November 27, 2011

Sleepover Fret

William's best friend is Clarissa. William and Clarissa are in the fifth grade---so, they are in the 10-11 age range. This past weekend they asked if they could have a sleepover. Hm. How about NO.

Or...maybe we should say yes. What can we give them as a reason for saying no, considering that if William's best friend were a boy we wouldn't have had the same reaction? What IS the reason for the different reaction? I'm remembering how indignant and outraged and self-righteous and "Who is it exactly we think is going to barge into our house and see me in my room with a boy and jump to the conclusion of EVIL, and what do we care about what other people think if they're DIRTY-MINDED AND WRONG?"-ish I felt about my parents' "avoid the appearance of evil" reason when I was in that age range and wasn't allowed to have boys in my room, so I'd like to think of another way to explain it so that I don't have to have that conversation with someone like I was.

Or considering we don't even know yet if either kid is attracted to the opposite sex anyway, perhaps we have to re-think the whole part about separating boys and girls. Plus, I had many guy friends in high school who, even though I was attracted to boys, I wasn't attracted to AT ALL. Not even a little. Would have been repulsed at the thought of being attracted to them.

It's also worth taking into account that even if William's best friend were a boy I'd be looking for an excuse to say no, because hosting a sleepover sounds...unpleasant. But it's good we're thinking about this, because we are FLYING into the age range where this WHOLE TOPIC needs to be considered---not just for sleepovers but for all situations when the kids' friends are over here. I wasn't allowed to have boys in my room, but I was allowed to have girls in my room; I don't know what rules to have for my own kids. A difference to consider: I had my own room, and so does Elizabeth, but the boys share rooms.

What if we said yes, but they could have the sleepover in the living room? And then maybe when they were ready to go to sleep, Clarissa could go to Elizabeth's room? But again, if Clarissa were a boy, we might have them in the living room (because William shares a room with Henry, and because sleepovers require a parent to keep going in and asking for the noise to be kept down and suggesting it's time to go to sleep) but we wouldn't split them up at sleeping time---but if we knew William was gay, we would. Maybe we should set a rule now that for ALL sleepovers the kids get split up at sleeping time, to make it an easier standard to apply. That kind of kills the concept of a sleepover, though, and we don't have a spare bedroom, and I'm pretty sure people can walk from one room to another when everyone else is asleep, if that's what they have in mind.

Maybe we shouldn't allow sleepovers; our lives were easier before we started thinking about this. But sleepovers are a cool kid-stage-of-life experience, and maybe we don't actually want to say no to that. Plus, our kids might get invited to other people's sleepovers, where we have significantly less say in how things go...and also there are Bad Stories about sleepovers and the adults and/or older children in other households. Hey, look, I found something else to worry about!

Probably Clarissa's mom would say no to the sleepover idea anyway---or maybe she'd think we were puritanical and weird for thinking we should say no. Maybe she'd think we were Implying Things about her daughter, and/or about her daughter's relationship with our son. Maybe she'll say yes, and then William will be invited to their house for a sleepover, and we'll have to either say yes or think of a reason that doesn't sound like we're assuming Bad Things Happen if boys and girls don't stay a pew's width apart and keep both feet on the floor.

I'm trying to remember how _I_ felt about boys in the fifth grade. I'd definitely had crushes, but they weren't yet obsessing my mind. Sixth grade was when that got started, but still not in full swing. Seventh grade was when boys became a more serious consideration. So in fifth grade I could have had a sleepover with a boy (but it's hard to imagine it because I would have found that idea appalling: in my PAJAMAS near a BOY??). But I went to a small private middle school: there were only three boys in my class in fifth grade and two of them were fourth graders i.e. BABIES. Things might have been different if there had been a larger selection. And I'm remembering my friend who lost her virginity at age 12 after a long string of related leading-up-to-it experiences, and the sister of a friend who did the same. These things do happen.

It boils down to this: We don't know if there should be different rules for boy-girl friendships or how to enforce them, but it's the time to think rapidly and get some policies in place before we're arguing with teenagers. It's an interesting topic for me to think about, but also stressful.

Review blog stuff: Home Depot (about small ways to do good environmental stuff), and Hellmann's (with a turkey-dinner-leftovers recipe and a sweepstakes to win a $100 gift card).

Milk and Cookies: Toy gift ideas I've already played with (alternate title: "My mom and aunt went toy shopping and I used all their successful ideas as my own").


Heather said...

What about a sleep over in the living room...they can drag matresses into the lounge room and sleep there. TV to watch and a fun experience but also the knowledge that anyone could walk through at any time.

Lucy said...

Wow, can I relate to this post! I feel the same way in that I grew up with parents who were ANTI sleep overs, so it makes me want to NOT be like that. However, if a boy I didn't know very well invited my daughter to spend the night at his house at that age, I probably (without a doubt) would say, "No way Jose!" I don't know. So many random thoughts going through my head! My heart rate is increasing just thinking about this topic. You are right....this topic IS stressful!!! :o)

Lindsay said...

This is so tricky! I was definitely into boys at that age, but absolutely not ready for any sexual contact. And throughout high school, I had several very good friends who were boys and had no "activity" with them at all.

Can you call the girl's mom, and get a feel for what she thinks? Or maybe have a "sleepover" where she goes home at 10. They can play and watch a movie and giggle but then not actually sleep near each other.

Magic27 said...

I'm kind of on the fence about this. I loathe hosting sleepovers for several reasons: our flat is really small, only 2 bedrooms, so my girls are already sharing, and there's little space for an extra body in there; my experience is that even numbers of kids works best - inviting one friend (which is the absolute maximum) always ends with two kids playing and one either sulking or crying; and I am lazy and find sleepovers exhausting. BUT. My girls have been to sleepovers many, many times and they love it.
Now, for the matter in hand: my elder daughter is almost 10 (she's in 5th grade too). She is NOT interested in boys (well, not ones she actually KNOWS; she's quite keen on the Jonas Brothers (so help me God)). Her best friend outside of school is a boy, his parents are her godparents, she's known him since they were both 2. I have no problem with her sleeping over at his place, mainly because Thomas is very much still a little boy (he's 3 months younger, in 4th grade) and nowhere near "teen" mentality. Carla is definitely more mature, but still little girlish too (she still plays with PlayMobils and Lego).
I'm not sure how I would feel if she were invited to sleep over at the house of a boy from her class - firstly because I just can't see it happening, but secondly because there are few that I know as well as Thomas and his (eminently sensible and trustworthy) parents. I don't think I would say "no" if it were the few boys whose parents I do know. But I probably would for the others (again, mainly because Carla isn't friends with them so it's unlikely to ever happen). Of course, I may well be being a little ostrich-y here... Also, the French system means that many of the kids in 5th grade here would only be in 4th grade in the US or the UK, so 5th graders here are young (none will be 11 till at least January, many only turned 10 recently and a few, including Carla, won't be 10 till December). I'm not looking forward to middle school starting next year - I think Carla will be young (still only 10 in September) and I'm worried that she might be easily influenced...
Good post, Swistle, with lots of food for thought...

jonniker said...

Argh, this is HARD. The thing is, my best friends growing up were mostly boys (with a few notable exceptions in the same group of friends), and we somehow all DID have co-ed sleepovers, even through HIGH SCHOOL, and it wasn't an issue. I can't remember WHY it wasn't an issue, or how our parents (rightfully) decided that none of us were sexually interested in the other, and that we really WERE just friends, but somehow it happened, and everyone trusted each other---and we had EARNED that trust, by doing precisely nothing nefarious or sexytime.

We WERE all attracted to the opposite sex, just not each OTHER, and our sleepovers were probably more wholesome than girl/girl sleepovers or boy/boy sleepovers in that we really did just sit up all night talking and playing videogames without any gossip or even DIRTY TALK, for real. Sometimes the boys would break off and play D&D while the girls would gossip/chat, but that wasn't even that OFTEN. We also didn't drink, were all in the marching band and were generally textbook good, nerdy kids.

I'm so glad my parents were so trusting, but the flip side now that I'm a parent is WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?! I don't know if I could do it, even though I was AT THOSE SLEEPOVERS and know for a fact nothing happened that we wouldn't do in FRONT of our parents.

Emily S. said...

As a 5th grade teacher, 5th grade is too old to have a co-ed sleep over. I would think the other kids in the class might find it strange and make fun of them. The only way this might be ok is if she sleeps in Elizabeth's room like you mentioned. It's never too early to come up with rules about boy-girl interaction.

Karen L said...

OiOiOi. I like the idea of all sleepovers, regardless of gender, occurring in the living room/family room. And I like the idea of challenging the hetero-normativity of viewing opposite- and same-sex sleepovers differently. But I also like the idea of respecting the guest's (and the guest's parent) preference.

But if I may ask, if it helps you clear up your own position, have you not already been through a similar thought process for deciding that your own children do not share rooms with the opposite sex? Because that would seem quite the coincidence that the one child out of five who gets her own room is the one girl. (which upon second reading makes it sound like I disagree with that decision but I don't. I just think that you probably have a reason for such non-randomness) Though that does not take into account the preference of the guest and her parents. Or does it, kinda?

I'm trying to think this out, too, because I will need to have children sharing rooms, possibly "indefinitely" (until they move out). And a big part of my own fretting is WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK? Even though I know that people think a lot of heterosexist crap.

Which isn't even to say that separating by sex is automatically heterosexist. Because I definitely appreciate separate change rooms. I prefer to change clothes only around women, no matter their orientation, and not around men, no matter their orientation. When I was on a highschool exchange in Germany, I joined a volleyball club (of mostly adults, I turned 18 there) and the change rooms and SHOWERS were unisex. I think I acted pretty cool about it and after I while I was mostly okay with it but it did kinda blow my mind.

Another thought on the WHOLE TOPIC: What would you accept/prefer to happen at someone else's house for sleepovers - for Edward? for Elizabeth? for same- or for opposite-sex sleepovers? - now? - a for six years from now?

Finally, please, please, please do an update post when/if you come up with a family policy.

Ann Wyse said...

I'm wringing my hands just thinking about this.
My husband claims nobody does sleepover in Germany - or at least, not 30 years ago where he lived - maybe we'll need to move back in time to Germany to avoid this?

I'm impressed with the commenter whose parent's trusted her (and friends).

I'd like to be that parent, with all the hindsight certainty, of course.

Karen L said...

Yikes, I hadn't thought of what Emily S. brought up - i.e., what would their peers think? although again, their peers probably think a lot of hetero-sexist crap.

Melody said...

Remembering the nature of my own sleepovers in 5th grade, I think 5th grade is too old for co-ed sleepovers. Sexual matters were definitely a giggly, naive topic of conversation. On one notable occasion, we called a phone sex line we had seen advertised on TV (not realizing the phone bill would be charged for it). For my group of friends, 5th grade was just old enough that hormones and confusion were beginning to kick in.

But, you and Paul know William best, so of course you will make the best decision about how to handle this!

Vegas710 (St) said...

Like Jonniker, I had mostly male friends growing up. We had sleepovers all the time. Thinking back to those things, I always got into more trouble (even of the sexplay variety) with the girls. The boys and I would never have dreamed of doing stuff like that!
Here's what bugs me the most about these conversations, we are assigning feelings and thoughts to our children that are not their own. If they are having sexytime thoughts about a friend (of any gender) I HIGHLY doubt they would request a sleepover. My dad made everything about sex and it left me with some major issues of guilt and whatnot. I just hated it when something wasn't even remotely about sex (sleepovers with my guy friends) and the adults introduced it as the problem. Made. Me. Crazy.

liz said...

Sleeping bags in the living room, and call her mom to brainstorm about it.

And then maybe talk w William about your thought processes. If he's old enough for you to be thinking about all this, he's old enough for you to be talking about appropriate relationships

Ms. Key said...

Dawson's Creek: Let a boy and girl sleep in the same bed until teenhood, drama llama ensues when later feelings develop, after a string of will they/won't they... she chooses Pacey anyway.


I don't know what's the right call here. I think that Grade 5 (American Grade 5 at that, typically a year older than Grade 5 here in Canada) would be too old for a mixed gender sleep over. I'm not trying to be sexist or imply anything about the kids, but yeah... definitely by that age we were well aware of things, telling dirty jokes behind our parents backs and all that... so, I'd be uncomfortable with it.... even on the "they might just innocently explore things" front (regardless of "attraction").

I think the idea of a later at night playdate, where Clarissa can stay up late with William but then head home at 10 (as suggested by another commenter) would be a nice compromise.

Misty said...

I think you are right about this being about "avoiding the appearance of evil." And girls always get the negative end on gossip. (Sigh)

I think if it were me (and I do have a 5th grader), I would have a talk with him. Ask him how he thinks his classmates would react if they found out. Could anyone be hurt by this happening? Can we think of a fun alternative that would be less likely to cause gossip?

Of course, I don't know Will. But I know Brother. He is old enough to be thoughtful and have input. I would also talk with the girl's parents to see where they are. And I *think* I would lean towards trusting my son (or at least seriously taking his viewpoints into consideration), mostly because I have been prattling at him about sex, gender issues, and the like for years already. Plus, I think that when someone shows trust in your, you are less likely to break that trust.

This is a toughie! I am sure you and Paul will come to the best decision for your family. Luck!

lifeofadoctorswife said...

Like Jonniker, I somehow managed to have (occasional - not regular) sleepovers with members of both sexes through high school. They were always done in a common space rather than a bedroom, and I remember very little sleeping happening. I also remember that my parents were very big on popping up randomly throughout the night.

However, the sleepovers included more than two people. (The smallest I can remember was four: two boys and two girls. And we were actually two couples in high school.) My parents are VERY conservative (I could not sleep in the same room with my LIVE IN boyfriend/fiance until after we were married), but they had Long Talks with me about appropriate behavior and they knew the parents of the others kids very well, which seemed to be a big part of whether a friendship was acceptable or unsupervisable when I was a kid.

I'm not saying this is the right way to do things, or that there IS a right way. But I'm finding it very interesting to read other people's thoughts on this matter and wanted to contribute my two cents. I do hope you write a follow up post when you decide!

Marie Green said...

I... I don't even KNOOOOOW. I like the "sleeping in the family room" idea, but in our house, that would be worse, as all of our bedrooms are upstairs, and we'd never hear a THING if we had them sleep downstairs.

My girls have already had many, many sleepovers. Some close family friends have a little boy, and from toddlerhood the kids have had "sleepovers" (i.e. overnight babysitting). Of course, at that age it was absolutely appropriate for all the kids to sleep together. We also go camping with these friends.

Now, my girls don't have a close boy friend so I don't forsee this being an issue with them. Who know for the other two, though, right? I have no idea how to handle it.

P.S. I hate sleepovers as the kids always spend the rest of the weekend RUINED with exhaustion. I still allow them, through gritted teeth, because they enjoy so much.

Ashley said...

I'm not exactly a prude...but just think of it this way for a minute. This may be their first one-on-one boy/girl experience, at least outside of school. Almost like a date. Now, I know they are way too young to be thinking in terms of dates, BUT it might still have that feeling about it: exciting, adventurous, independent, new (or maybe not! I don't know the kids and their relationship). But if it were my child, I wouldn't want that first boy/girl experience to center around lying down and sleeping.

However, I remember asking my mom to let me have a sleep over with my best friend that was a boy when I was 10 too! And she said no, and I was disappointed. So maybe if it was a small group, even a co-ed group, instead of just the two of them, that might put your mind more at ease?

swimmermom said...

My VERY conservative parents allowed me to have sleepovers with my (male) best friend. We grew apart around the beginning of high school so sleepovers naturally ended. As it turns out, he is gay, but none of us knew that at the time. At my house, we'd stay up in the family room together then he'd go sleep in my brother's room. At his house, we both slept in his room, in the same bed even!, and his parents checked on us occasionally.

It really resonates with me to NOT put ideas in kids' heads or put negative expectations on them by worrying about sex, when they are most likely not even thinking about that kind of stuff, and/or would be mortified if anyone thought they were. Some kids may not be innocent at that age, but many still are, and let's not spoil it for them, yk? Let them be kids.

I think a workable sex-neutral approach would be to have all sleepovers in the LR or family room with random parental checks. I also think that you have to leave room for some case-by-case judgment calls, probably in consultation with the other child's parents. I mean, there are a LOT of permutations to consider here, so it's not likely that one flat rule is going to fit every case.

Brenna said...

I'm a fan of the No Sleepovers Ever rule, but it would make me feel mean. But I don't like having kids over here, and I've already run into the whole 'other parents aren't as vigilant/watchful/responsible as I need them to be. My 12 y/o daughter went to a sleepover at a friend's house. It was for this girl's birthday, but my daughter was the only guest. When I dropped her off, there were a lot of family members there, so I thought, cool, a nice family party followed by a sleepover. WRONG. I found out the next day that the mom left the girls there alone to go watch TV at another house, then bought them to this house at 10PM for another few hours. All without a word to me. I was livid. I wouldn't take another person's kid to the freaking grocery store without at least a heads up.

So, lesson learned there. Assume NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

No sleepovers ever. I was boy CRAZY as a pre-teen and had a boyfriend in grade 5. I got up to weird stuff in same-sex sleepovers so who knows what would've happened if boys were there.

I find it easier to make blanket rules about certain things so the decision is made ahead of time, than have to re-assess at every stage of the game.

CARRIE said...


I would ix-nay the sleepover if for no other reason than even if they are completely friends and not "friends," it sets a precedent of having co-ed sleepovers. When he is 17 and wants to have a real girlfriend sleep over, he might bring up the co-ed 5th grade sleepover as evidence of "You let me do it once. Why not now?" And I'm very big on not giving my children any more ammo against me, if I can possibly help it.

Unfortunately, I think this is just one of those slippery slope parenting issues that you just have to make a gut decision about. Even if it's not fair, life is, alas, not fair.

cakeburnette said...

Hey, you have the best solution at hand: many, many siblings. Let the girl sleep over, but let the siblings ALL join in on the "sleep in the family room with the TV, oh wait, you mean no one is actually getting much sleep after all" fun! Of course, that means you might have a houseful of cranky kids the next day, but you might be able to convince at least the teens and preschoolers to nap.

I only have 2, but we don't let them have "visitors" of the opposite gender in bedrooms without the sibling "chaperoning" (I have one boy & one girl). My two are only 15 months apart, so this is very convenient because they have the same set of friends, for the most part. :) And they've sort of had de facto co-ed sleepovers where each has a friend and they end up sleeping in the living room or bonus room or in the middle of the trampoline in the back yard in a big ridiculous pile. I guess I never really thought of it as a co-ed sleepover until you asked this question!

Jen in MI said...

Hmm. I'd say no, for most of the reasons already mentioned above. I think the point about your opposite sex kids not sharing a room is a good one. They may not be interested in each other in "that way" right now, but by 5th grade, the feelings can start at any time and it seems risky to me. As the mother of a daughter, I wouldn't let her. I hate sleepovers anyway. I let my daughter go to some, but I am much more a fan of letting the kids play till 10 or so and then everyone going to their own houses.

Nik-Nak said...

I would say no. I wouldn't even put half as much thought into it as you did.
What does this say about me? (Besides CONSERVATIVE). But even if I hadn't said no and allowed it? My husband would have SCREAMED no for me.
He's old school.

Bailey said...

Out of a gaggle of friends in elementary/middle school, only one or two were boys. My mom's rule was that boys and girls could come over, play, stay...but no closed doors. Ever. Not when we were studying, or hanging out drawing a sharpie mural on my wall, not at night to sleep. Like lifeofadoctorswife, my mom would frequently check on us for snacks, or just walk by humming the Jaws music, or throw two squirt guns in the room and let us have at it. It's not like my guy friends and I never thought of playing doctor. We just knew it wouldn't fly with my mom right around the corner, and there was always other fun stuff to do instead. But Mom may have just realized that I was a very "young" teenager.

Oof. Good luck! 8^)

Jess said...

I think a "late-over" would be a great alternative. invite her over, make a fun dinner (build your own pizzas and root beer floats, maybe) rent them a movie or a video game and she goes home at bedtime. win win

Elsha said...

Feeling glad right now that my kids are toddlers, so that I don't actually have to worry about this kind of stuff for years.

Let us know how you end up handling it though!

Dr. Maureen said...

*Strangled cry of dismay* Gah gah gah gah gah I so don't want to ever have to think about this. I have no idea, NO IDEA, what the right thing to do is. And see? This is just fodder for my theory that raising children never gets easier, it just switches from PHYSICALLY difficult to EMOTIONALLY difficult.

So glad I could help!

Emily S. said...

2 other reasons to say no:
If you say yes now, at what point would you say no and how would you explain your change in rules to your son?
Also, even though this son may not seem interested in this girl, your other sons (in the future) may be different and you may not trust them with a particular girl or you may not like the girl that they are friends with. How can you say no to them after saying yes to William?
I am not against sleepovers, but 5th grade doesn't seem like the right age for a co-ed sleepover.

vanessa said...

I'd do it in the living room, and I'd make sure I checked on the kids often, and I think you are exactly right that this kind of constant heterosexism is at the very least irritating and possibly worse.
I would check on ANY two kids having a sleepover in tis age range, and I think having a living room rule is probably a good idea anyway. And I want to know what you decide.
I've given this one a lot of thought because of my youth group leader job, and the fact that I run lock ins for youth of varying ages and both genders and all orientations multiple times a year, and I have come down on the side of knowing the kids involved very well, and NOT assuming that just because one is a boy and one is girl any Hanky Panky will take place (I like to walk around yelling HANKY PANKY PATROL every now and then).

vanessa said...

oh yes--and I ALSO think (and I say this as a sex ed teacher) that most parents are waaaay overly concerned about sexual activity. for realz, yo.

alice said...

FASCINATING to read everyone's thoughts. To me, the question(s) boil down to:
- To the extent that you're concerned about Something Happening, conversations with W should probably commence, since Somethings happen as easily in the afternoon as they do at night.
- To the extent that you're concerned about what other kids/her parents will think, talking with W, and separately with her parents, seems like a good idea. People may still have Feelings about it all, but at least you know that W will have considered the issue and not be surprised by it.

Practically speaking, the random-looking-in-on-things strategy seems like a good, gender-neutral one, especially as you feel your way around it all. While I loved the unsupervised sleepovers we used to have in the basements of friends' houses, I can see that being a 'reward' for friends whom you know well, etc.

And in case it helps to have company, I've known that I was bi since high school, and I came out to my parents when I was 16. They threw up their hands about the whole Bedroom Visitor issue, and focused on what behavior they were and were not comfortable with, since they couldn't rely on gender any more (and were very dismayed by that).

StephLove said...

I hope this isn't a repeat. My comments seems to have gotten lost in cyberspace.

I think when they start middle school next year might be a time to set new rules about mixed gender sleepovers if you decide they need more scrutiny than same gender sleepovers. It draws an admittedly arbitrary but clear "too old for this" line because so many other things change in middle school.

Alicia said...

I have absolutely had this problem before, with my oldest.

His best friend last year (so, 4th grade) was a girl. We had a playdate (omg, torture) with her, and at the end, they asked about a sleepover. I mentioned it to her grandma (who she lives with), and yeah, that was the end of that. We never heard from them again. I can't be certain the mention of a coed sleepover was what sealed the deal, but I kinda think it was. I even suggested the girl sleep in my daughter's room. I think the grandma thought I was insane.

The DUMB thing is that my son is GOOFY - superbly goofy - and the biggest rule follower/enforcer ever. And the friend was obviously still little too... like, hyper, not interested in boys/girls, obsessed with nerdy games, no real acknowledgment that they were even different, you know, genderwise...

It's funny because, a year later, I can tell she's different. They're not really friends anymore. They're different now... Like, he's still a kid, and she's about to hit puberty... I wouldn't even ask about it now, but then, it would've been fine. But no.

Aside: I changed majors after my terrrible lit professor wrote all these snide comments chastising me for my use of the word "puritanical." Gives me such satisfaction when I see other people using it. Bwahahaaa.

Firegirl said...

I thought about this all day, I even asked Kevin what he thought.

His immediate response was "No, because she's a girl" Then he wondered what the girls parents would say. Finally he made the observation about the other kids calling her names.

I think they are considered pre-teens and it's just not a good idea. Even if the concept of attraction hasn't *quite* entered their consciousness yet, why give it an opportunity?

The only way I could think it would be okay is if one of them were gay. Then there isn't a threat of attraction. But that's a much bigger conversation.

I guess I am in the better safe than sorry camp.

Amber said...

Ok, so I agree with many many comments here.

I think if I were you, I would go with the idea of a "late-over." Our neighbors have 4 kids and they don't allow their kids to have or go to sleepovers (yet? Ever? I'm unclear on that)but they are allowed to have and go to "late-overs." I adore this idea. Our girls and their girls accept this as completely normal and it takes so much fret out of what is otherwise fun for the kids. You don't have to worry about someone getting sick in the night or wanting to go home at 2 a.m. everyone goes to bed at a reasonable time, even if it is a bit later than usual.

As the parent of a 12 year old girl, I would under no circumstances let my daughter spend the night at a boy's house. It has nothing to do ith the parents or the boy, it's just not something I'm comfortable with. I would be fine with a late-over, but I would be so fretty and nervous about an all-night over. Would I have to have a conversation about teenage stuff with her, and if I did have that talk, would I be bringing up subjects that never even occurred to her and therefore making her feel weird about the whole thing?

I'll stop now, as this is turning into a long comment and I'm only like half done fretting. :)

Liss said...

One of the best things about being lesbian in my teenage years was that I could have "sleepovers" in my room and nobody thought anything of it. In college, my "roommates" seldome were just that. My baby brother never knew any better; my parents suspected eventually but it would have seemed weird to switch the rules.

Let them sleep in the family room and let the siblings join in. It's almost certainly not about sex.

Mel said...

Didn't have time to read all the posts, but had to weigh in.

My daughter's best friend is a boy on our street. She is in Grade 6, he is in Grade 7. They have been the best of friends for 6 years.

They have had 1 sleepover at his house last year and 1 sleepover at our house about a month ago.

I get the "jump to conclusions, gut wrenching feeling. But I have had to get myself over it cause these kids are the best of friends and their relationship is so good for each other. They support and coach each other when other kids are mean. They boost each others self confidence and I do not want them to feel like there is something wrong with their friendship.

I suppose at some point things may change. But until they reach a point where hormones may start coming into play, I'm going to encourage this friendship. Besides I have a feeling he's going to be a fixture in our house for a long time, especially since he lives 2 doors away.

Sally said...

I think this is a situation where ultimately it is about appearances, mostly. You know your child well enough to be fairly sure that nothing will happen. And honestly, based on my middle school/ high school memories, no amount of rules/restrictions will keep kids who want to fool around from fooling around. All you can really do is talk to your kids about your concerns, about safe and appropriate behavior for their age, and let them know that you trust them. Also, talk to Clarissa's mom. A healthy, trusting relationship with my parents that led to me honestly caring about what they thought of me and my actions is probably all that kept me from getting pregnant in high school.

Maggie said...

I don't have much insight into the boy/girl sleep-over issue because my son is only 8 and clearly so clueless and not interested in girls as anything other than friends it's ridiculous.

My only input is that I hate sleepovers in general and my son has had only two at our house, both in the summer when he and his best friend slept in a tent in the backyard. Won't be doing any indoor overnights because sound carries in our house like crazy, we have a 2 YO who really doesn't need to be kept awake and/or woken early due to boys not being able to quiet down and go the hell to sleep, and my son is a complete ass after every sleepover since he only gets about 5 hours of sleep (at best).

I plan to hold out on the sleepover thing as long as I can because they are just such a grind for the rest of the week-end.

artemisia said...

This is SO INTERESTING and difficult and important. Bravo, Swistle, for thinking this through rather than just reacting. You are so GOOD at THAT.

Also, I adore you, Karen L.! Anyone who can sling around heteronormativity in a comment is someone I'd like to call a friend.

artemisia said...

For the record, I'd go with co-ed sleepovers in the living room and make sure all is clear with the other parents. I'd also talk to the kids about the potential fall out this could have among their other friends and see how they feel about that possibility. But, I'd have their back all the way.

missris said...

When I was in middle school and even high school my parents let me have/go to co-ed sleepovers and let me assure you, nothing even close to nefarious ever happened. Maybe this is because I was a huge dork and some of these sleepovers were designed so that we could STUDY MORE for our academic decathlon team (dork!) but still, it's not likely that anything would happen. But I do like the idea of having a fake sleepover, where they get to stay up late and watch movies and have ice cream, and then she goes home at 10:00pm or something. Maybe ask her mom what she thinks and go from there?

Anonymous said...

It's true, here in Germany we don't do sleepovers. One friend might come over now and then, but never a whole pyjama-party! You play, you go home. Thank goodness!

Superjules said...

I had a boy friend when I was really little-- the son of my parents' friends. When we were LITTLE little we were allowed to sleep in the fort, but I feel like 10 was too old and we slept in separate rooms.
Not very helpful, I know, but this post poses a DIFFICULT question!

Stephanie said...

I think I am in the "group/living room sleeping arrangements" camp. I specifically remember being that age and having a boy-who-was-a-friend sleep over (our families were close and it wasn't the first time he'd slept over, though usually his two sisters came too) and it was a Big Deal that we had to sleep in separate rooms and I was clueless. Granted, my parents were not good at talking about anything remotely related to "relations" and "opposite sexes" and "sex" and "feelings" and "puberty" and the list goes on. I just remember feeling confused. Also, we tried to sneak into the storage closet to sleep b/c we thought it would be funny to sleep in a closet. And we got "caught" and sent back to separate rooms.

Anyway, I guess I think maybe it shouldn't have so much emphasis on it? From a child's perspective, that is. I DEFINITELY get the emphasis/stress/anxiety from a parental perspective and I now get why my parents made us have separate rooms. I just didn't then. So I think definitely try and gauge where William is on this whole feelings/maturity issue and chances are he just wants to have a sleepover with his best friend just like everyone else does and his best friend happens to be a girl.

I also feel like things get weird quickly for the boy/girl friendships around this point and letting their friendship remain intact is probably good for them? I don't know. I do also remember losing my best friend who happened to be a boy in the 6th grade b/c that's when some switch flipped for our whole class and boys and girls had to start LIKING each other and couldn't be just friends anymore.

Too much rambling. My apologies. Please please please update with what you decide because I am filing it away for the future of my now-toddlers. I had never even thought of this as an issue before.

Eep. Good luck. You will do the right and thoughtful thing, as always!

Vegas710 (St) said...

I have to comment again because this just bothers me so much! If you've seen William and his friend playing together, do they play like kids or like budding hormone bundles? If they play like kids then let them be kids.
I HATE the idea that one of the first lessons kids get about sex is that it means they can't be friends with the opposite sex.
You absolutely CAN change the rules as they get older. They aren't so dumb that they think they should be allowed a sleepover with a romantic crush when they're 16. Know your kids, trust your kids. And don't assign feelings to them that they are not having, it's so disrespectful.

Swistle said...

Vegas710 (St)- I don't think I'm disrespectfully assigning feelings, or giving friendship-alienating lessons about sex, or assuming everything is about sex. Those issues don't feel to me at all like what I'm talking/fretting about here, and in fact they seem to me like the things I'm trying to avoid. What I'm doing is working through various ideas about what is considered socially appropriate, and trying to figure out which parts of that make sense and which don't (as with the presumed heterosexuality issue, where only boy/girl combinations are worried about). It's a matter of figuring out where the line is (in the more general societal sense, and more specifically for our household, and even more specifically for each individual situation), and also of figuring out what my reasons would be for drawing it there, and how many of those reasons are legit---and trying to do it so that I can explain them to the kids as well, without making them think it's about sex.

I do already realize that I can change the rules as we go along, and there are many other areas of rule-making where that's exactly what I do, and I'm already assuming I'll need to do it here too---but I'd like if possible to first figure out the bigger picture, so that I can address the case-by-case stuff from more solid ground than I'm currently on.

K said...

I would encourage them to "hang out" as in pizza, games, or renting movies whatever they chose to do. Spending the night is just strange, unless your very close to the family. If it was a huge group thing I would think differently. I have two daughters I would say no without a doubt.

Anonymous said...

Some of my best childhood memories are of sleepovers. Many of which included boys...however, all the boy/girl sleepovers I attended were also attended by my older brother who never would have stood for anything sexual to happen with/to me on his watch. So, maybe if your son's friend has a brother who is of age with or close enough to being that of one of your other children you can host a co-ed sleepover with all four children together in the living room and you frequently checking in on them.
On the other hand, when my younger sister was in high school, she convinced our parents that they should allow the boy she said was her "gay best friend" to frequently spend the night in her room...I think you can see where this is going. It went on for about year before our parents walked in on them and the truth came out. I don't know how I will ever trust my kids on any sort of sleepover.
Given the choice, I would rather host the sleepover at my own house than leave my kids somewhere their might be older siblings, parents or other guest I have even a shadow of doubt about. And, I basically have a shadow of doubt about everyone.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a fake-sleepover or a late-over because my childhood memories of sleepovers are soooo different from many of those previously related. I only attended or hosted sleepovers for friends when a preteen and, though I went to all of those I was invited to, I HATED them. I hated them with a violent passion. They were fun during the pizza/movie/game early portion of the night, but then as it got late girls would start playing Truth or Dare and (being preteens) would think of the stupidest things to challenge you with or they would make stupid prank calls or giggle all night about sticking so and so's clothes in the freezer or poor sleeping so and so's hand in a bowl of ice water.

I was so much happier when I was a teenager. No one had sleepovers then. We had coed parties. We would hang out--sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning and then we would GO HOME. All the fun stuff--none of the stupidity.

So, after that long rant, I would love to impose the rule in my house that you can have nights where you play late with a friend, you can even go to the first part of a friend's sleepover, but you come home and sleep in your own bed. I would have LOVED that excuse as a kid. What? You want to play truth or dare? Sorry, Mom says I have to go home.

Vegas710 (St) said...

OMG, Swistle, I should have been more clear. I don't think you are doing those things at all! It was more a response to other comments and coming strictly from my own crappy childhood experiences.
I re-read my comment and I can see that I was not at all clear as to where my rant was directed. I'm relatively certain that you are not interested in mimicking the mistakes of my crazy parents and are in fact doing the opposite by giving this so much thought! I'm so sorry!!

Swistle said...

St- Whew!

Sara said...

I read this when you posted it, but didn't comment because I had nothing useful to say. Now I feel like I need to find a good reason--or excuse--because my 6 year old daughter was told by her male classmate that he wanted her to sleep over!!!!!!!!! Oy! Really?

ericadouglas said...

My house growing up had one gigantic living room/dining room / kitchen. When I was in a public space with my friends, it was the ONLY public space and my parents were there too. AWKWARD. I was allowed to have friends in my room but I didn't always LIKE to.
One of my requirements for our new house is that we have a PUBLIC but slightly PRIVATE room. My favorite house has a breakfast nook and a dining room. I plan to use the dining room for our toddler now and then it can still be her PUBLIC BUT SEMI-PRIVATE room with her friends. My husband's parents' house has a front room and a living room and it was SO NICE to be in public but not with his parents. It's still probably my favorite room in their house. (Regarding William and his best-friend-who-is-a-girl)