“No more sleepovers. I’m not doing them anymore,” I said to my partner through clenched teeth.
My seven-year-old was crying on the couch. She was exhausted, irrational, and the reason our day was spiraling out of control. I made my partner promise to keep me to my word the next time my oldest asked to have a sleepover with one of her friends, especially if the invite was for her to go to someone else’s house. I am not allowing it to happen again for a long time. But in that moment, even on the threshold of hell, I still knew I would need to be reminded why she is not allowed to do sleepovers with friends.
I have a problem with saying no to my oldest. She was two and a half when her twin siblings were born, and while the twins spent six months attached to my partner’s breasts, my daughter and I got really close. Our bond has only thickened, and when she looks at me with those big blue eyes that sit above perfect cheeks with a freckle in the middle of each and asks for anything, it is incredibly difficult to say no.
But the consequences of being a pushover were staring me right in the face and assaulting my ears when I vowed not to let her stay the night at a friend’s house ever again. The last-minute request from a family friend for a playdate and sleepover the night before was exciting and generous and should have been a no-brainer. We trust this family, our kids get along great, and I knew the girls would have a blast. Yet, I hesitated. I told my daughter I didn’t think she could handle it.
We went through all of my concerns about her sleeping at her friend’s house. She doesn’t eat well or enough — and it’s not because the families where she stays don’t take good care of her; she just gets so wrapped up in playing that she doesn’t recognize she is hungry. She goes until she is on empty and then crashes. I told her she always stays up too late and gets up too early. She is cranky and mean the next day. She literally can’t function.
After I reminded her of this, she reminded me that the last sleepover at our house was okay. And it was. But that was because I enforced a mandatory lights out at 9:00 PM, which was only an hour after her usual bedtime, and I practically force fed her snacks to maintain proper blood sugar levels. Unlike my usual parenting style, I was an exhausted helicopter mom. I was miserable with worry that the next day would be a disaster. But the next day wasn’t awful, just inconvenient. She was moody all day but not a disaster.
“I promise I will close my eyes and sleep, Mama. I promise,” she said. She bore those blue eyes into my heart as she pleaded her case for this new attempt at her friend’s house. “I really, really want to try.”
I am such a sucker. I agreed to let her go. I told myself it would be fine.
It wasn’t fine.
When I picked her up the next day, she was instantly ungrateful. She was mad I was picking her up, mad that we couldn’t schedule another playdate immediately, and mad that we had to go to a family friend’s birthday party later in the day. It wasn’t even lunch time and she was ready for bed. But the problem with sending a seven-year-old to take a nap — or at least mine — is that she will be impossible to wake up and then will not be able to go to sleep before midnight that night.
After an hour of watching and listening to my child cry and scream and say hateful things to me and her siblings, I put her to bed. I couldn’t tough it out. It wasn’t fair to anyone to keep her awake. I let her sleep for an hour, and it took me almost that long to get her out of bed. But we had plans. We had to get out of the house and to the party we said we would attend.
My partner suggested one of us stay home with her because she was not getting off the floor long enough to lift her head, let alone put on pants. But I said no. We forced clothes on her and put her in the car. It wasn’t fair to the people waiting to see us. It wasn’t fair to me or my partner to potentially have to stay home with her and micromanage her every move while being hated on. It wasn’t fair to me or my partner to have to manage our twins at a party while also trying to enjoy the party. She was going.
To be nice, I packed her blankie and a book and told her she could read in a corner if she couldn’t pull it together to participate in the festivities. She eventually stopped crying and after being annoyingly clingy for an hour, she somehow pulled out of her mood and the next two hours before bedtime were okay. But it was too late. I had cemented my decision.
No more sleepovers for us.
They’re too disruptive to her, our family, and my sanity. The unstructured bedtime and loss of even an hour turns her into a bitchy puddle of awfulness and ruins the day for the whole family. I am not doing it anymore. Not for a long time.
I don’t care about the fun she has or the experiences she has while at a friend’s house. She just can’t handle the day after. And neither can I.
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