I’m now the veteran of a number of parties at which extra kidlings spent the night not sleeping in my home. OK, I’m exaggerating. They did sleep. Some. I’m the one who barely slept. Taking care of my own children is scary enough. Throw more into the mix, and I go on high alert.
Here are a few lessons I learned from my kids’ sleep-over birthday parties:
1. Make the cake ahead of time. Letting four kids “help” in the kitchen only results in disaster. The only time I was dumb enough to do this, one little girl ended up with cake batter running down her legs. I’m still finding brown splatters (which I hope are chocolate) around the edges of the cabinets. A better plan: bite the expense bullet and take the kids out for pizza and ice cream. In other words, pay Marco’s Pizzeria’s staff to do the cooking and cleaning for you.
2. Send the non-partying siblings elsewhere for the night. At my girl’s sleepover party last year, her brother wanted to keep up with the big kids, and when he couldn’t, he felt left out and became a total nuisance. My girl’s favorite adjective for him is “annoying” and that night, I agreed whole-heartedly.
At my son’s sleepover party, on the other hand, with three little boys running rampant through the house, my girl locked herself in her room. “Oh, the noise!” she exclaimed, slamming the door behind her.
3. If a kid wants to go home because his heinie aches or he’s homesick, let him. Right away. Three times, I’ve called a parent to come pick up a child around 9:30 or 10 p.m. I always invite the kids back for the next mornings’ wafflefest. With this plan, there’s no more drama, and nobody misses any fun. Who am I to argue with grumpy heinies?
4. There’s safety in numbers—adult numbers, that is. NEVER, ever have fewer than two somewhat sober adults around at all times. Or one adult and lots of DVDs. After several hours of mess, chaos and nonstop noise during one spend-the-night party, I had to take a walk around the block. I somehow ended up at Usual Suspects. Meanwhile, Enviro-spouse soothed the savage beasts with, ironically, The Lion King.
5. Set the clocks forward. Even if it’s not yet daylight savings time. At my son’s sleepover, I told the kids that they could stay up until midnight. Although they were all looking dazed by about 8:30, they were determined to make it to that magical hour. So I brought the girl’s digital clock downstairs at around 9:30, set it for 11:48, and said, “Look, it’s almost midnight. Let’s settle down now.” They were asleep within minutes. Mission accomplished.
6. Prepare yourself not to sleep. Or if you’re lucky enough to have a partner, decide the day before who gets to take the sleeping pill. As I mentioned, I tend to be on high alert when I’m responsible for other people’s children. (Just imagine all the phone calls I’m going to get this week from parents asking if they can bring their kid to my house for a play date.) Also, I don’t sleep well when non-family members are in my home for the night. OK, I don’t sleep well, period.
During sleepover parties, I find myself listening for tears, whispering or the dreaded “I wet the bed” shriek. At my boy’s party last year, I was rewarded with the sound of small footsteps at 3:30 a.m. I bolted from my bed just in time to head off one of his friends, who was half-asleep and wandering awfully close to the top of the stairwell. I sent the kid to the potty, tucked him back into his sleeping bag and spent the rest of the night wide awake, thanking God that I had not needed to call his parents to report I was on the way to the emergency room with their son.
Did I mention that my girl is having a sleepover party this weekend? I’m ready. Anyone want to meet me at Usual Suspects around 8?
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.