An interesting – if mortifying – article in today’s Citizen. One that hits particularly close to home: our family enforces a strict no-sleepover policy from birth until making your own mortgage/rent payments. Our children are mostly okay with it… except when they’re not. In a nutshell:
“Children kick up a big fuss. Parents need to get more backbone.”
Sleepover invitations start with school. Yes, that’s 4 years old in Ontario. When my older children were young, the no-sleepover policy was mostly based on self-preservation: I didn’t want to feel like I had to return the favor. Plus, who needs a cranky, sleep-deprived 6-year-old? Really. But as my children grew older, my concern moved over to the parenting skills and judgment of my children’s friends’ parents. What do they consider an age-appropriate game? An age-appropriate TV show? An age-appropriate movie? An appropriate age to be left alone in the house while the parents go out? An appropriate way to spend adult time? Do I want to find out the next day, when my child comes home, and tells me that Jimmy’s Dad turns into a screaming drunk after 9 pm? What is the first comment everybody makes when a family turns up dead at the hand of another family member? “They looked so normal!” I don’t trust anybody’s definition of normal but my own, especially where my children’s well-being is concerned.
As my older children crawl into adolescence, the issue of sexual health, morality and behavior comes to the fore. At the age where children are slowly growing discernment skills, hormones come a-kicking and your child’s safety no longer depends on your parenting skills or how well he or she has internalized family values but also on how well their peers have been brought up. In today’s culture of entitlement, there is nothing I trust less. Reading the article mentioned above, I realized that the three parenting dilemmas presented in the introduction were not so many dilemmas but a progression of the first dilemma into adolescence and adulthood. As a parent, where do you draw the line? Notice how the parents featured in the article relate their “decision” to allow sleepovers not so much as a decision but as a progression from one thing to the other. Do I want to leave my child’s sexual health in the expert hands of parents who are cornered into compromise by their teens? Even for one night?
That’s how it works at my house. What about yours?
Patricia adds: I don’t have a general policy against sleep-overs. I just find that very rarely are they a practical fit with my kids’ schedules, my firm belief that no one can deal with life unless they’ve had a good night’s sleep and my general reluctance to have to reciprocate.
It goes without saying that any family my kids is staying with will be one which I know very well. And I feel pretty confident that any of these mothers and fathers would laugh hysterically at the very idea of a co-ed sleepover for 12- or 13-year-olds.
Honestly, this is not exactly rocket science. “The dear little androgynous puppies” all snuggled up in the rec room. Does that really sound like a good idea to anyone?
Rebecca says: This hasn’t been an issue yet in our family – nobody is old enough yet to want to sleep away from the parental home. Since the question hasn’t arisen, I haven’t wrestled with it. What I do worry about sometimes are plain old simple playdates. While one devoutly hopes that daytime playdates between elementary school children won’t involve anything remotely like sex, there are lots of other matters in which other kids’ parents might make different judgments than we do. This applies to trivial things, like sugary snacks and whether or not to call adults by their first name, but it also applies to more important issues, like how much TV or video gaming is permitted, what specific shows or games are allowed, and the influence of others in the house, like older siblings, who may behave and speak in ways that you wouldn’t normally want your child to be exposed to.
One doesn’t want to raise hermits, but on the other hand, it is depressing to put a great deal of effort into insulating your child from a particularly noxious trend, only to find out that in ten minutes’ conversation with a classmate, they have learned all about the latest inappropriate TV show/song/gossip or whatever.