Slumber Parties. Pillow Fights. Giggling Girls. Karaoke. KidZ Bop. Friends, I have emerged from the other side of the "First Sleepover Party" experience, and I'd like to share my wisdom with you. You may think, "How hard can it be to have a sleepover birthday party for a bunch of 8-year-olds?" Please allow me to be the one to throw a bucket of cold water on your naïve fantasies. After the first few hours of the party, I was sweating like a pig going through menopause. It wasn't pretty. One of my primary accomplishments that evening was that I waited until the children were in their pajamas before I busted out my box of wine. Yes, box. I was unprepared for the emotional drama that accompanies a gathering of five third grade girls, but if you follow these handy tips, perhaps your first experience playing hostess at a slumber party will be a wild success.
- Immediately cancel the sleepover. You're welcome. You may stop reading here, go about your business, and have a relaxing non-sleepover party for your offspring. Good day to you.
- Tip #2: Have a notebook ready where parents can leave their names, phone numbers, a list of food allergies for their child and any other relevant information, and what time they will be picked up. Still here? Determined to go on? Fine. If you are hosting this thing, it helps to have all the contact and emergency information in one place. So many kids have dietary restrictions and special routines, and it's convenient to keep it all together.
- Make a clear plan for the party; these girls are going to need some actual activities. If you think a small group of pre-tween girls is capable of self-directing their agenda without arguing, whining or complaining, you've got another think coming. Sure, it's always good to be flexible, but have some sort of vision for how you'd like the night to unroll. Follow my Type A (fruit-of-my-womb-that-fell-close-to-the-Control-Freak-Tree) daughter's example and have your child handwrite scrolls to place on each child's sleeping area.
I mean, at least have a vague idea. The girls had some free time to play outside, they made a craft (disclaimer: I bought a bunch of sand art kits. Crafts need not be for the crafty: if I can do it, so can you), they had a pillow fight, they sang, they danced, they watched a movie. It was the quintessential sleepover itinerary.
And invest in some novelty fun, while you're at it. I bought several Karaoke CDs for my daughter's part y-- a true testament of my selfless love for her. So I may have busted out my own version of "Let It Go" before I let her have a turn -- so what? It's not like I grabbed the microphone away and refused to allow her to sing. (Well, fine, maybe I did, but as soon as I was done kicking a** I handed it over.) While cringing, I also purchased the latest KidZ Bop CD for the freeze-dance par-tay. You have no proof that I hummed along to "Timber" from several rooms away.
- Obtain a Master's Degree in Counseling in order to effectively deal with the emotional drama that will undoubtedly ensue. After about an hour, my daughter cornered me in the kitchen and, wide-eyed, anxiously explained that three out of four of the girls had pulled her aside to express their concern that a) the other girls didn't like them or b) my daughter didn't like the gift they gave her. Eight. Years. Old. Your advanced training will also come in handy when one of the children is homesick and can't decide whether or not she should stay overnight at the party. (The answer: Send her tiny hiney home ASAP. If a child is on the fence about whether they'll make it all night, call their Mom, pronto. It's that or you'll get the old tap-tap-tap on the shoulder in the wee hours of the morning from a child whom you do not claim on your taxes. Ain't nobody got time for that.)
- If some of the kids are going home before bedtime, arrange for them to be picked up before 9:00 p.m., or an hour before you want the remaining children to be asleep. Depending on the ages of the kids, not all of them are going to be ready to sleep away from home. I hated sleeping at other kids' houses, and I'm quite certain that my own child wouldn't be one of the overnighters. So offer parents the option of coming before bedtime to get their kids, otherwise their daughters may want to skip the party altogether. But plan ahead: you'll need some downtime to pad the transition from pick-up to wind-down for those who stay. Plus, the kids who are uncertain about staying all night will start to feel sad when other kids get picked up, and at that point you'll be screwed: they'll start dropping like flies.
- Stock up on tissue for when your daughter becomes inconsolable when the party guests, as predicted, start dropping like flies. It would be in your best interest to chat with your kid ahead of time to prepare her for the fact that some of her friends may not make it all night. I was blindsided when the only party guest whose presence really mattered, the BFF, became homesick, started crying and was picked up just after 11:00 p.m. (poor little sweet pea!). One thought played over and over in my head: What the sweet, everlasting f*ck have we done? Don't let yourself, or your child, be caught off guard. An endearing snapshot of Carly Rae Jepsen-crooning girls can quickly become a tragic story of rejection and despair in mere hours; don't let yourself become the exhausted woman repeating, "Worst. Idea. Ever." to your bewildered husband just before midnight.
- Take care of yourself. Have some wine, beer, a White Russian, perhaps, but of course make sure your senses are still sharp. You'll need them to deal with emotional turmoil and unexpected late night pickups. Buy some good earplugs for the Karaoke and Kidz Bop dance-offs. Beg your bestie or your mom to come help. I recommend that no fewer than four able-bodied adults be present for the slumber party. And for the love of all that is holy, book a massage for yourself the next day after the kids (what's left of them) go home.
There's still time to CANCEL THIS PARTY RIGHT NOW if your child is under the age of 10 years old. I'll be quite honest -- the first half of my 8-year-old's sleepover party was delightful, harmonious and memorable. Sure, have the kids bring their jammies, sleeping bags, pillows and stuffed animals. Let them eat popcorn and watch movies on the floor. But get their a**es out of there before bedtime. It's not worth it. Do not, under any circumstances, allow the children to "slumber" at your home.
You might think I'm awfully un-fun and anti-sleepover. Not at all! I think a one-on-one sleepover is great fun for third graders. But a party? Hell, no. Save that sh*t for middle school, when pretty much everything sucks anyway, and spare yourself the drama and hassle now.
So what do you think? Am I being too negative about sleepover parties for third graders? Am I a giant, whiny wuss? When do you think kids should have sleepovers with more than one friend?
This post originally appeared on Mommy, for Real. Connect with Stephanie on Facebook.