“Mom, I’m sleeping at Zoey’s, k?”
It used to be asked as more of a question, ie “Mom, can I sleep over at Zoey’s?” Now, she takes for granted the Yes. She expects it. And why not?
When Miss13 was 7, 8, 11, sleepovers were girl-bonding experiences. It was all popcorn and secrets and eyeshadow. There were movies and swapping clothes and ichat and eventually, snuggling inside sleeping bags. Back then, I knew my kids’ friends, and I knew their parents. I knew the plan.
Now that she’s a teen, sleeping out has taken on a new meaning. There’s no sleep involved. It’s all about girl-bonding by busting out of jail. It’s about texting around until a bunch of kids find a house where the rules are so lax, they’re easy to hop over tonight. And then comes that sweet, wide-eyed sleepover question.
I didn’t catch on right away. A couple of months back, I said a quick yes to the old sleep-out without a thought. It was the next day, when pics of my girl and her pals with tongues hanging out in the street showed up in my Facebook newsfeed, that I realized chilling on Bayview Avenue at midnight is the new baking cookies.
Now a sleepover is essentially a sneakover. At a sneakover, you get to do whatever the owners of the house let you get away with – anything from slipping out to another house to wandering the streets in a group. Sometimes the host parents have hit the sack, sometimes they’re out, sometimes they know your plan, sometimes they don’t. And if they don’t, your child could end up like 14-year-old Ashley Long, the teen who recently died from huffing helium at what she told her parents was a slumber party – but wasn’t.
When I was a teen, we didn’t always fess up about our nightly plan. But we did have one. We knew in advance if there was a party down the road and we knew which friends we were meeting up with. In the end, we may have decided to stay home and bake (what we baked was often planned too, but that’s another story). But it was either go or stay, no Internet, no cell phone, and therefore no grey in between.
Our teens are connected 24/7, so plans unfold like poker hands as the night wears on. Blackberry statuses announce ask who’s up for fun and give last minute details about houses that are available, ie short on parents, to chill at. And so, if you’ve got a bed to come back to (and no one to answer to), you can safely make your way out with your sleepover cronies and see where the night takes you.
Because too many kids end up found anywhere but where they said they were, and I would rather not unwittingly become an accessory to jailbreak, I ask the basic sneakover questions:
1. Is a parent home? (Hint- Teen Law: Sleep at the one house where the parents are in Greece. Or where there’s an older sister babysitting with her boyfriend. Duh. Hint 2- You may actually have to call some parent you don’t know to confirm. Ugh.)
2. What is the address and home phone number? (Hint- Teen cell phones die or don’t get service in friends’ basements. Hint 2- Since asking another teen for a home number is ‘seriously awkward,’ you may need to hit up 411.)
3. What’s the plan? (Hint- Directness works best here. If there’s going to be a party, or boys over, or no parents, just tell me. I’ll be way more upset by the lie than the party. If that happens, the party’s over – at least for you.)
And 4. What if the plan changes? (Hint- Listen kids, night plans change so call or text to ask – that’s ask, my friend, not tell – if you are allowed. WARNING: This step requires new answers to 1,2,3 above. Ugh, ugh, ugh.)
Despite the ‘bad rep’ I’ve apparently garnered with my ‘overprotective questions,’ so far, my teens seem to be where they say they are. Could I install the tracking app on their phones? I could, but I don’t plan to. And yet, if they fail too many times at playing the honesty card, I might reconsider. Because knowing where they are, especially at night, is important to me. And plans do change, after all.