Sleepovers. Slumber parties. They’re synonymous with childhood, right? Well, maybe not so much anymore. Spending the night with a friend now falls into the same yesteryear category as drinking out of a water hose on a hot summer day — something that was only fun when you didn’t know what you could be getting.
There’s an undercurrent of anxiety with this generation of parents. The risks of sexual predators don’t seem to outweigh the benefits of a pillow fight, so some are adopting the “no sleepover” rule.
If that’s your gut instinct on the matter, fine. I would never argue with parents to go against their intuition about danger. Never succumb to pressure to allow your children to do anything, or go anywhere, you’re not comfortable with.
That said, if you would like for your children to enjoy some of the same rites of passage your parents enjoyed, you still can. You just have to work a bit harder at it — but the payoffs go beyond your kids learning how to play Truth-or-Dare.
I spent the night with friends when I was a child. My children also spent the night with their friends. These friends were very close family friends. The key word is family, not just classmates.
The thought of someone preying upon children is so offensive it’s hard to imagine someone like that without thinking they would have horns sticking out of the sides of their head. Unfortunately, they don’t, they look more like Jared. The fact is that most sexual predators are people we know — or think we know.
So what is a parent to do? Whom can we trust?
While there is the exception to every rule, again, we have to first trust our gut, our parental instincts. Then we have to build a close-knit community of friends around our families.
As my children grew up, I made friends with people whose company I enjoyed. They were people I respected and then grew to love. As our friendships grew, so did our families. We had our children together, which meant our children grew up together.
By the time our children were old enough to actually beg to spend a night away from us, years had been invested in these family friendships. Hours were spent in one another’s homes. Over the course of the years that it takes for newborns to become full-blown noisy kids, a network of close family friends had been made, and relationships were nurtured along the way.
That’s really what it takes. It’s not their friends that you are entrusting your children to. Children want to be with other children but, in reality, it’s the parents of those children whom you are considering worthy of caring and protecting your child in the middle of the night — they’re your friends.
Before you decide whether or not your child can spend the night watching movies and eating popcorn under the covers in someone else’s house, be sure you’re sending him or her to your friend’s house, someone you would trust your life with, because in essence, you are.