My oldest turned 10 years old this week and so, the inevitable happened. That milestone that I had been delaying for a decade: a slumber party at our house. My daughter has been to several sleepovers at her friends’ homes but this was the first time we’d be hosting a handful of tween girls.
I knew it would be loud. I knew it would be a late night. I did NOT know I would want to send some of them (or maybe even all of them) home as soon as they arrived.
Instead of agonizing over the details of this night of torture, I decided to use this opportunity as a teaching moment for myself–and my daughter. There were so many lessons that I had assumed I didn’t need to clarify with my daughter. But after spending an evening with her classmates, it became very apparent that to assume our children understand how to behave in someone else’s home is naïve. And so I give you my Sleepover Commandments for my children.
- Find a respectful way to address your friend’s parents. “Hey, Quinn’s mom!” seems okay in theory. I’m not overly formal. I don’t need a Mrs. Potter or a ma’am. But in context, it was quite abrasive. For example, “Hey, Quinn’s mom, I need more pizza!” “Quinn’s dad, are you deaf? That’s the movie we want.” “Hey, Quinn’s mom, is there a different type of cake? This flavor makes me think of vomit.” Just to be safe, I’ve instructed my kids to stick to the ol’ Mr. or Mrs. Last Name until they are instructed otherwise by that adult.
- For goodness sake, use “please” and “thank you” like you have a please and thank you problem. Use them constantly. Use those words to the point that people think you are going crazy. Please and thank you your hosts to death. Don’t stop saying please and thank you until you are driving away from their house. Even then, send a thank you note if you must. Whatever you do, make sure that you are the most grateful person in the room.
- Unless someone is bleeding or dying, do not ever, ever, ever, EVER walk, uninvited into your friend’s parents’ bedroom or bathroom. ESPECIALLY if the door is closed. If you MUST, for some dire reason, make sure you knock first and wait for them to answer. Most likely, they will get up and come to you. If you find yourself at 3 a.m. waltzing into your friend’s parents’ bedroom to demand that they turn off the house alarm so that you can go down to get a snack, you are wrong. Turn around, go back to wherever you came from, and do something else.
- If you are the first to wake up (at 6:30 a.m.), feel free to stare at the ceiling. Read a book. Recite the lyrics to Hamilton in your head. Repeatedly count your fingers and toes until your host-friend wakes up and can give further instruction. Do NOT walk uninvited into your friend’s parents’ bedroom to ask them to turn off the house alarm and make breakfast. See # 3.
- The words “I’m bored” need never cross your lips. You are with your friend(s) outside of school. This should be enough excitement in and of itself. It is likely that your host-friend has anticipated this sleepover for quite some time, and (if they are anything like my daughter) created a detailed plan of activities that she is very excited about. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into these activities. Play fairly. Be nice. Have fun. If you are bored, you are wrong. If you are still bored, keep it to yourself.
- Be nice to your host friend’s siblings. An older sibling having a set of friends over can completely rock the world of a little brother or sister. Their primary playmate has been stolen from them for the night, leaving them unsure about how to spend the time. Find ways to include them if they want to be included. Even if your host-friend is being rude to a younger sibling to seem cool, you should continue to be kind.
- Don’t be the loudest person in the room. It’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to squeal, it’s okay to tell jokes and guffaw and all that. Moderation is key. There isn’t an award for the loudest voice, shrillest scream, or most shocking laugh—so no need to try to win it.
- Clean up your stuff. Eat your pizza and take your plate to the kitchen. Don’t leave a path of dirty socks, balled up jean shorts, and ponytail holders in the hallway. Having a sleepover comes with a lot of extra mess, but you don’t need to contribute more than your fair share.
When I was growing up, my friends and I had constant sleepovers. Many of them took place at my home. We locked ourselves in our basement. Listened to music. Made prank calls. Ate ourselves silly. Tried to see who could drink the most Jolt and Mountain Dew without dying.
Looking back, I hope I wasn’t a giant pain in the rear for my friends’ parents. I’m sure I was. But I don’t remember being so…..abrasive. Or bold. Or uninhibited in my friends’ homes. Maybe it’s just selective memory.
I recently reconnected with the mom of one of my life-long friends. I told her about my first sleepover experience with my daughter and her friends. She smiled sympathetically. She did confirm that when we slept over, she barely saw us–and she definitely never saw us in her bedroom—ever—much less at 3 a.m.! But once I was finished with my tale of woe, she calmly said, “Lindsay, I still have a vomit stain on my carpet from you from a sleepover 25 years ago. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Touché.