How I Survived My Son’s First Sleepover


When you’re a parent (or at least an UNFUN parent like me), sleepovers are THE WORST. I shudder at the very thought of them at your house, and I avoid them like the Zika virus in mine.

I have one insane friend (happily insane, not criminally) who casually hosts sleepovers with a guest list of 25+ girls. TWENTY. FIVE. Double digit children. All night long. In her home. And somehow everyone emerges the next morning alive. Just the thought of this kind of mania gives me vertigo.

Because here’s where my mind goes when I think “sleepover:”

Feral children running amok, screeching at dog whistle octaves, making crank calls, trying to make each other pee involuntarily, freezing one another’s underwear, conducting séances, watching sketchy YouTube videos, concocting “inventive” new ways to avoid sleeping one single solitary wink, and the next day returning to Mom and Dad’s loving arms a limp, surly, useless excuse for a human being.

That pretty much describes my sleepover experiences, circa 1980-87. Except instead of YouTube, we watched horror movies. And the involuntary peeing happened at the end of Carrie when that blood-soaked hand comes shooting up out of the grave, and I nearly stroked out in Mandi Sigmon’s basement.

Basically, nothing good happens after midnight. That’s a truth I’ll set my watch by.

But there comes a point in every tween’s life when the sleepover is THE THING. It represents all this child’s finest hopes and dreams for his birthday. It is the essence of birthday joy. Without it…loneliness, despair, dashed dreams, weepy puppy dog eyes.

And there comes a point when we stupid parents make promises we never intend to keep just to shut the kids up…which is all well and good until we get shamed into finally making good on them.

So yeah, I faintly recall telling Will he could have a sleepover when we moved into a bigger house. SOMEDAY. Years from now. In a galaxy far far away.

And oddly enough, we did move into a slightly bigger domicile. All the while, he has held onto that promise like the promise of salvation itself.

So I did it. I said we’d have a sleepover, and we finally did. Somehow I survived it. My husband survived it. All children involved (only FOUR) survived it.

But here’s the key, and you’ll want to write this down.


If you want to avoid banshee-like behavior into the wee hours, you must wear these monkeys OUT. I mean, into the ground.


We went with the indoor ropes course idea–a plus for being both physically intense and crazy over-stimulating. They were all in sleeping bags at 11:00, shushing each other because they were so done.

Trapping them into the backyard trampoline for hours or setting them loose on some intense backyard Nerf wars would also work…maybe even manual labor like dragging logs across the back forty, even though you might catch it from a few softie helicopter parents.

Here’s another thought I’ll share, even though I don’t normally have any credible advice ever. TAKE AWAY THE ELECTRONICS AT BEDTIME.

At one sleepover, Will was kept up all night long by a smart-alack kid with a fart-noise app. So I say, just gather up all the devices before bed (I used the guise that I was “charging them”), and voila. Temptation gone. Unsavory YouTube videos eliminated. Fart noises silenced. Zzzzzzzz. You’re welcome.



I have to say, this sleepover wasn’t the worst. It actually gave my motherly heart pitter-pats of joy to see my kid flying down a zip line through a dazzling spray of water backlit with lasers like a rock star.

It felt good to give him that memory-making experience with his buddies. It felt good to step out of my comfort zone and live a little. And it felt good when everybody actually went to sleep.

Like, monumentally good.

Like, silently doing-the-Running-Man-in-my-living-room good.

Let’s face it, the SLEEP part is my very favorite (albeit elusive) part of the sleepover…maybe even my favorite part of parenting itself. Because it feels like VICTORY.

When the day is done, when we can check it off, when we can say we somehow prevailed all the way to the end, that feels like cause for celebration to me…and an excuse for some really bad dancing.

Like I needed one.





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