We hit a kid social milestone recently. My 9-year-old son, Declan, had his first sleepover at a friend’s house.
He was more than ready for the experience, but I wasn’t quite so sure I was.
I’m not a completely crazy hover-parent. This wasn’t the first time one of my children had spent a night away from home. However, up until now, both Declan and his younger sister, Mara, had only ever stayed a night away from home with family — a fun overnight with their cousin, Sarah, or at their grandmother’s house.
To be honest, it never even dawned on me to consider letting him stay with a friend overnight.
So when Declan was invited for a sleepover, it came as an exciting surprise. Both my husband and I were mostly on board, but there was one matter we were interested to see play out in a new surrounding.
You see, Declan is a night owl.
He doesn’t make any trouble. He usually keeps his nighttime activities isolated to the bedroom he and his sister share. But there have been occasions when we’ve heard him creeping around the house looking for a new book to read or some errant Lego piece he wants to keep working on.
That’s fine when you’re in your own house with your own parents who are used to your evening rituals, but how would this shake out under different conditions? I thought there was a good chance all the kids would be too excited to get to sleep at a regular bedtime that it wouldn’t be an issue.
It turns out Declan has made friends with some very well-behaved boys who he shares a lot of common interests with. But staying up late isn’t one of them.
While the rest of the boys were busy sawing logs off in Sleepy Town, the host parents heard the sound of my son tossing and turning on the upstairs bedroom floor. When they asked if he’d like to come out and read for a while, he was so excited to be granted early parole that he bound down the staircase and nearly into a wall.
When offered something to drink, he asked if he could have some warm milk. Thankfully, the friend’s father thought that request was just as strange as it sounds and asked Declan if he had ever had warm milk. Declan replied, “No, but I saw in a book somewhere — or maybe on TV — that it’s supposed to help you sleep.”
Instead, they set him up with a “Harry Potter” book and a quiet room to read it in. Thirty minutes later, he was back bunked in with his friends and headed for sleep.
In perfect balance with Declan’s late-night tendencies is his early-morning aversion. So when my son returned home the next day raving about the fun he had, he also happened to mention he and his buddies got up sometime around 6 a.m. This set off my inner mom alarm. My son hasn’t seen the crack of 6 a.m. in years. This was going to be one long day for both of us ...
Growing up, I could never understand why my mom was sometimes a tough sell in giving her permission for me to sleep over at a friend’s house. But now that I’m the parent, I know exactly why she was hesitant to let me loose.
It didn’t have to do with being a big ol’ fun hater like I thought at the time. It’s because the happy child full of energy and excitement who left the night before is not the same exhausted shell of child who returned the next morning.
No, that kid is a cranky post-euphoria fatigue time bomb ready to go off at the slightest push.
So going forward, I’m all for the friend sleepover — Declan had a blast — but I’m just going to make sure we have the next day clear for the after-fun “hangover.”
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.