There has been quite the discussion over at my friend Wendy’s blog.
Wendy posed the question of whether parents (who read her blog) allow their children to have or go to sleepovers. She and her own husband are against them, and she wanted to know what other parents thought.
Now, I am a Non-Mom and probably should have kept my mouth shut (but when have you known me to do that?).
I waded right in. Several parents had already commented and the across-the-board answer was “no sleepovers.”
I was mystified. Now, I know I don’t HAVE kids, but I WAS a kid. More to the point, I was a kid who lived for sleepovers. So, I asked the question WHY so many parents were against any kind of sleepovers.
Wendy, who reminds me in shades of my dearest friend October, pointed out it was a protection thing. Actually, she called it “Mama Lion,” which I found not only descriptive but charming. Wendy, you have the soul of a writer!
First, she explained her and her husband’s no-sleepovers-decision was based mostly on family issues. Some people in their family want their kids to spend the night, and they just aren’t comfortable with it.
Then, she went on to explain the nature of danger that can arise at a sleepover. The house in question could store guns. An older brother or sister might be into drugs. An uncle could drop by and wander into the kids’ rooms. You don’t know what other parents might think is acceptable entertainment for your kids.
The list went on, and I started to get a little horrified.
“How awful,” I thought. “Being unable to trust anyone else with your children for a single night. Just think what might happen to them!”
I posted a second comment and thanked Wendy for explaining it to me.
On the drive home, I contemplated that maybe I don’t want kids after all. What a weighted responsibility! And I was ashamed I’d never thought of those things happening at a sleepover.
Later that night, as Brett and I sat in the Jacuzzi, I asked him if he’d ever had sleepovers as a little boy.
“Sometimes,” he said. “I remember at a couple of friends’ houses and my cousins’ once or twice.”
“That’s it?” I was surprised.
My experience was apparently rare. I practically lived at sleepovers growing up.
The common practice in my school/church was the whispered “You ask your mom if I can spend the night at your house. If she says no, we’ll ask my mom if you can spend the night at my house.”
This happened (I kid you not) once a week. At least. The only rule was NOT to ask any moms in FRONT of the kid you were asking over, since moms hate being put on the spot!
Sleepovers were usually on Friday nights, but I remember lots of sleepovers on Saturday night with the parent exchange on Sunday at church.
I spent the night with church friends, neighbor kids, my classmates, and sometimes some girl I’d just met at a birthday party.
I don’t ever remember my parents being opposed to it.
Except for one time, I guess, when my friend Ady’s dad (her parents were divorced) came to pick her up. My parents had already given me permission to spend the night at Ady’s dad’s house, but when he rode up on a Harley – all bets were off.
Ady was disappointed, but my Dad talked to her dad, and just explained he wasn’t comfortable with me riding on a motorcycle. Especially not with two other people.
Other than that, I don’t recall it ever being a big deal.
I have such fond memories of those sleepovers! As an only child, I loved spending the night with others – getting to see how their nighttime routine was different than mine.
I also remember being shipped off to sleepovers when Mom and Dad needed to have a “sleepover.” If you know what I mean. Eww. That’s what I thought then, and that’s what I think now.
I never once thought about the fact that Amy’s parents let us watch The Facts of Life. Since we didn’t have a TV, I was just happy to be entertained. Although, we spent most of the night in her room playing Barbies.
I remember sharing under-the-sheets secrets, whispered through the rosy glow of a Strawberry Shortcake flashlight.
My best friend Tania still came for sleepovers in high school. Since she was deaf, we never watched TV, but played games, baked cookies, and ate frosting out of the can. YUM!
I also LIVED at my cousins’ house. With their three girls to my one, it was a natural sleepover waiting to happen. And the times we had!
I recounted my stories to Brett last night, along with the discussion on Wendy’s blog.
“Do you think that parents today are overly protective, or that they have to be overly protective because the world today sucks?” I asked.
Now, I don’t know why I expected a straight answer. Brett is, after all, a Soderstrom. And Soderstroms are notorious for being unable to GIVE a straight answer.
“I think it’s a little bit of both. They become the former because of the latter.”
Note: If you ever give Brett a choice, and one choice includes the words “because the world sucks” THAT is most definitely the answer he will choose.
He went on to explain that the “world today” is different than the world we grew up in.
“But I rode my bike to Ben Franklin and the library. I played in the neighborhood all day, and Mom had no idea where I was until it was dinnertime!”
“Me, too!” He agreed. “But it’s different now.”
His response gave me pause. Is it really different now?
I thought of my friend Jill who wouldn’t let her son play in the front yard of their very safe neighborhood. She lived in constant fear of someone snatching him out of her yard if she looked away for a second.
I thought of my friend Julie who moved out of her urban neighborhood because people drove their cars too fast for the residential speed limit. She worried her sons would wander into the street and get hit.
I thought of my friend Angie who wonders what her kids are “watching” while at their friends’ houses. She aims to be THE neighborhood house where kids come to see her kids, so her kids won’t feel the need to wander to other homes.
I thought of my friend Wendy, and her parent friends, who won’t let their kids go to sleepovers. To protect them. To guard them. To keep them safe.
And I pondered again the questions of “Is it really a different world?”
You know, I don’t think it is.
I believe there are the same number of child molesters now as there was then. The same number of kids on drugs. The same houses with guns. The same creepy uncles.
The difference is –we didn’t know about it then.
The expose culture that exists today can scare us to death. Anything can go wrong. And it can. But it won’t always. Anything can happen. And it can. But it won’t always.
I’m not judging any of the parents above. I love and respect these people. I hold them in high regard as people and especially as parents who see it as their duty to protect the young charges God has given them.
Perhaps, what I feel is the loss of community. The loss of the safeness I felt as a child.
It is very possible I could have been molested at any of my hundreds of sleepovers. I could have been exposed to drugs, accidentally shot, or seen a movie that traumatized my young mind.
I could have. But I didn’t.
Later, in Junior High, when I WAS approached to start smoking and drinking – at a sleepover, no less – I had the strength to say no. Because my church friends and I had practiced how we would say “No” to drugs and alcohol – at another sleepover.
I don’t defend the sleepover, here, you see. It was good parenting and godly friends that helped me resist the siren song of addictives.
And perhaps the sleepover is gone. Poofed. Vanished in the shroud of the might happen, could happen, and To Catch a Predator.
And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s just sad.
I feel for all those lonely little girls out there who will never experience secrets shared under the covers, the “lights out” bellowed by sleepy parents, and the nighttime smiles, giggles, and laughter illuminated by the rosy glow of a Strawberry Shortcake flashlight.