Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when your kids want to go to sleepovers at friends’ homes, but you’re just not comfortable with it. At all. Have your own question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
My parenting style isn’t “helicopter,” but my stance on this issue makes me feel like everyone thinks I’m a helicopter mom. I don’t want my kids going to sleepovers. Ever. Did I go to sleepovers? Yep, sure did. A lot. I feel like a hypocrite, but I’m just not comfortable with my two daughters, ages 10 and 8, sleeping over another person’s home. I don’t have any residual sleepover trauma from my childhood, but I do remember witnessing other parents fighting and spanking one of my friends while I was there. I also remember how we’d all act without the watchful eyes of parents (toward one another and just in general). I can’t control if other people have guns in the home. All of it just makes me uneasy. My daughters feel left out from time to time and my family thinks I’m overreacting. Am I crazy? Am I being too controlling?
Ah yes, sleepovers. It’s one thing when your child is spending the night at their grandparents’ house or with an aunt or uncle. It’s quite another when they’re with a peer (or many peers), spending the night at home you either haven’t been to yourself or with a family you’re not particularly close to. That is a very scary thing for a parent. And of course your own experiences at sleepovers would inform your parenting decision, how could it not?
While it can be argued that slumber parties are a rite of passage of childhood, not being super comfortable with sending your children to them takes a lot of forethought. Do you know the parent(s) well enough to trust them? Are there older siblings? How old are they? Will they be home, too? Are there guns in the home? Anything else the kids can get into that they shouldn’t? You might be able to answer all of these ahead of time, but most likely you won’t have all the answers you want or need.
I don’t think more terrible things are happening now compared to when we were kids, necessarily. I think we just have a hyper-awareness that previous generations of parents didn’t have. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being very selective about where you let your children spend the night. Your girls are young and while they might pout and feel left out or angry about not being able to go, this isn’t the kind of restriction they’ll bring up with their therapists someday. You said yourself you’re not typically into the helicopter thing, and you’re coming from a place of love, protection, and concern.
I think having a small circle of people you trust, whether they’re relatives or parents of your kids’ peers, is possible. It means making a conscious effort to establish a connection, but if it benefits all involved then it’s worth it. Now, if your kids come home with birthday party invitations that include a slumber party, you can let them go to the party for cake, ice cream, and silly fun. But you can also pick them up later that evening. They’ll pretend they’re dying of embarrassment at the mere thought of being picked up by their mom in front of their friends, but they’ll give in when they realize it means they won’t be totally left out.
Your concerns are valid. Your worries are valid. I do believe a happy medium is realistic, and I wish you luck. And remember, we’re still in a pandemic where kids remain unvaccinated and vulnerable. If you’re looking for an “excuse” or to buy some time on committing to sleepovers, you’ve got one.