I'm a big fan of sleepovers. In fact, my girls have friends sleep over almost every single weekend. I'm often asked if I'm crazy. Here's the thing, though—I think sleepovers are part of the good stuff growing up, and I encourage them at every turn. I also have clear, consistent guidelines that I follow. Maybe that's what's keeping me on the right side of sane. Now, if I could only figure out this whole sibling rivalry thing.
Get Out Of Their Way
Hovering? Eavesdropping? Trying to be one of the girls? Stop it! The whole purpose of a sleepover, Mom, is for you to catch a break. (And you thought it was so the kids could have fun.) Children have this incredible abiltity to play, ALL BY THEMSELVES. So, let them. Then grab that book you've been meaning to read.
The Food Rules
Maybe the night of the sleepover is not the night to serve pork chops with brussel sprouts, k? Kids like fun food. Fan favourites around here include: spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, pizza, sandwiches, Sloppy Joes, and Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Legs. Definitely make sure you offer junk food, like chips and dip, or make your own sundaes, or the kids may be talking about your poor sleepover etiquette at the park. BUT, don't overdo it—you'll regret it! Kids hopped up on sugar are not easy to put to bed. Also, you need to be mindful of the rules at their house. Most parents don't mind lapses in nutrition, but if their kid ends up throwing up at 2 a.m. from an overdose of Root Beer and Peanut Butter Cups, you may have some 'splainin to do.
A few months ago, my girls' friends started showing up with their little personal tech devices (DS, iThings), and a funny thing happened—it got very quiet. Too quiet. Each girl was completely absorbed in their own little world and totally ignoring each other. So, I politely asked them to leave them at home in the future, and sleepovers quickly returned to a social occasion. You know, like it should be. I know some moms might be gasping here, but I'm a firm believer that our children should know exactly how it feels to be disconnected from tech and connected to other humans. Too many kids won't have this ability as grown-ups. Sleepovers are a perfect place to make "real" connections, understand "real" emotions, and play with "real" people.
Sometimes, like during summer break or Christmas break, it's fun to let the kids stay up extra late. Don't do it all the time, though. Two hours past my children's regular bedtime is my max, and if I'm sensing we're entering meltdown territory, bedtime might come sooner. It's also not fair to send the other children back as little zombies to their parents the next day. Kids might have sports practice or a family function to attend.
Send 'Em Packing (Mom-Style)
Make sure you have a nice big breakfast for the morning after. Sleepovers tend to bring out the growlies in growing kids. After breakfast, ask everyone to clean up their mess—cushions back on the couch, high heels returned to your closet, clothes picked up. You were gracious enough to host the sleepover, it shouldn't mean you have a week of work afterwards. Get everyone to brush their teeth, pack their clothes (I keep a basket at my front door for things that lose their way), and then send them home—earlier rather than later.