There is a scene in “The Color Purple” where the mayor’s wife won’t let Sophia stay with her family because she needs to be driven back home. She tells Sophia “I don’t know them” in the most hoity-toity voice you can imagine (as they are black men and she is white and the mayor’s wife, duh). That’s how I feel right now: I don’t know you. And I’m saying it in my better than you voice although that’s now how I feel (exactly). I’m shunning you, but that’s not how I want you to feel either (kinda) .
My eight-year-old was sad Friday. I expected that she would be, but I knew she was because she kept telling me. Her chin was touching her chest in the absolute best pout ever for the majority of the evening. She cried real tears into her store-brand pizza, all because she wasn’t allowed to go to a sleepover. And because we are evil parents who actually want to know and meet and talk to the sleepover holding parents before said sleepover takes place. Because, you know, my kid. Your house. Overnight. And the ins and outs that no one talks about. The ins and outs are what you do in your private time that should be your business but really aren’t once you opt to invite other people’s kids to your house.
In: You like crack.
Out: Man-Man expects you to pay for said crack.
In: You got the crack but you ain’t paid for the goddamn crack.
Out: Man-Man chooses this weekend to wreak havoc on your house for not paying for the crack. Yes, the weekend that you have invited my child over. But, ha ha. I’ve outsmarted you. I’ve told my child she can’t stay there. And it has nothing to do with Man-Man or crack. But, Man-Man is still coming and it is of no consequence to me because my child won’t be there.
I don’t kow about you, but I don’t like my children to sleep just anywhere. My oldest child, at 11, has slept at three friends’ houses, after I’d known each of the families for over a year. The middle girl, the one whose hurt feelings are in question, has slept at two friends’ houses, her second being the same as the first girl’s third. That is to say, if you aren’t family and I don’t trust you, you are not likely to have my child in your custody overnight. If I let you keep both at once and our bloodline is not the same, consider yourself special. I do realize that now that the oldest is in middle school she’ll be invited to more, with me not always knowing the families. But, what happened to getting to know the families of your child’s friends?
I recently asked one of my dear friends, as she was embarking on a sleepover for her 12 yr old, if her smoke detectors worked. I hope she wasn’t offended, because I simply go in and do a check on my sister’s alarm or just change her batteries; I don’t even ask.
Last year, my oldest daughter had a sleepover. She wanted to invite a few girls whose parents I had not met. I called each and left a message in conjunction with the invitation letting them know that they were welcome to visit beforehand, meet us, see the house where their child would be sleeping, ask us questions about our life, whether Man-Man was an issue or not. Of the three, only one took us up on the offer. I don’t understand that. What I don’t get even more than that is how one parent, who I had not met, dropped his child off and didn’t get out of the car. I barely had the door open wide enough for her to get in before he pulled off. The next day, pickup was at noon. This was made clear to all parents. When her dad hadn’t shown up by 1:00, I asked her to call him. His response? I’ll be there at 5:00. I’m sorry, what? Who does that? Also, maybe my house is filled with pedophiles, weed smoking maniacs, and drunkards (not including me, of course). When would he have learned that? When I sent his 10-year-old home hungover?
One of the reasons why my daughter wasn’t allowed to go to the sleepover this weekend is we thought maybe it wasn’t actually happening. My daughter came home with a telephone number and an address on notebook paper. While I am certainly not saying printed invitations are necessary, I am definitely saying that some attempt to contact parents you have never met should be made when children are sleeping over. When my daughter called the number there was no answer. An hour later, the girl’s mother answered and said yes, the sleepover started at 6:00. Did it not occur to her to ask to speak to me or some other adult? There was mention of going bowling and maybe to a movie. How were the children being transported? When were they going? Where were they going?
Maybe I’m more protective than other parents and I should feed more into the people are inherently good theory. Maybe.
What about you? Do you say yes to sleepovers when you don’t know the hosting parents/family? Do you do drive-bys when you get the address to see where the house is?