“Anxious parents are no longer allowing their kids to go to slumber parties,” announced a blurb in the August 16 “New York Post.”
Slumber parties are not usually one of the top subjects on my mind in the morning (“Got my keys, got my snack, got my wallet, got a great ‘is your refrigerator running?’ joke to share...”), so I was surprised to learn that 12.3 million parents participate in the #NoSleepovers movement online.
(Boy, I’m old. I remember when Arte Johnson popularized “Blow in my ear and I’ll follow you anywhere” on TV’s “Laugh-In.” Today the phrase is “Slap a hashtag on it and I’ll follow you anywhere.” But I digress.)
No, it’s not a COVID thing. Many Gen Xers and millennials simply remember their own childhood indiscretions (“the ankle monitor finally comes off aaaany day now”) and then extrapolate for Technology 2022 and Peer Pressure 2022. Forget sugarplums – visions of internet porn, texted genitalia pics, slasher movies, drug experimentation, hacked Russian missile silos and Caitlyn’s mother’s pervy live-in boyfriend dance through their heads.
Whether you’re entrusting your own heir to a stranger’s care or agreeing to take responsibility for a dozen hellions yourself, a slumber party is a nerve-wracking big deal. (“Just have a fun time and pretend I’m not here. And I’ll pretend the Prince of Darkness isn’t here egging you on...”)
Critics assert that a total ban on sleepovers is “helicopter parenting” taken to the extreme. But helicopter parents are rightly concerned about caffeine-infused youngsters pooling their daredevil ideas. It takes just one “Hey! The gun cabinet is unlocked!” for the helicopter to come plummeting to the ground.
Even if you permit a slumber party but lay down strict rules, you are not going to win any popularity contests with your children. A wee-hours game of Truth or Dare can take some nasty twists. (“I dare you to make long-term plans to put your parents in that nursing home that plays Lawrence Welk music 24-7. Revenge is a dish best served cold...and pureed.”)
Many parents compromise by picking their kids up at 10 p.m. or so, instead of letting them have an all-night gabfest or video-game marathon. The kids make fond memories but aren’t too exhausted to spill the intel. (“So, is the upstairs carpet as hideous as I heard?”)
Call it sour grapes if you must, but I empathize with the #NoSleepovers crowd. Other than camping trips with the Webelos Scouts, I never got invited to sleepovers, and I turned out just fine. I even win the Most Likely to Give Everyone Else the Stink Eye award at class reunions.
One traditionalist pointed out that sleepovers are a “rite of passage” for youngsters. Is there any sociological term more overused and pretentious than “rite of passage”? I missed half the allegedly universal rites of passage, and I’ve still managed to have a mortgage, a colonoscopy and ear hair. Things work out.
Slumber parties are supposedly indispensable for developing necessary social skills and connections that will follow the kids into adulthood. Shades of the Illuminati!
“If you don’t give your blessings for me to marry your daughter, I’ll wallop you with this pillow until the feathers all fly out.”
“Yes, the salary and benefits sound incredible, but I’m afraid I can’t accept the job – unless you let me paint your toenails fuchsia.”
Paint me skeptical.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”