I enjoyed a spirited round table discussion with some of my homeschooling girlfriends a while back, on the subject of sleepovers.
Only it wasn’t a round table, it was a rectangular picnic table, spotted with bird poop and popsicle stains. Some of my most favorite rectangle table discussions happen there on Friday afternoons.
While our children frolic out of earshot.
We were rather split on the subject, while some of us are a clear cut NO WAY, to some leaning toward ONLY WITH FAMILY, to a few more okay with it if they know both parents really really really well.
This was a hot topic discussion that I put out on the Mom’s Homeroom Message board earlier last year. I was blown away by the responses. The Sleepover thread stayed around the top of the board for some months and it still gets a number of views.
The responses varied widely from being totally okay with allowing their children to attend sleepovers and having no problem whatsoever, to a good number of parents saying NO WAY, NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
And what really surprised me were some of the the NO WAY folks were of the law enforcement variety that have likely seen a scenario or two that swayed their position over to a more conservative side.
The subject of sleepovers has come up recently in our house because our girls are now at the age that they are invited to slumber parties now and again.
We’ve taken a very hard stance on the subject. We do not allow sleepovers.
That may seem harsh. But I’ll tell you why. My parents had no issues with me both having slumber parties and attending slumber parties. I even spent the night at school chum’s houses every so often. My parents didn’t know the child’s parents all that well, but since I attended a private Catholic school, they assumed that the girl’s parents would have similar rules and regulations.
In one particular instance, they were wrong.
I spent the night at a friend’s house on one occasion. I remember the house was filthy (and let me pause here to tell you that if you were to see my house right now you would shake your head and follow up with “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t lob stones” or something similar). I also remember the girl’s mother didn’t say a word to me the entire time I was there. And it should be noted that I roped my girlfriend into helping me clean her own bathroom as a gesture of good will.
I never told my own mother this. Mostly because I think the shock might have killed her. I was a pretty tidy kid, but I was never known to clean a bathroom without a good deal of cooercion.
I also never told my mother the details about the night I spent at my friend’s house. We were banished to the basement to sleep on a mattress on the floor. This was about as exciting an adventure as one might imagine for a 9 year old. Except that we discovered a stash of some of the most disgusting adult material you could envision. And people, I was completely caught by surprise at the images my 9 year old eyes saw.
Images that are seared into my brain forever. It affected me. Deeply.
On another occasion I slept over at another friend’s house, and learned that her older teenage brother was molesting her younger 3 year old sister. I knew just enough to know that was wrong, and I did have the good sense to tell my mother.
She responded the way most mothers would respond in the 1960’s. She called my best friend’s mom to alert her never to let her own daughter spend the night at this particular friend’s house. And that was that. Child services was not called (I don’t even know if there was a child services in those days) and the mother of the allegedly molested child was not informed. And now as a mother, I grieve that decision.
I’ve always wondered about that little girl.
I attended a good number of sleepovers with little to no adult supervision. And on more than one occasion, my friends and I were known to wander the neighborhood in the dark of night. It is by God’s grace that we didn’t meet with any harm.
I’ll also be the first to tell you that I attended childhood sleepovers with dear friends and had the most wonderful treasured memories. And there was excellent parental presence. But the few negative experiences that I mostly buried until I had children of my own, were enough to sway me to take a very hard stance about the subject in my own home.
It’s a personal choice, one not quickly made. I realize that I easily garner ridicule because I’m considered an overprotective parent. And at the same time I absolutely do not stand in judgment of anyone who feels differently.
Our experiences shape the way we react to something, and it doesn’t make us right or wrong. When all of this came up, my sister-in-law sent me an article she read by Renee Ellison. Renee often speaks at our Florida Homeschool Convention, and I do enjoy her no-nonsense approach to parenting. When I read it, Renee’s words spoke to my heart and gave me peace about my decision. If you’re interested, go here to download the article. It’s in PDF format.
I wanted to have a rectangular table discussion with you all. What is your sleepover policy with your own children? I’ll be monitoring this sandbox, so everyone play nice. 🙂 I really do want to hear your opinion.