My Fears of Sleep Overs Run Amuck

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Kids and slumber parties seem as sweet and traditional as Mom’s apple pie and getting a tan while watching a baseball game, huh?


Blame it on Grease, or maybe personal experience, I’ve always assumed our girls would eventually age to the time when they would have sleep overs complete with giggles, pranks, and outrageous memories. (I’m not sure why I assumed this; every slumber party I attended as a youth involved games of “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board,” scary stories, or attempts at making an Ouija Board move. Guys I know have said they had their first exposure to pornography as a child at overnights. These are not awesome activities for children.)


Despite expectations and the accepted traditions of my childhood, I’m questioning whether we’ll allow the girls to have or attend slumber parties while they’re still living in our home and we have a say in their activities. The hairs on my arms are standing straight up and there’s a creepy-crawly feeling at the back of my neck.


Yesterday I read several blog posts about why parents should think long and hard before they let their kids attend sleep overs. (I Don’t Trust Parents Outside My CircleThe Safe List – And Why You’re Not On It, among others.) James Dobson had already gotten into my head on the subject — he speaks out against slumber parties in his book Bringing Up Girls because you just can’t determine with certainty what will happen in another person’s home or the motives of everyone present.


The world is changing. People are pushing boundaries and not exhibiting self-control. Kids are suffering… and by suffering, I mean case after case is coming to light of kids being molested while at sleep overs.


It’s not all pillow fights and fingernail painting.


I’m not into fear mongering and I genuinely despise distrusting the folks around me, but I can’t help but wonder:  what is needless fear and what is cautious wisdom when it comes to this issue? Can we predict the moment innocence is destroyed and protect against it by saying “no”?


Years ago someone close to us, someone we trusted completely, molested his daughter. I am, to this day, baffled that I never suspected him capable of this type of wrong.


Me, with my high levels of paranoia and suspicion… I had no idea. 


I made a mistake in my judgment then that still haunts me. Today I will do anything to protect my children from a mistake in judgment again. That may mean I go to an extreme length, to ban sleep overs for fun from our family activity list.


(I do put slumber parties in a different category from emergency issues like hospital visits and such. I’m talking about a gaggle of pimply creatures wanting to push boundaries and act silly while sleeping 45 minutes for the night just for the sheer joy of experience.)


Because I’ve spent a bit of time fretting about pajama parties, I shared the current instigating posts via Facebook. A friend who works with the juvenile justice system saw the links and wrote me a note:

“Of the 14 felony and/or misdemeanor sex offender teens I have had on my caseload, all 14 were first offended on as children by a family member – usually within the home or close extended family. Another three who were referred on other alleged felony charges (not sex related) also reported to have been molested by a family member as well.

I don’t know the national stats but, so far, in 100% of my cases that have anything to do with sexual abuse, it has been a member of the family (the majority of these being middle class families).

And that is what I find scary. You truly do not know what sin and sickness lies in the hearts of those around you – even family. Especially family. We’re taught to be cautious of strangers and trust family – but trust does not mean being blind, it should be paired with a discerning and watchful eye.”


The idea of distrusting people to this degree… well, it rubs me the wrong way. I want to believe that people are good and protective of children! And yet…


…truth is truth. I don’t know any parents who would take their kid to a truck stop half dressed and leave them there to hitch-hike home. But I know a lot of parents who would trust their friends and family members to watch their kids overnight. And what if the outcome is the same?


The U.S. is leading the world in human trafficking and sexual crimes. Huge numbers of men and women are addicted to pornography. These crimes are not taking place in some inner city somewhere or in someone else’s neighborhood, they are in our living rooms, on our streets, prompted anonymously via internet, smart phones and magazines; fantasy appears in reality as our friends, cousins, PTA members and politicians search for the next big adrenaline high… and use our children to satisfy their sickness.


These are not the isolated incidents by ungodly people. I know with certainly there are at least four cases — within my immediate circle of influence — of adults who have admitted to being victims of molestation/sexual abuse that took place at church or youth group activities. In church. Where people are supposed to be trustworthy and God-fearing.


Ay-yi-yi. (Proof we’re all sinners in need of radical heart change and grace.) This is not a safe world where people “eat rainbows and poop butterflies” and everyone sings “Kumbaya” or “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”


Deep breath. (As this post is at risk of turning into a ramble of fear.) Here are my take aways:

  • It’s going to be very, very hard for me to ever have the kids sleep away from us.  I’m also not going to offer to have other kids at our house just for fun. In cases of emergency, etc., I have a different standard. But fun overnights? Nope. I’m planning to squash those with abandon.
  • There is brokenness inside of each of us. Humans are painfully messed up and capable of atrocity. The most horrible news story you’ve ever read? Guess what? I’m capable of that act — and so are you. It is only by the grace of God we have self-control and don’t regularly indulge in evil; I don’t want to ever take that for granted.


Now that I’ve scared you with my fears run amuck, I’ll do my best to return to my regularly scheduled humor posts. But before I go…


Do you have reservations about sleep overs? Or were they the best part of your childhood and you feel you’ll be robbing your kids without them? What are your take aways?


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3 thoughts on “My Fears of Sleep Overs Run Amuck

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Up until now, I had thought that family members automatically qualified to be on our “safe list”. But, earlier this week, my mother-in-law made a VERY poor choice regarding the safety of my oldest son and now I will do everything in my power to make sure she never has that chance again. She has been begging us to let our oldest (two years old) come stay with her for a couple of weeks and I keep saying no simply because she lives 12 hours away. However, now I have reason to believe that his health and safety would NOT be her top priority and that bothers me… a lot! This post and the articles you linked have definitely struck a chord after this past week…

  • May 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    My two, er…lots of bits:

    1. I totally agree with you. While I enjoyed sleep overs as a young girl, and nothing terrible ever happened to me, it could have. In cases of potential scraped knees, banning the activity might be over-cautious. However, in cases of potential life-altering, innocence-shattering trauma, I’d rather err on the side of over-cautious. How careful we need to be, even with those we trust implicitly.

    2. An alternative to the traditional sleep over idea would be to have a “girls’ night” where the girls AND their moms sleep over, all in the same room.

    3. While I believe we need to protect our children as much as possible, I also believe we need to prepare our children to defend their own safety and innocence when we’re not able to protect them:

    We’ve trained our kids to “flee” things that they shouldn’t be allowing into their minds (immoral, scary, etc.) by physically closing their eyes and ears, or going away from whatever it is. We remind them often that what they look at and listen to sticks in their minds.

    We also regularly talk about their bodies being private and no one (not even Mama or Daddy) is allowed to touch their private parts without their permission. The only time we do is if there is a medical/hygiene issue we need to address, and we always ask them first. We’ve told them that taking something without permission is stealing and that applies to their bodies. We talk about “yelling and telling” if anyone tries to (or does) touch them inappropriately. Yelling, hitting, kicking, biting…all acceptable in such an emergency. Telling another grownup right away, essential.

    On the gun issue, we’ve also intentionally exposed our kids to guns and the danger they pose. Instead of child-proofing our guns, we’ve decided to gun-proof our children. We don’t leave guns lying around, of course! But, if our kids found a gun, they would know to NOT touch it and to tell someone right away.

    Sorry this was so long!! It’s a very important topic in my opinion. Thanks for bringing it up.

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