Why We Don’t Let Our Children Do Sleepovers
I remember my first sleepover clearly: I was about 5 or 6 and our parents had arranged a sleepover with our cousins. I was immensely excited before we left the house, a brief promise of a new adventure, of independence, flashing before my eyes. I cannot remember much of the actual evening or what we played but I do remember waking up in the middle of the night, a little confused as to where I was, alone and wishing I was at home. I wanted to be close to my mom, the excitement which previously surged through my body, now replaced with sadness.
Fast forward a couple of years (ok, maybe a lot more than a couple) to a time when we were expecting our first little baby boy. I, like many other expecting moms, started almost compulsively reading baby books and pregnancy magazines and joining online parenting groups. In these groups, I noticed a new trend had developed in parents my age: dropping off their infants, toddlers and children with relatives for sleepovers. It was something I could not understand or comprehend.
Before you think me judgmental, let me explain my confusion. I was raised in a household where my parents simply took us with everywhere they went. We hardly ever stayed home with babysitters and we definitely did not sleep over at anybody’s house before we were at least 5. Even after that, during childhood and into the teenage years, sleepovers were very few and very far between and were only ever allowed with friends and parents whom my parents knew very well. My frame of reference for raising my own children, therefore simply does not include sleepovers.
When my son was born, my mother-in-law excitedly told us over lunch one day that she had bought a camp cot so that little Bean could sleep over there. I knew that this was the trend and I understood that she was only wanting to help, but by then, my husband and I had already decided: we will not let our children do sleepovers. Here is why:
Our child is our responsibility
We created this human being and in so doing we have committed to raising him to the best of our abilities. It is our commitment to him and to ourselves, our family, and I do not want to simply pass this onto a family member simply because I am tired or need a break.
A young child does not understand
I keep on thinking of my own first sleepover, wondering what would go through my little baby’s or toddler’s head when he wakes up during the night in a strange bed, a strange room, and he calls out to me only for someone else to come? When I, his mom, his comfort and his caregiver, simply does not show up when he cries? He might understand and be excited at the prospect of a sleepover when he is older but for now, he cannot comprehend why we would not want him to sleep at home with us.
How well do you ever really know someone?
We hear of young teenagers being taken advantage of by adults, we hear of nannies and day mothers abusing kids and we hear of horror stories at creche or kindergarten all the time. These horror stories are enough to make any mother want to lock their child in a house for fear of their safety and they make you wonder: who out there really can be trusted with the well-being of your child?
I know someone who was molested by her grandfather. Yes, her grandfather, her dad’s dad. Someone her dad would have trusted with his whole heart and soul. Someone, her parents thought they knew. I intrinsically trust my parents and because of that my husband trusts them too and the same goes with his parents. We love them and we spend a lot of time with them, my son visits them often, but I will still not allow him to sleep over, because of this story.
Home is where the heart is
I love to travel and explore, in fact, I often get cabin fever if I stay home for too long, but (and I am sure that everyone reading this will agree), there is no place like home and there is nothing quite as soul soothing as climbing into your own bed. Bean similarly, loves his home. Although he gets bored and wants to go out, he always tells me he wants to go home when we stay out too long.
So, there you have it. All the reasons why I do not allow sleepovers. This might of course change one day, whether out of necessity or because I start trusting people more or because Bean just really seems ready, but for now, he will sleep at home. Being a parent means that we often have to do things, and make decisions, which are in the best interest of our children even if these are not necessarily in our own best interests. So, for now, I might be tired and that dream of a long Sunday morning lie-in might be just that, a dream, but my son will sleep at home. I am happier when he is with me anyway.