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A Full-Throttled Defense of Sleepovers!

Erika Christakis, early childhood expert and author of The Importance of Being Little, NAILS IT in her Atlantic essay on sleepovers.

Noting that sleepovers have gone from age-old activity to yet another thing to fret about when it comes to kids, she says she’s sympathetic to the no-sleepover arguments. (Some of which have gone viral.) Feel free to ask about guns, swimming pools, who’s going to be home or what have you, she says. BUT: “Denying our children a chance to learn up close from other families shortchanges children’s autonomy.”

So try not to sweat the smaller, simply sub-optimal stuff. Christakis herself recalls sleeping over at some friends’ homes where there wasn’t a whole lot of food in the fridge, or the dishes were piled high, or talking with the parents was scary. What’s more:

It’s often hard for families to contain arguments, rivalries, and mood swings at nighttime. Fathers were usually the wild card, prone to nonsensical outbursts that occasionally scared me, but mothers could be weird too: cranky, depressed, flighty. Sometimes the weirdness came from how utterly normal other kids’ parents seemed, or from the suspicion that other people’s families might be just a little better than my own.

But the good outweighed the bad overall. What she got from the overnights, aside from fun with her friends (and the misery of staying up almost all night because she was too embarrassed to bring the nightlight that comforted her), was a chance to see the world. Or as much of it as a sleepover age kid can see. Different foods. Smells. Rituals.

She also got to engage in a little subversive behavior, like making prank calls (which we used to call phony phone calls). I’m not sure exactly what prank calling does, developmentally, but if nothing else it requires courage. One of my favorite stories about cold-calling strangers comes from my friend Barbara Sarnecka, who did this as a kid — to take polls: “Hello, can I if you ever played a musical instrument?” She grew up to be a professor of cognitive sciences and surveys are her jam.

As we curtail kids’ chances to walk around the neighborhood, talk to non-pre-approved people, explore the woods, play at the park and run errands — all the ways kids normally start absorbing and assimilating to life — the sleepover seems like one of the last bastions of childhood independence.

Give ’em a sleeping bag and off they go.


Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

One Response to A Full-Throttled Defense of Sleepovers!

  1. Common sense January 30, 2023 at 1:32 pm #

    Sorry to comment here but your article on reason won’t let me submit there. Concerning the children in killingly , this is the reason cps needs to be abolished and child abuse and negligent laws need to be specific. Unless the child’s life or wellbeing is in immediate danger, make the cops go get a warrant and explain to a judge what the crime is. Too many sex offenders? One isn’t it the police job to protect us and two most are on the registry for things in no way related to a sex of fence. Drug dealers? If they have so many arrest them and get them off the street. If they are too lazy or scared to do that, maybe they have too many officers with too little to do. There are many fine understanding officers, but unfortunately police departments also seem to be where all the bullies from high school ended up. I hope the parent are financially able to sue the pants off the department and town, it’s the only thing the big fish in a small pond understand