Are sleepovers a thing of the past?

I might be that paranoid or overly cautious mom, but maybe I’m not? The more moms I talk to about this the more I’m beginning to feel the general consensus. Simply put, are sleepovers too dangerous to have anymore?

I grew up in a tiny Diamond Mining town in Botswana and every single weekend from as young as I can remember, I slept over with friends. Across the road at my bestie, Faye’s house, or with one or another friend. Heavens, I remember having a sleepover with a friend inside my step-dad’s old Land Rover parked on the road. Our cares were quite different and isolated in our tiny little crime-free community. You see, there are so many dangers that we, especially in South Africa now need to consider when leaving our children in the care of others, outside of our homes. Crime, of course – general house breaking and armed robbery could happen anywhere, but what if it happens on a night your child isn’t in your care, will they be protected? Will they be safe? Every parent’s nightmare. Crime aside, there’s another aspect that shakes me to the core – the thought of child abuse. Yes, my kids understand that no one is allowed to touch ‘their privates’ and I’ve had some very serious chats with them at a young age about possible dangers and scenarios, but what if that scenario is in a bubble bath with a friend or whoever is meant to be the parent in the home? You have zero control. Even typing that I can feel the bile reaching my throat.

So if you do decide to let your children sleep out, are there parameters set? Only specific family members or friends? Only from a specific age? Are there rules set? We live in a time where I feel I have to be concerned for my children’s safety and where I feel they will be safe. My children sleep out very rarely, and then it is limited to Kiki (their aunt), and more recently their uncle and other aunty with their cousins. We have rules, if they will be sleeping over we would rather not have any other adult friends visiting the homes in which they are sleeping, whether we know them or not. Only in the last few months Soph has decided she is happy to sleep over with her brother at Kiki and leave Mommy for the night, and last weekend Oli finally decided he was ‘brave’ (I use the term loosely) enough to sleep over with his cousin. She’s slept over with us, she’s a year older, but this was a big step for Oli, and one we never pushed him into. He had an absolute ball, naturally, they watched movies in a Christmas bed, ate all his favourite foods and went to bed unusually late, but, he was happy and safe. That’s two homes. The only two homes they’re allowed to sleep in besides their own. Worst case, it will take us 15 minutes to get to the first house, and under 2 minutes to the next house.

There’s one little boy in Oli’s class at school, that 4 days out of 5, asks me, very politely I might add, when he can come and have a sleepover with Oli, and when he can Oli sleep over with him. My answer is standard, “You’re welcome anytime my boy, but Oli isn’t allowed to sleep over at friends”. Is it harsh? I don’t think so. He isn’t allowed to sleep over at friends and I don’t see us lifting this rule any time soon, we don’t mind having his friends sleep over though, should they wish to, but I will be that mother that pays close attention to what goes on, especially under our own roof.

Are we robbing our children of a childhood right? Possibly. But I hope that one day when they’re old enough, or have their own children that they will understand our reasons behind it.

Parents, weigh in.