I’m not a helicopter parent. I won’t even get up to get my kids a glass of water anymore (“Go get a drink from the bathroom sink! Mommy’s got candy that needs crushing!”). My parenting style pretty easy-going, and I would consider myself an open-minded optimist in general.
So it may surprise you to hear that we generally do not let our girls attend sleepovers.
When I say “generally,” this is what I mean: We do allow sleepovers with very specific people. We have a small circle of trusted family and friends who have allowed our girls to sleep at their houses overnight. These are people who we know extremely well, and they have proven to us over the years that they are trustworthy when it comes to caring for our girls. So, in this spirit, our girls are allowed to spend the night at their grandparents’ houses.
It hasn’t been an issue so far, since our children are so young. But as my oldest daughter grows up, it’s starting to become an issue. A few weeks ago, my third-grader excitedly informed my husband and me that she and The Madisons (Madison M. and Madison L.) had all decided that Madison M. would host a sleepover party! I told her that since we had never met Madison M.’s parents, a sleepover was out of the question. She was sad, but she took it like a champ. She did walk away slowly and sigh heavily at least three times, just to make sure that I was aware of how she felt about the situation.
When she met me at the door last Monday night with a birthday party invitation, begging me to say yes before I even opened the envelope, I knew I wasn’t getting off so easy this time. It was a sleepover party invitation from a girl I had never even heard mentioned before. So once again, I had to tell my daughter that while I was definitely open to dropping her off to enjoy the party for a few hours, I would be picking her up that evening.
She lost her shit.
She burst out crying immediately, and continued to sob over the next 30 minutes. I then received the silent treatment for the rest of the evening. My husband backed me up, to my daddy’s girl’s dismay. It was a rough evening for everyone.
Later that night, my husband and I talked about the sleepover problem again. We reaffirmed that we couldn’t let her go to a sleepover at the house of person whom we know nothing about. “Our job isn’t to make sure she has fun. Our job is to make sure she’s safe,” he said. “If something happened to her at that party, I would go to jail.” I agreed, because I love my daughter, but also because running this house takes two incomes, and I heard they only pay $0.50 per license plate at the state penitentiary.
That won’t even cover our Netflix bill.
I’m not saying that my girls will never know the joy of waking up someone else’s parents at 2 a.m. from laughing too loudly while watching Grease and figuring out what the lyrics of “Greased Lightning” actually mean. What I’m saying is, at their current ages (under 13), I do not trust my children to be able to discern between appropriate and inappropriate adult (or teenage) behavior. Until I feel like they can, I don’t feel comfortable letting them sleep over at just any friend’s house.
I do realize that, statistically speaking, more children are abused or mistreated by family members than “strangers.” I am not saying that I would dump my kids on the doorstep of just any relative, ring the doorbell, and haul ass back home. What I’m saying is this: If you’re basically a stranger to me, except you happen to also have a kid the same age as my daughter and they know each other, I’m not going to let you care for my daughter overnight. Just as in any other aspect of parenting, it’s all about comfort level. I personally don’t feel comfortable, right now, letting my girls sleep anywhere other than our home and their grandparents’ homes. My gut says that those places are safe. If my gut can’t confirm what my head is trying to tell it, then I say no.
As it turned out, the parents hosting the sleepover seemed to be lovely people, who were completely understanding when I told them that my daughter wouldn’t be sleeping over. “That’s OK. Brooklyn isn’t comfortable sleeping over at other houses, either. Besides, Sophia’s parents are picking her up, too, so she won’t be the only one.”
Maybe I’ll be back someday to drop off my daughter for another playdate in the future. Maybe we’ll get to know these parents and their household a little better. Maybe, in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be back to drop off my teenage daughter for her first sleepover there. But right now, I’ll feel good picking her up after a few hours and tucking her into her own bed at night to watch Grease with her sisters.
And if I’m really lucky, my kid will be the one to explain the lyrics of the songs to her friends.