BUSY IN BRISTOW: Mom’s Sleepover Anxiety

busyinbristow-1My children have entered the Age of the Sleepover. In fact, while I am writing this, I’m missing one of them right now. Last night was my younger son’s his first sleepover, not counting nights at his grandparents’.

Dropping him off at his friend’s house, I didn’t feel the “freedom high” I usually get when my responsibility load lightens. Instead, I started worrying.

What if he wakes up in the middle of the night and gets scared? What if he wets the bed, and the other kids make fun of him at school next week?

Or, gulp – what if I’ve misjudged this family, and something inside the house isn’t up to my parenting standards?

As the miles between my son and me widened, I wondered, “Do I really know this family?”

Sure, we’ve been acquaintances for five years, and our sons have played at each other’s houses numerous times. Yes, I’ve had long conversations with both Mom and Dad, and they’re trusted members of the community, but come on … this is my son’s first non-family sleepover we’re talking about. It’s normal for me to worry, right?

That’s when I started thinking about how other parents trust me and my husband with their kids. Just the night before, we’d had a girls’ sleepover at our house. So, if I think it’s okay for our family to host sleepovers, why am I worried about my kids when they’re at other people’s homes?

The ongoing argument in my monkey mind continued.

But when other families trust me, it’s because I have built-in kid credentials: as a teacher and a Girl Scout leader, with a husband who is also a teacher and former coach, other families should trust me with their children … after all, they do so during the school day and at council events.

Then I thought of the nightly news and the awful mug shots of teachers, coaches, leaders, even clergy that families should have been able to trust. Nope. Built in credentials or not, sometimes people are not as they appear and do not behave as they’ve promised.

My mind wandered back to the night before and “the pit of potential dangers” that may have appeared to another person who either didn’t know me well enough to trust me or who did but who, like me, still worried about their precious children when they weren’t in sight … the trampoline in our backyard, our dog, the campfire we like to build, the unfinished drywall project in the back of the house, our go-kart, and let’s go ahead and say it because everyone’s different … the crucifix hanging right inside the front door, the South African art hanging in our living room, and the wine rack in the kitchen.

There are no guns in our house unless you count an Airsoft and a BB gun, but most of the people I know are gun owners, and my children don’t know the first thing about gun safety so that’s a valid concern I have but I never discuss with any of the families with whom I share my most precious cargo.

We don’t have Xbox, but that doesn’t mean my kids aren’t going to run across Call of Duty in someone else’s home.

Quite frankly, the things you can surmise about a person when they are out in public are limited, but things open up when you see the creature in its habitat.

Do the parents smoke? My mom did which is why I knew I didn’t want to.

Do the parents argue in front of their children? My parents did but never in public so no one knew.

Do they curse? I was surprised this past football season when on the sidelines, I heard a number of parents swear – no F bombs or God references – but still. True – their sons were on the field, but sometimes siblings were sitting right beside them, and if they didn’t have younger kids milling about, I did, and my younger ones were usually right there soaking it all up.

I think what I’m getting at is that we all have a public face and a private face. Let’s call what we show publicly the iceberg’s tip with the bulk of berg underneath the waters of our home life.

When I send my children to school each day, I expect that their teachers and other school personnel will conduct themselves in a way of which I approve. This is usually, if not always, the case, but that doesn’t mean my kids aren’t absorbing plenty of other “garbage” from their peers, and as I’ve written in a previous column, sometimes that garbage comes from one of my own kids – who in spite of being a good kid — has weak executive functioning skills which make him more impulsive.

If you have younger children – say babies or toddlers – who don’t yet spend much time away from you or who, even in your own keeping, don’t “get” what’s going on in the adult world, enjoy this naivety while it lasts. I remember well the newborn days when, on maternity leave, I watched marathon episodes of Grey’s Anatomy without worry as opposed to last Thursday night when it came on, unbidden, after Jeopardy and my kids were in the room: I hoped they wouldn’t see the mass chaos and suffering of Seattle Grace before I flipped the channel.

When it comes right down to it, we have a lot of rules in our house designed to protect our children from harm’s way … rules that range from wear your helmet when on your bike to don’t pick up glass shards if you drop something and it breaks – come get Mom and Dad.

When I send my children to your house – especially for an overnight, I expect that you will conduct yourself in a way of which I approve. But maybe, quite benignly, you think it’s okay to share combs and hats while I don’t because we’ve already done “the lice thing” and don’t want to do it again.

When you send your children to my house, you expect that I will respect your rules of conduct, but first I have to know you know well enough to know what they are.

What we’re really telling each other – implicitly – by accepting these sleepover invitations is that we approve of each other’s family values, and even if our values differ from yours, that we’re strong enough parents to have a conversation with our kid when he comes home the next day asking about something that was different from what he was used to.

Even though it makes me squirm and this parenting gig keeps getting harder, it sounds like a good lesson in openness to me.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

Facebook Comments
Print Friendly

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: Bristow Biz, Busy in Bristow

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

banner ad