll hate every second of it.

  2. LDiggitty

    I loved sleepovers as a kid! I have such great memories of making prank calls (in the halcyon days before caller ID), eating too much candy, and going home the next day UTTERLY EXHAUSTED and uber cranky.

    But now I understand why we very rarely had anyone stay over at our house! I

  3. Melissa H

    My daughter (age 7,.5) got invited to her first sleepover and while I know many friends’ parents I didn’t know this family well at all. My daughter was nervous but after much discussion (me with her, me with the hosting mom) we all agreed she’d try it out and could come home if she wanted. And then, get this. I FORGOT ABOUT THE PARTY. I’ve never done that. I just completely spaced and realized about 3 hours into the party time that the kid should be there rather than out running errands with me. I texted the mom and apology and now have no data to add to this conversation except that 7 or 8 seems to be the going age for sleepover parties.

  4. Amanda

    I am another one who hates sleepovers at our house but always give in because it’s never as bad as I think it’s going to be and the kids tend to entertain each other to the point that I have less to do than usual.

    By the time my kids were ready for sleepovers I was usaully glad to see them go ;-) It’s not as anxiety inducing when your kid actually gets to that age vs thinking about it when they are young and you are looking towards their future. Eventually they’ll be 10 and 12 like mine are and no one is ever sleeping at their own house all weekend and it’s normal and half their friends live at your house or they live at the friends’ house and it’s all good. My daughter would never call to come home, she’s more apt to stay another night. My son might call to come home and that’s fine, we’re good with it.

  5. M.Amanda

    This is why I love the internet. My daughter is getting old enough to ask to have friends over and to have me arrange for her to go to her friends’ houses. I have to direct her social life when I’ve not really ever had one of my own. Gah. But she shouldn’t have to suffer because I’m so awkward. GAH.

    Thank you for giving some idea of the protocol.

  6. Joanne

    My 5 year old has slept over at a friend’s house and now she is all up in my grill to have the friend sleep over here. There are so many factors to us doing it, I work a lot of nights so it would have to be a night that I wasn’t working, my oldest has autism and he is kind of noisy late into the night, my 5 year old shares a room with my 3.5 year old, etc. etc., ugh. I knew the mom pretty well when my 5 year old slept over and she had a great time, but I am not feeling it to reciprocate, which is bad, right? You have to do it eventually? I know my daughter will wear me down on this just like everything else, but I hate it already.

  7. Sarah

    I absolutely hated sleepovers as a kid. Hated them. I was always the kid (or preteen) calling my parents in the middle of the night to come get me. Eventually I worked it out with my mom that I could tell people I wasn’t allowed to sleep over at their house, so we wouldn’t have to go through it. I don’t have any kids yet, but I’m totally dreading both sleepovers and having kids over. No idea why it’s so scary though. Why can’t we all just stay home where it’s safe?! (only kind of joking)

  8. Linda

    E and L had their first sleepover when they were 7. It was SO FUN ( and I am definitely an introvert, so it’s not natural for me to invite a bunch of kids to my house. They had been to close friends’ homes for sleepovers and to grandma and grandpa’s AND to an aunt and uncle’s house, so apparently I am willing to leave my kids anywhere. I’m not thrilled with general playdates, but sleepovers are fun because I only need to plan a few activities and then the kids take over, plus a large part is spent SLEEPING. We are currently planning a slumber party for when E and L turn 9.

  9. Life of a Doctor's Wife

    Oh this was so interesting! Thank you for elaborating. And I like the logical and thoughtful way you went about going through with it.

    My favorite part: “Or else theirs would have an inappropriately heavy impact on mine, when I was forced to form a large fake social circle to accommodate their friendships.”

  10. Jenny Grace

    Your relationship with Elizabeth sounds like me and my mother. I was a very social, fluffy, girly, outgoing child. My mother is quite comfortable being friends with her sister and maybe one other person and having her family over for dinner and just…not having that many friends, but out of her own desire to not have that many friends.
    I had my first sleep over at the same ageish as Elizabeth and I loved sleep overs and I’m glad they were allowed, and I’m also glad my mom let me. I ASSUME she did some vetting of the parents, but I went to a small country school in a small town where families all knew each other regardless. (One of my main sleepover destinations was @superjules’s house, btw).
    Anyhow, with Gabriel it is different because his best friends are his cousins so most of his sleepover social activity is happening with them, and that’s like, my SISTER, or my AUNT, so pffft fine. But I think that makes me less likely to be okay with OTHER sleepovers, because the ones he often has are SO comfortable. Plus since he’s likely to spend weekends at his dad’s, and because I work so much, I’m unlikely to send him away on any weekend I ever have him, because I miss him.

  11. Jeanne

    This is such a great discussion! My daughter was invited to her first sleepover birthday party when she was just six. I didn’t know the parents at all, and I was NOT comfortable with it AT ALL! I talked to the mom and asked if it would be OK if I just planned to pick her up at 10:00. In hindsight, I now know the family and feel a little silly about my concerns. However, now that she’s 10, I stopped worrying and came to regret that a couple weekends ago. The parents let the kids watch a rated R horror movie, and let boys sleep over too. Ugh, I just hate that she wants to have a social life and actually choose her own friends.

  12. Alexa

    Ugh. Ugh. I hadn’t even thought of sleepovers yet! I hated them as a child, could never sleep anywhere other than my own bed but felt I was being ridiculous and SHOULD like them so I would go, and stay, and just end up wandering about wraith-like after everyone was asleep until I found a suitably absorbing book and then I’d read until it was morning and the others woke up. I hope Simone fares better.

    Very delighted to know that someone else stress-shops in the same way I do, however. You have described my process perfectly.

  13. Maggie

    My fourteen year old has been anti-social/shy for most of her life, so she just had her first sleepover Friday. It was with a girl a grade below her, and her friend. They’ve known each other for a year and a half, but I don’t really know her family. When she got back she was practically glowing with happiness, and despite the fact that I can never get her to talk about anything social, she wouldn’t stop talking about how she had won a nerd competition with the girl’s younger brothers. Only thing is now, I feel like we have to match the amount of fun they had, seeing Man of Steel and watching superhero movies practically all night.

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