It takes a village

A sleepover at our house with one friend.

W hen I was growing up, I never slept over at any of my friends’ houses, not that there were any invitations. It was not a thing to do back in the 1980s. Even asking permission from my parents for a weekend stay over with my cousins at Ahma’s house was like pulling teeth.
I remember my younger cousin would angle up to my father and quietly ask in Hokkien, “Ko-tiu, achi Meah e-tsuey tiam tsia khun bo (Uncle, can achi Meah sleep here tonight)?”
Dad was a softie; he always said yes. We usually did not have a chance of a yes when asking permission from Mom. I think, back then, it was considered improper to impose yourself on other people. As well, you have your own house to sleep in, why would you sleep over at someone else’s house?
The lament is different coming from my children. Eight-year-old Shobe is sad that she could never get her friends to sleep over at our house because they can only do so when they are 10 years old. Shobe could only tag along with Achi’s sleepovers, or sleepover at A’s house in the area of University of the Philippines in Diliman. The parents of A are family friends, and we are all comfortable in taking each other’s children or sending our children to each other to mind.
Meanwhile, at 10 years old, Achi does not even “ask permission.” When she was younger, she and her friends planned their own play dates, told their parents a day or two before the scheduled play date and it was up to us, parents, to figure out how to get them together. Sometimes, I find out that our house was hosting five children a day beforehand. Often, these self-planned dates do not push through because the parents have plans. When the stars align and all the parents have nothing planned, the play date pushes through.
Is there a sense of entitlement or maybe a spoiled-brat image in this scenario?
A little, maybe.
They do feel that they could just do their own thing. On the other hand, when the parents say the dates can’t be done, the dates aren’t done. No tantrums. The children do not ask permission, maybe because we have brought them up to think for themselves. For these 10-year-olds, they are beginning to stretch their wings and plan their lives. We have brought them up secure in the knowledge that we will support their decisions, within reason.
I did reflect on why I was quite agreeable to having my children sleep over at other people’s houses. Other than scheduling conflicts, I have never said no to a play date or sleepover. I think it is because my children do not have cousins to play with. I only rely on classmates and my friends’ children for my own to socialize with. Also, I feel that we have brought our children up to choose their friends well, and which friends are okay to plan dates with.
These days, the play dates have graduated to sleepovers. The 10-year-olds also know how to plan better now. The “host” asks her parents when her friends could sleep over so parents could arrange schedules to accommodate the request. When parents chat online, we find it funny, and feel quite proud of our children’s independence. Many of these requests are not if classmates can sleep over. These children assume that the yes is a given, and it is just a matter of scheduling.
At the latest sleepover, five girls decided not to sleep at all. Achi asked her friends to let her have a one-hour nap at around seven in the morning. She was to be fetched from the Philcoa area in Quezon City at 8:30 a.m. to proceed to her 10 a.m. ballet class at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay. Before she went to the sleepover, we had an agreement that – as was our usual case – there are “no rules, no bedtime” at this sleepover, but that no matter how tired she was, she would still go to ballet class with no complaints.
Ahma told me that I should not have let Achi go to the sleepover. True, Achi was exhausted and asleep five minutes after entering the car. She slept until five minutes before class began at 10 a.m., when Ahma woke her up.
For me though, the all-nighter does not happen all the time; this was the first time. Most of the time, the kids nod off around 10:30 p.m. For this one, only Achi and two others were able to pull it off anyway. For this school year, that was the first sleepover she had with her friends from school. Sleepovers with the girls’ best friend A aren’t counted because she is like family. Secondly, I think she has learned her lesson on the consequences of all-nighters – I could not have set it up better.
Not all parents are comfortable with letting their children go to sleepovers. That is alright. I have told Shobe that exact same thing. Shobe’s best friend in school is very envious when Shobe tells her about her sleepover activities with A. The friend’s mother has issued a compromise that the daughter can start going to sleepovers when she turns 10. Meanwhile, they have to be content with daytime play dates.
Psychologically, sleepovers are quite good for children. It shows their comfort and security in being separated from their parents. Children become ready to be independent of their parents between seven to nine years old. As they mature, they learn to navigate the world on their own with no parental supervision.
I see sleepovers (and play dates) as a safe place for my children to exercise their independence. I am always sure that their friend’s parents are at home during the sleepover, just as they are sure I am home when their children are with us.
One very important note here – parental presence is crucial right into the teen years. I do not think I, or my friends, would ever be comfortable in having our children together with no adult supervision. We have all heard horror stories of teenagers left to their own devices.
I think though, the most important factor for my leniency with sleepovers is that the parents of my children’s friends are also our friends. They have similar family values and parenting styles as ours. Even if we do not talk about the nitty gritty with each other, we know we all give a few ground rules, but in general, we trust our children to do the right thing – they do not watch inappropriate YouTube videos, they will not harm each other, and they do not plot to blow up the school.