Rabbit holes. We’ve all been down them in the parenting world. Especially the social media kind with their twists and turns, comment feeds, and wild heretics of this idea of that. The two am kind where you watch two strangers back-and-forth on the best way to fold an empanada or why veganism is more woke than vegetarianism. Lotta isms. You get the point. The great sleepover debate seems to run the gambit of varied opinions.
I’ve been in conversational discussions with other parents in recent months on a swirling topic with tons of controversy that I also see online, as our kids all age and progress into the depths of decision-making that has the kind of impact on our kids that could be truly life-changing. (No offense to the toddler moms trying to decide which water table will help your kid with tactile engagement, but like, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet in the world of choices. It’s rough!) And I’ve been recently, with friends I used to close the bars with in our 20s, having the great sleepover debate of our middle age era.
I’ve watched TikTok moms who are rockstars at hosting sleepovers with themes for their kids and a few friends, and each time, in the vast comments, are people pouring their hearts out to the internet staunchly saying, “Nope! We aren’t doing sleepovers, not as attendees nor hosts, not my kids, not after I was inappropriately touched at __ age.” The number of these comments is often staggering in number. Often a person will comment with that notion, and then under their comment are several replies of, “Amen,” or “Same…it was my best friend’s much older brother.” The number of people, now parents, who have this aligned similarity in experiences has been eye-opening to me as a 37-year-old. I guess we didn’t realize how rampant our peers were being inappropriately placed in bad adult environments as kids.
I am a 90’s kid. Born in the 80s, my true childhood memories before my teen years were the entirety of the 90s, and sure, back then, the outpouring of people on talk shows saying they had been molested or assaulted was starting to come out more and more. I think, in my suburban region or “hushed scenery” in quiet neighborhoods and sleepy subdivisions, the outward discussion still wasn’t ever mainstream among the adults (at least not that I can recall). And so, here we land in 2022, a generation of more woke parents to the underbelly of society, and the notion that “Anyone is truly capable of anything” lurks around us like heavy fog day to day. Our parents clearly weren’t having the hell-raising great sleepover debate.
Now I don’t WANT to be the Debbie-Downer of the sleepover world. I know some folks operate it in a fashion that’s more dependent on their familial situation (i.e., are their kids close to their cousins, and if so, they do sleepovers only there), but for those of us embarking on elementary school, in a world of – let’s be real – gun-toting Doomsday preppers, vacant parents within the space of a home that might as well be a pharmacy, and the unbeknownst existent child molester roaming among us, we are simply navigating a minefield of sleepover what-ifs.
The media hasn’t helped our situation. Of course, we all are more aware of shocking stories and startling statistics in a daily dose of news apps than anyone was in the pre-9/11 media era. It’s just sad that the kids of today will – mine included – miss out on the joy of a sleepover. And the debate is never-ending in nature. Because for those of us who don’t want our kiddo to experience the trauma of the “curious mischief kind” at age 7, or 8, should they go looking into cabinets at a house of a classmate, there is a whole other set of worries as they approach the teen years where experimentation these days could include, “These one pills I know my mom took when she had back surgery, let’s try one.” (Oxycontin didn’t exist in the ’90s either!)
It seems like the slippery slope is made harder if you say that a sleepover is only okay for a certain friend’s house, but not another’s, or that it’s okay at a certain age, but not at a different age. Bah! The harping magnitude of such a conflict. Like I said in the title, it’s quite a GREAT DEBATE!