I’m not sure how to handle my daughter’s extreme desire to attend slumber parties/her need to be picked up at midnight whenever she tries to stay overnight at a friend’s house. My now second grader had been obsessed with sleepovers since preschool–talking about them, planning them, and even mock packing for the big night. I love a good slumber party as much as the next person, but I remember sleepovers happening when I was much older, like in 4th or 5th grade, and involving prank calls, possible sneaking out to meet boys and, for some reason, an obscene amount of dry Fruit Loops. The kindergarten slumber parties that were reportedly taking place among my daughter’s schoolmates seemed extremely premature and so I held out. (In all honesty, I also wasn’t quite ready to reciprocate and have some recently-met 5 or 6 year old sleeping over at our pint-sized apartment.)
Last year, a great sleepover opportunity arose. We had been having a fun dinner with close family friends who have a daughter a little older than mine. The girls were having a blast and didn’t want the night to end. When the friend suggested that my daughter go home with her and stay over so the girls could keep hanging out, it seemed like the perfect first sleepover scenario–she’d be with good friends, in a home she was familiar with, and they’d been playing so well together. My daughter begged me to let her go, did a quick pack job involving stuffed animals and 5 pairs of underwear (you never know), and was waiting excitedly to get the slumber party going. I pulled her aside and asked if she was really up for it and told her that if she went, it was for the whole night and that we weren’t going to come get her if she changed her mind. She agreed, but a few hours later we got the midnight phone call that she was sad and couldn’t sleep and wanted to come home, and despite my tough words earlier, we picked her up. The same thing happened a few other times over the following months–different friends, but always with a family she knew well and felt comfortable with and always after assuring us that she really, really wanted to do it and wasn’t going to call for a pick up. But, she always called for a pick up and we always picked her up, until last night.
Last night seemed different for a few reasons. It had been about nine months since the last attempt and, in the meantime, my daughter had spent a week at sleep-away camp and had had no problems despite never having been to camp or knowing any of the other campers. It was also her best friend’s birthday and the girls had been planning every detail of the party for months. As we packed for the sleepover, we put in a book and a reading light in case she couldn’t sleep, extra clothes in case she was cold and a favorite stuffed animal in case she got lonely. I repeatedly gave her the option to stay until 10pm, or whenever the other girls were going to go to sleep, but she assured me that she was going to be fine, had camp under her belt, and felt totally comfortable staying over at this friend’s.
I got the first call at 11:15 pm. My daughter wanted to say goodnight. She sounded fine and her friend’s mom said that she hadn’t been able to sleep, but seemed ok. I got the second call around 11:45 from the friend’s mom saying that my daughter told her she didn’t feel comfortable and couldn’t sleep and asked me if there were any tricks she could try–warm milk, a certain story–or if I wanted to come and get her. I asked to talk to my daughter and told her that she had to read her book and fall asleep and that I couldn’t come and get her. (While not totally true, logistically, it would have been tough–my husband was out at a birthday party about an hour away, I had a sleeping 4 year old in the next room, the car was parked about 5 minutes away, it had recently snowed and I had no cash to call a car service). I then told the other mom that my daughter should try reading for awhile.
I didn’t get another phone call right away, but I felt horrible and the more I thought about things, the worse I felt. I had been a little mean to my daughter who was obviously tired, sad and uncomfortable, and I had perhaps burdened the other mom by essentially making my daughter’s discomfort and inability to sleep her problem. I wanted to call back and say that I was coming to get her, but, because the phone hadn’t rung again, I didn’t want to risk waking anyone up. So I tossed and turned and half-slept as I listened for another call and wondered if forcing her to stay in a situation that she didn’t want to be in was the best approach.
That call never came and now I’m waiting for my daughter to be dropped off at home. I’m hoping that she fell asleep shortly after we spoke and I’m waiting to apologize to the other mom. I suppose a certain rite of passage has occurred as my daughter did spend an entire night at a friend’s, but I’m not sure I handled things in the best way. I don’t know that we’ll try another sleepover for a little while. In the meantime, I’d love to know how others tackle the aborted sleepover situation.