"What is the deal with sleepovers?"
This was my husband's reaction to yet another request by my teen to have a friend sleep over.
"It's a girl thing." I replied.
My husband still doesn't get it, but he has learned to live with it ("Well, they're not watching my big TV!"); even better if the sleepover is not at our house.
When I was a young girl, not a weekend went by without a night of slumbering with one of my "BFFs." I remember fondly how we watched movies, ate popcorn, talked about everything, listened to music, danced and sang.
The sleepover is yet another pastime for teenage girls that, if missed for a single weekend, can cause the most severe withdrawal symptoms - and dramatic whining ("I haven't seen her in...FOREEVVER!" "It's so boring at our house!" "Oh, my God, I forget what she looks like!").
As for the moms, we have all gotten used to the inevitable request after a get-together that was not intended to end with the breakout of the sleeping bags: "Pullleeezze..." "We will love you forever!" "We are not worthy!" (Sometimes, we let them bow to us with extended arms and still say no.)
Recently, my sister-in-law invited us over for dinner and suggested that I have the kids pack a bag. She fully expected the inevitable request and figured we might as well be prepared even if we had not yet decided whether we would say yes. So I told the kids to pack "just in case." They responded with sly smirks eventually admitting that they had already secretly packed a bag, "just in case."
I asked my daughter, her cousin, and friends to tell me why they love the sleepover so much. They responded with a list of the reasons why they "NEED" to have sleepovers:
Because we haven't seen each other in awhile
We want to hang out
To talk about boys
To catch up on gossip
To take pictures
To eat everything in sight (indeed, every person I asked about sleepovers talked about the enormous amount of snacks that are consumed during the sleepover)
Because we "need to not sleep" (my cousin said it shouldn't be called a sleepover, because they do everything but sleep)
Watch TV and movies
Listen to music
Create inside jokes
My fellow moms and I have decided that the biggest benefit for us is that the kids are entertained and out of our hair. We're also content knowing that the girls are having safe fun in our homes. We are not completely naive, though. We monitor what they are doing, check the online sites that they are perusing and make sure they are staying out of trouble (e.g. at one recent sleepover, my girlfriend quashed movie-night after she found her girls had ordered an "on-demand" movie intended for "mature audiences only").
A rather troubling trend with today's teens is the advent of the coed sleepover. I had heard of this unimaginable event and, after researching it online, found that there are even those who support it. In one online poll conducted by Helium.com, of the 851 people polled, 34 percent (287) thought that the coed sleepover was a "yes."
I was curious what the justification for such an event could be and started reading some of the comments by the "yes" voters. There was a common theme, such as "teens are mature enough to make these decisions; a friend is a friend no matter what gender; teens should be trusted to make their own decisions." As much as I passionately disagreed with these opinions, none was more disturbing than that of Shannon M.:
"Some people believe that coed sleepovers may lead to sex or sexual activities ... others still think girls and boys should never see each other in their night clothes unless they are siblings, so many people are forgetting that not only are these thoughts and views very old fashioned and not always true ... perhaps the greatest thing that is forgotten is the fact that sexual experimentation occurs at sleepovers with the same gender as well ... Bad parents are the ones that automatically say no to things like coed sleepovers ... get to know your kid, give them reasons to earn your trust. I'm not saying blindly trust your children, but I am saying give them the chance to prove they can be trusted."
My, isn't that illuminating. Kind of makes me want to halt the sleepover all together.
Call me "old fashioned" if you must. My daughter may continue to enjoy sleepovers with her female friends and cousins in order to satisfy their sleepover "needs." But there is no chance that she will ever host a coed slumber party, nor will she attend one. And if that makes me a "bad parent" in the eyes of liberal-minded, so be it.