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My 10 year-old has entered into the age of sleepovers.

There must be a light bulb that goes off in the minds of kids as they approach tweendom – “Now I get it! A sleepover is an all-night play date!” And so it begins.

I grew up with slumber parties and sleepovers. We spent countless nights discussing the latest Judy Blume novel or flipping through Tiger Beat magazine (Who is cuter, Shaun Cassidy or Donny Osmond?). We created our own discos with colored holiday lights, played records and danced like lunatics to Donna Summer and the Bee Gees. We stayed up all night – giggling, whispering, watching scary movies, and stuffing ourselves full of Doritos. We bonded and shared secrets – we had a blast.

For some reason, I always thought the sleepover was more of a girl thing, and as the mother of a son, this just would not be part of our weekend repertoire. Wrong. I’ve learned that boys are really into sleepovers too. Instead of Ouija boards and do-it-yourself manicures, it’s Minecraft and multiple rounds of indoor hoops courtesy of Nerf basketball. You’ll be happy to know that giggling, junk food, and attempts to stay up all night are not gender-specific.

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the sleepover from the other side – that of the parent, and admittedly, it’s not that much fun.

Let me explain. I believe that having a sleepover at the home of a trusted friend is an important step for kids. It gives them an opportunity to see what family life is like in someone else’s home, it builds a sense of independence and, as kids get older and friends become more important, further establishes their peer group. It’s the day after the sleepover – or more accurately, the no-sleep over – that makes them less than appealing.

Other than the pleas for “just 10 more minutes,” pick-up generally goes pretty well. Bright-eyed and aglow from a morning spent eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch, my 10 year old informs me that he and his buddies were up at 5AM playing Pokémon (my apologies to the host mom!). By mid-afternoon, my normally pleasant and easy-going kid turns into a zombie. An overtired and irritable child does not make for a blissful Sunday. For two working parents who look forward to the weekends as family time, this presents a problem. A family bike ride turns into a whine-fest and a request to walk the dog or unload the dishwasher results in eye-rolling (which does not go over well).

This phenomenon is not unique to my child. No one wants to deal with cranky kids – and do I even need to mention that lots of parents have safety concerns in mind as well. Lately, I’ve been hearing of more and more families that are banning sleepovers. Opting instead for pajama pizza parties sans sleeping bags – kids are dropped off at 5, picked up at 10, and tucked snugly in their beds for a good night’s rest. This is one idea that I can really get behind – no cranky kids the next morning, parents are assured that their kids are safe at home (no unsupervised 10 year-olds watching The Hangover or SAW 3), and siblings are undisturbed – everyone wins. But are they missing out on an important rite-of-passage?

What’s your feeling on the sleepover? Do you allow them? Do you limit sleepovers to family and close friends only? What is the “right” age to start?

 

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