Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why we don't do slumber parties

Pizza, movie, pillow fights, popcorn and soda and yummy pancakes in the morning…

What is so bad about that?

My mom used to say "nothing good ever happens after midnight".  It used to annoy me - all the fun stuff happened after curfew right? Sometime, but that is when the trouble happens.  To get technical, because I am a stickler for statistics, I will point out that most juvenile crime actually happens in the after school hours.  But for teens and tweens trouble happens all the time. And at slumber parties there is plenty of opportunity for trouble.

I am not talking about the kids sneaking out of the house to rob the liquor store.

My angelic 11 year old doesn't run with that kind of a crew.

But he does run with the kids who would love to stay up late and play video games or pillow fight at midnight.  It is harmless kid fun and maybe a right of passage.  We let him go to just a handful of slumber parties at homes where we knew and trusted the families and they all seemed to be about the same.

Pizza, movies, pillow fights and/or massive nerf-gun battles, a fair share of junk food a lot of fun and bedtimes later than my own.

Each time we picked him up in the morning to find that he had about 4 hours of sleep and a wonderful time.  And then he got sick, or cranky and irritable.  His lack of sleep was dreadful for the entire family.

Then we tried to do the sleep over at our house thinking that we would have some semblance of control.  We ended up frustrated and tired ourselves, with the handful of boys who just didn't want to calm down at 11:30pm.   After using the mean mommy voice they calmed down, and they were respectful, but it was a slumber party after all.  And it just isn't worth it to our family.

I have memories of slumber parties that included toilet papering houses, having boys sneak in, "tummy aches" requiring my parents to pick me up, nightmare inducing shadows on the walls, and 'girl drama' that always seemed to leave someone in tears.  Luckily my best friend in junior high was like a sister to me and she stayed over a lot.  Outside of those very frequent nights with my BFF, I didn't enjoy the slumber parties as a kid.

After my sons first few slumber parties, we pulled the privilege and decided that as a family, we don't do slumber parties.  We are happy to pick our kids up at 10 or 11pm (about the time the host parents are happy to see a child go home), and our kids will sleep soundly in their own beds.

What do they miss out on?  The secret telling, the gossip, the 'who do you like?' whispers in the dark.  As they get older, maybe they will miss out on the sneaking out, or the opening-of-the-window to let the girls in - And I am okay with them missing out on all that.  They can go for the fun and leave before the parents go to be and the trouble starts.

An additional variable that we consider is the safety of our kids. I know that the families have my kids best interest at heart, but if there are older siblings in the family and they have friends over the same night, my ability to control what my child is exposed to is nonexistent.  Uncles or stepfathers I haven't met may be hanging around, neighborhood kids whose families operate with different boundaries may be there.  As kids get old enough for sleep overs, we often loosen up our watch of them.  They want privacy and we want to give them space.  But sometimes that lax supervision in a party atmosphere can lead to trouble.

My kids are my responsibility while they are young.  I want to know where they are tucked in at night.  I want to shelter them from hurtful gossip and scary situations.  Having it as a house rule has not been a problem and, like our 'no dating' rule, it has made life more simple for them. We have cousins in town and they can stay over for the night there or at their grandparent's… but outside family the answer is no.

My oldest is just 11 and I know we are just gearing up for the more difficult years.  But for now, he is relieved to have those boundaries in place.  It gives him a social 'out' and I feel like his wingman even when I am not around.  He knows mom will be here soon to get him. He should have fun while he can.   In just 7 years we will be packing his room for college and I won't be there to pick him up or tuck him in!

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