My son is in fourth grade. Until recently, he’d never attended a sleepover. Part of this was because I’m generally anti-sleepover, but part of this was due to the social distancing of the past two years. It never came up, and I was honestly glad not to have to think about it.
A few months ago though, one of my son’s friends invited him to a small birthday sleepover. My son was elated. I was happy for him but also reluctant. I hadn’t gotten to know this friend too well. He’d been in school with my son since kindergarten, but they’d only just gotten close this year. I’d interacted with his parents enough times to determine that they were nice people who seemed to have values similar to ours. In fact, my husband and I really liked them. We just hadn’t hung out much, and can you ever be too sure?
The thought of sleepovers made me anxious. You just never know what people do in their homes, how children are supervised, and what sorts of rules are in place. And yet, I knew I wanted this experience for my son. The last two years have been so weird and have taken away a lot. He was so excited. This would be an opportunity to bond, maybe to make up for other opportunities that were lost to living childhood in a pandemic. If you’re anti-sleepover, you’re probably reading this thinking, “Why not have a lateover?” or “Still, you can never be too careful.” I get it. I had those thoughts, too. All I can say is my son needed this experience, and I had to weigh that against the possibilities of what could happen.
We talked about all the important things leading up to the sleepover: boundaries, manners, and safety. We sent him with a phone just to be able to FaceTime with me in case he needed anything. My husband dropped him off and said he didn’t look back. When I got off work that evening and sent an “I love you” text, I was met with silence. While I knew he was having fun with the guys, I was still surprised to get no response. I sent a check-in text to the mom. She confirmed that the boys were having a blast. I figured surely, when it was time for lights out, that I’d get a homesick phone call. Maybe not asking to be picked up, but maybe just one looking for some reassurance. But nope.
His silence made me both nervous and happy. Sure, I wanted to confirm that all was well, but I also was pretty positive that he was simply having too much fun with the guys to be bothered to chat with me. I calmly went to sleep while also eagerly awaiting morning when I would have my boy back in my arms.
I arrived for pickup the next morning to a perfectly normal scene: three boys lazily playing video games in their PJs, half-eaten plates of waffles and bacon on the kitchen counter. I stayed for a bit to catch up with the parents and give my son “just a few more minutes to finish this game.” I’m grateful that we’d decided to allow my son to participate. On the way home, he couldn’t stop talking about the fun he had, about some low-key and harmless pranks they played, about whatever new “hacks” they discovered on Minecraft. He has since been to two more sleepovers, and after two years of quarantine and social distancing, I’m glad to have ripped off the sleepover Band-Aid.