Here come the sleepovers

It’s only a matter of a few months now before my older daughter turns 10 and is “eligible” to have a sleepover.

Ten is the age my wife and I set for our girls to have a friend over for the night or go to a friend’s house overnight. I know, my two girls live a sheltered life. And that’s entirely by design.

To my older daughter’s credit, she hasn’t put up too much of a fight on the subject. She’ll occasionally mention that two of her classmates had a sleepover or that so-and-so’s next birthday party is a sleepover party so — cue the guilt-trip music — “I guess I won’t be able to go.” Yes, we do feel guilty when she puts it that way, but in the end, the rule is the rule.

I know that makes my wife and I come off as somewhat heartless parents, but we believe 10 is a good age for our girls to be exposed to this particular rite of passage.

And let’s be honest, there’s usually not a lot of “sleep” involved in sleepovers. My daughters and lack of sleep are not a good combination. We value sleep in our home over the mood-altering impact caused by the lack of it.

A big sleepover concern is safety. Sure, we want our girls to be physically safe wherever they are, but we also want to keep them from being exposed to things we’ve been able to avoid … like most PG-13 rated movies and 99 percent of the stuff that kids spend their time doing online. By the way, my daughter claims she is one of only two students in her class without her own tablet. Oh, the horror!

I know that, like us, most parents keep a close eye on the TV and online content their kids watch. But we’ve also heard horror stories from other parents about how that seems to go out the window in sleepover situations. Kids, after all, will be kids and push the envelope when they feel it can be pushed.

My wife, a school counselor, is a first-hand observer of the sleepover hangover. We’re talking about the very real after-effects of spending too much unstructured time with each other, gossiping, saying things they shouldn’t say or even worse, looking up things on the internet they are not developmentally ready for, daring each other to do things they shouldn’t be doing, competing with each other for friendships, alienating one friend in favor of another, etc. We’re in no hurry to have our girls join that circus.

Guns are another of my big worries. I’ve read too many news briefs about one kid fatally shooting another kid while playing with mom or dad’s gun. So yes, when the time comes for my daughter’s first sleepover away from home, I’ll be that parent that asks the other parents, “Umm, do you have a gun and if so, do you keep it safely locked away?”

Some might say we’re sucking some of the joy out of childhood. Maybe, but my wife and I sleep well at night knowing exactly where our daughters are and what they’re doing … sleeping.

I’d be interested to hear any thoughts and suggestions other parents have on the subject. Please leave a comment below.

(Photo credit: Metro Creative)

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