12 Steps to Hosting a Sleepover Without Jumping Out the Window

I was obsessed with having sleepovers when I was a kid. My first sleepover was when I was seven years old and I remember finding it so odd that my friend didn’t wear underwear to sleep. I wonder whatever happened to that girl. Perhaps I’ll check Facebook later and find pictures of her pole-dancing somewhere in Utah.

My sleepovers morphed into slumber parties in middle school. Unfortunately, watching horror movies seemed to be a required past-time those evenings. I’m still scared of horror movies. I used to hang out with the mom in the next room, reading, while my group of girlfriends screamed bloody murder. I never said I was the coolest middle schooler.

By the time I got to high school, I was heading to underage bars and clubs with my friends, dressing up in my short-lived Doc Martens and pulling all-nighters afterwards. Inevitably, my friends and I ended up baking brownies or cooking pancakes in the middle of the night. Or both. Sorry, Mom! But how great that I ended up running a crumb cake business as a grown-up! I couldn’t have done it without those oven-centered sleepovers you hosted! #nenestreats.

Well, that karma has now come around to bite me in the ass. My big kids have gotten the memo that a weekend equals sleepover time. There seems to be a mid-week scramble to find someone willing to pass the evening on our floor with only the promise of a movie to buttress them through. I feel like standing in the school lobby on Wednesdays and randomly plucking students to spend the night so I can save time emailing moms all week. By Friday, any warm body will do. I just need some mom points for hooking up my kid.

I’m trying hard not to be the super strict, uncool mom. And from about 5 pm — 9 pm, I do pretty well. (My husband is looking at me skeptically as I make this claim.) Okay fine, I’m sort of laid back for a few minutes. The rest of the time I’m trying hard just to protect my carpets. And to preserve my stash of snacks that I just toted home in flimsy plastic bags from the health food store.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in the past couple months. By the way, as I write this, there are seven children sleeping (or not) throughout my apartment. Four of them are mine, but still.

1. Have the sleepover start just before dinner. If you begin mid-afternoon, you’re screwed.

2. Include showers. This kills a lot of time.

3. Separate the kids by ages. I stashed three girls in our den tonight while two boys stayed in my son’s room.

4. Confiscate phones and other devices. And candy. Anything too fun. But try to have a new activity for the evening, even as small as a football or a decorate-your-own-picture-frame craft.

5. Cue the movies. Make sure AppleTV or OnDemand is in working order. Then double check. Twice. God forbid you’re scrolling across the tiny cable keyboard, plinking away letter by letter to enter your password with over-excited, media-starved kids breathing down your neck.

6. Sneak in and keep giving them water and snacks throughout the movie like they’re crate-training puppies.

7. Have the kids set up the sleeping bags/trundle beds with their friends. Save yourself the set-up work.

8. Set a bedtime for lights out and stick to it. Check on them once. Then don’t go back in until you hear a loud crash.

9. Wait until most the kids are asleep before rewarding yourself with a snack/drink/bath (insert vice here).

10. Text happy-looking pictures to the kids’ parents. Delete the ones when their kids are walking across the top of your nice couches pretending they are balance beams.

11. Arrange an early pick-up the next morning, but not too early or no one will let their kids sleep over again and you’ll be back to scouring the school for unsuspecting sleepover prey.

12. Above all else, remind yourself that you used to love staying up late and you can’t deprive your kids of this unique life experience just so you can sleep yourself. And that you really can’t yell at anyone else’s kids. Best of all, if you play your cards right, these footloose and fancy-free parents might host your kids one night, so kill them with kindness.

Good night!

Creator and host of award-winning podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. CEO. Author. Mom of 4.