Two Sides of It: Sleepovers (Running Girl)

I have very fond memories of sleepovers from my childhood.  My first sleepovers were with my grandparents.  Every summer my sister and I would spend a week at our grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh.  We both have very fond memories of those visits.

The first non-family sleepovers I can remember were from 2nd and 3rd grades.  I had two friends with whom I would spend the night. Both had families that were very different from mine.  I can’t remember if they spent the night at my house, but I think it was going to someone else’s house that sticks out in a person’s mind.

It was in 6th grade when sleepovers began in earnest.  Sleepovers always took friendships to the next level.  You got to see the inner workings of friends’ families.  You could see where your friend started off their day before school and where they went at the end of the day.  You got a peek into their refrigerators, closets, bathrooms, siblings rooms and their bedrooms.  Games were played, clothes were shared and meals were had.

When I got to middle school and high school the sleepovers went into overdrive.  I think I spent more weekends at friends’ houses than I did at home.  The girls I spent the night with?  I am still friends with them to this day.  As one friend’s mom says, “There is something special about friends who knew you when you were growing up; who were familiar with your childhood home and with your family.”  I think that is very true.

What’s the big deal about sleepovers?

  • Experiencing differences in family units.  Growing up we think our families are normal.  When we get out into the world and specifically into people’s homes, we see that everyone has their own normal.  This is a good thing.
  • Change is fun.  It’s fun to eat dinner at 5:00 instead of your normal 8:00.  It’s fun to see nightgowns rather than pajamas with tops and bottoms.  It’s fun to stay up later than you usually do.  It’s fun to sleep in the basement in a sleeping bag or in a bunk bed or on a matching twin bed or in a double bed with your pal.
  • This is a chance for your child to put their social skills in action.  Gee, mom was right about keeping your elbows off the table, not slurping your water and about saying, “Please, may I have…”  Parents notice good manners.  The payoff?  Invitations.
  • The parents hosting the sleepover have a chance to better know their child’s friend.
  • Kids learn to separate from Mom and Dad.  This is good practice for that 7th grade French trip to Montreal, the high school marching band trip to Chicago, the move to college and ultimately, the move away from home.  It can be scary at first, most face some version of these steps along the way.
  • On the flip side, parents learn to let go too.  We send our kids to kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school and college.  It’s scary for parents, but kids do an awful lot of growing when they are away from us.
  • The family left behind during the sleepover has a chance to bond in a different way.  It’s time for parents to spend quality time  with other siblings.  Better yet, try and get the siblings to their own sleepovers.  BONUS:  A night only for the ‘rents.
  • The kids having the sleepover bond in a new way.  This is when kids feel comfortable to be vulnerable with one another.  They share things they might not share around a large group of peers.  They open up about things happening at home.  They joke and laugh together.

Can kids survive without ever experiencing sleepovers?  Sure, but they’re missing out on making some great memories.  They can catch up on their sleep some other day.

–Running Girl

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