This past weekend, my oldest son had a friend over to hang out. After a few hours they asked if he could spend the night. I was exhausted and hoping I could get out of making dinner, but I said yes anyway. And that ended up being the right decision.
You know why? I barely saw them — they played, came down to eat, and disappeared again to play some more. They didn’t have their faces planted in a screen, they were skateboarding and scootering outside, playing board games and genuinely made some good memories.
Yes, it meant extra work for me — I had to make extra food for dinner and couldn’t slip out of my bra at 4 pm per usual. They were kind of rowdy and stayed up a bit late, and I had to bring him home the next afternoon. But it was worth it. Both boys were very thankful for all of it — and so was the other boy’s mother. As a single, working mom, she could use the break and I know she will definitely return the favor.
I realize sleepovers aren’t for everyone, but I’m a huge fan.
Yes, sleepovers can make the house more chaotic — and certainly more noisy — but I am a “yes” mom when it comes to having kids spend the night, or letting my kiddos sleep at someone else’s house but there are a few things I like to do first.
I like to know who the parent is, but I don’t need their middle name or social security number. I touch base with the other parents beforehand, usually with a phone call or text, to make sure they are aware of/in agreement with having my kid come over. My kids know I do this so there is no “I’m saying I’m sleeping at Elsa’s house but her parents have no idea and we can work it out later,” because that totally happens. Kids are masters at making plans without a parent.
Once I know we are on the same page, I always ask them if they are going to be home the entire time. My kids are getting to the age where they are left home alone sometimes, and I feel very comfortable with that, but still feel they are too young to be left alone, with a friend, for an entire Saturday afternoon.
If they need to run a few errands, fine, but if they need to work, or planned on leaving the kids alone all day, I have them come here instead if that works for my family. If it doesn’t, the answer is “no” and the sleepover will happen another time.
And I always, always, want to put my eyes on the parents if it’s a place my kids have never slept before, and chat with them first. If they can’t arrange that, or it’s not important to them, that’s a red flag to me, and I always reserve the right to change my mind.
My kids love sleepovers, but know I make sure they are in a safe place. I’ve found most parents respect this and feel the same way. We often text back and forth and send pictures of what our kids are doing to reassure each other. It’s a quick easy thing you can do to check in and make sure everyone is comfortable.
My kids bring their phone and charger, and know they can get a hold of me at anytime if they aren’t comfortable and they need me to come and get them. We always text “good night” and I always touch base first thing in the morning reminding them what time I will be there to pick them up.
And when I do arrive to gather my kids, I always thank the family that had them, and check to see that everything went smoothly. It takes a few minutes, and it’s a pretty casual conversation. But if another parent doesn’t have time to talk to about how things went, then that’s a sign that we probably won’t be on the same page about sleepover expecations either.
I loved having overnights when I was growing up and I want my kids to have that same experience. There are measures you can take to ensure they are safe and having a good time. We are always going to be worried about our kids, but I don’t want my worry to hold them back too much.
So, if someone I know and trust wants to take my kids for the evening, I am certainly not going to ruin the magic and tell them no. Because also, free babysitting.
This article was originally published on