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The Problem with Sleepovers

A long time ago something bad happened to me when I was sleeping over at someone’s house. I didn’t talk about it until I was 16. I’ve never really told anyone except a therapist exactly what happened, but it is part of the reason I am fearful and anxious. It’s part of the reason I am overprotective. It’s part of the reason that I didn’t sleep for 24 years of my life. It’s the main reason I don’t want my little girls sleeping over pretty much anywhere with anyone, and they never really have.

On Sunday night we were coming home from a lovely evening with very good friends. Dinner, dolls (for the kids), Wii Pictionary. It was a really wonderful night. As we were cleaning up I asked my friend if I could throw out a cup with another child’s name written on it. Yes, she said. Her kids had sleepovers the night before and it belonged to one of their guests.

On the way home Big Girl, who had heard the exchange, asked when she could have a sleepover. She’s asked in the past, and I’ve always said no. I reiterated my stance with the caveat that there are maybe four people in this world who I would trust with her and her sister, and that started a huge fight in the car. Huge.

My husband, who disagrees with my decision, called me crazy. Then, when I reminded him that I have a REASON for being so scared, he backtracked and said that no, Big Girl was not allowed to go sleep out, but that we could have people sleep over. I said no, I didn’t want anyone to sleep over. That I would allow kids who belong to those same four trusted people to come and stay over, but that I wasn’t having random kids from school stay overnight.

Here’s the thing: I am anxious enough about my own kids. I don’t need or want the responsibility for someone else’s kids. That might sound horrible, but it’s just how I feel. I picture a kid sleepwalking and falling down my stairs, or falling out of bed and breaking an arm and I instantly get tense.

The yelling — yes yelling — continued the entire way home. My husband called me crazy a few more times. I got so mad at one point that I told him if he wanted Big Girl to do sleepovers so bad he could move out and then he could do all the sleepovers he wanted every other weekend when he had the kids. (Yeah, I know. Not my finest moment.) And then he called me crazy again, and I really lost it because what happened to me came flooding back.

I am not crazy. I have a good reason to be anxious and worried. Stuff happens. Big Girl is seven, and an immature seven. If someone tried to hurt her she would probably do what I did way back when: Pretend to be sleeping because I was too afraid to do or say anything else. I sobbed. Tears running down my face. And when we got home I threw everyone out of the car and I went to Target. I knew I couldn’t cry in front of the cart guys or the cashier.

Before I went to Target, I went and parked by my marina and looked out at the water. Then I emailed two friends who had been writing back and forth with me all day about Communion dresses giving them the very short version. One of them texted me immediately telling me she would meet me wherever. (I am tearing up right now at how selfless and sweet that was — at 9:15 p.m. on a Sunday. The other was probably already asleep.) On the way to Target I ended up talking to another friend who I had been playing phone tag with all week. She listened to me cry. She told me I was definitely not crazy. And she told me she would take Big Girl for a sleepover whenever.

What happened way back when is over and done with. The person who hurt me is dead. Before his spouse died, she asked me if he had ever hurt me. I couldn’t believe it. She knew and did nothing. But I lied to her. I told a dying woman not to worry. That I was okay. And so here I am telling the world on my blog that I was not okay. And I am not okay with what happened to me. It is not okay. And my kids are not doing sleepovers until they are braver than their mother was all those years ago.

6 Responses to “The Problem with Sleepovers”

  1. This is a great post and a brave one too. I’d say you have every reason to ban sleepovers! And it’s an important post for all of us parents to read.

    I often feel torn about sleepovers and have said no far more than I’ve said yes. But my girls are now 10 and 13 so I’m letting them sleep over in cases where I know the parents.

    I live in Miami, which is very Latin. It’s interesting because here Latin families routinely ban sleepovers. They are just a no-no in that culture. You would be in the majority here!

    Another big problem with sleepovers is this: the kids don’t get any sleep! There’s always such a big price to pay the rest of the weekend.

    Thanks for your courageous and important post. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  2. kb says:

    Thanks for reading. I really appreciate your feedback. I was so torn on whether or not to write this, but I thought it would be an important step in healing.

    –KB

    p.s. I’ve stopped by your blog a few times, and love it!

  3. Thanks for visiting my blog! I appreciate it. I added yours today to my reader and look forward to checking out more posts here.

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TaraCain and Karen Bannan. Karen Bannan said: The Problem with Sleepovers http://ht.ly/3BpFR KB: My most personal post ever. (Sorry to be a downer.) #abuse #safety #parenting [...]

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Its perfectly okay to ban sleepovers. I attended TWO in my whole lifetime and both times we broke rules while our parents were asleep. Either talking about stuff we weren’t supposed too, playing games, eating food we weren’t allowed to eat…

    I’m all about banning sleepovers. Kids don’t need to have sleepovers. Our son can sleep at Nana & Papa’s house and thats about it!

  6. Anna says:

    It is sad to me that sleepovers are a thing of the past. True, bad things can happen – but I could get hit by a mack truck tomorrow and that doesn’t keep me or my family off the freeway. I think the kid-to-kid stuff is important, the rites of passage where they have time with their peers to kick back, talk about things without risk of parental censure, and to learn social behavior with other kids OUTSIDE of the structure adults provide. Sleepovers are a valuable and supervised way kids can have that time to bond with each other, but a parent must be vigilant and responsible in the manner it is provided. I allow my daughter to stay at others homes only if I feel comfortable in my relationship with the person providing care, just as I would if I were interviewing someone for a babysitting or childcare situation. Our ideal situation is to have the school friend come to our house – which is a risk you take; will the kids fight, will the visiting kid miss home too much, will they be picky and not eat what I make, will they hurt themselves while playing in the backyard? In a way, you assume these risks for the sake of your child, who needs to develop these social bonds, and will have a FANTASTIC time doing so. Make plans and preparations, be a smart mom, and your kids will be healthy and happy and still get to have fun.

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