“Mom, can we have a sleepover?”
When my children were small, I used to think that the only way I’d let them sleep over someone else’s house was over my dead body. I could not imagine giving over my precious babies to the care of some virtual stranger I only knew through occasional play dates or school. And, I didn’t think my children would have any desire to sleep anywhere other than their own bed (or, more realistically, mine).
However as the years passed, and my kids got older, they started begging for this right of passage. Initially, I was confused by it since I couldn’t identify. I, myself, had always hated sleepovers. On the first (and one of the very few) sleepovers I ever had as a child, I tried to escape from my friend’s house at 6 AM. And I would have done it too if it wasn’t for her lightly sleeping grandmother. After that, sleepovers were few and far between for me.
But my children? Well, they seem to have inherited some recessive vagabond gene that neither my husband nor I possess. If a stranger drove down the street in a van that was full of candy and offered my children a ride they would run away…unless that stranger suggested they come over for a sleepover, in which case my kids would gladly get in and drive away. The don’t care where or with whom this sleepover takes place; they just want to be a part of the all night party they know will ensue.
So it wasn’t a surprise when my soon to be 11-year-old son asked for a sleepover with his friend. They’ve known each other since they were toddlers, and have had countless sleepovers during the years. But this time the request gave me pause. I looked at my son, standing about a head shorter than his female friend, who wears a bigger shoe size than I do, occasionally borrows my clothes – and is blossoming into a young woman before my eyes. And it made me wonder, is this still appropriate?
Not that I’m worried right this minute. My son and his friend are still squarely in that camp where they “like” people of the opposite sex, but not enough to do anything about it except maybe confide in a friend, who would confide in another friend, who would perhaps tell the person. Or write a note. Or request 1,000 “likes” on an Instagram post to get them to reveal their crush. As far as I know, there is no dating going on in the 6th grade. No boyfriend/girlfriend statuses. Nothing that would make me think these kids are anything more than just that…kids. Plus, given the very long history of their relationship and the closeness of our families, my son and his friend have always had more of a brother/sister relationship than anything else. Added to that, they also always have an 8-year-old chaperone in the form of my other son (and nothing says “narc” like a sibling).
But. Yes, there was that “but” tickling the back part of my brain. The part that wanted to pretend my son and his friend would always be babies, but knew they wouldn’t.
“We’ll see,” I replied, my standard refrain for procrastinating a decision I didn’t really want to make. And we will. I know in my heart that they are still young and innocent enough to continue to have sleepovers for at least a little while longer. But, I also know that the time is coming, probably sooner rather than later, when that innocence will wan and sleepovers will become not just a right of childhood passage, but an opportunity for teenage mayhem.
I watched them run outside to play with Nerf guns, and smiled at how young they still are, despite being exposed to so much grown up stuff so early on in life. And then I sighed as I got my son’s toothbrush and toothpaste ready for the sleepover I knew I’d give in to…this time.
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by Christina Surretsky.