Sleep outs and play dates ….

I am a bit more lenient when it comes to “allowing” the children to attend play dates and sleep overs.

A bit more lenient than Kennith.  A but more lenient than all most moms I know.

Connor has been sleeping out since Grade R – he made friends at his new school.  I met the moms/dads and then playdates became sleep overs.  There were two kids that he slept over at, and those children also slept over at our house.

Connor is now 10, and he probably has about three friends who he sleeps over at, and they sleep over at our home.  I am fine with it, and I don’t get all flustered if he is away from me – I know where he is, and I know he is having fun and he is safe.  And I have one less bum to wipe and child to scream at to brush their teeth, so it is all good.

Georgia has one friend (her bestie) who she is allowed to sleep over at.  She also stays over at Kennith’s sister’s home on occasion.

Kennith is not a fan of Georgia sleeping out.  The two places she stays at I trust implicitly and Kennith, I think, just gives in to me overriding his wanting to say “no” …. and the hope we may get an extra hour of sleep at some point.

I recall going to a drop off and go party with Connor.   I was not quite ready to drop off and go with parents I did not know.   I was the only mom there and I hung around in the kitchen like a bad smell.

The parents of the child whose party it was I am sure thought I was demented and they promptly ignored me.  I hung out with the housekeeper who was washing dishes, she was kind enough to make me tea and suggest I steal pieces of cake.  It was a very long three hours!!

I realised at that party that (a) Connor is old enough for drop off and go parties (b) Hanging around with other moms at a party for children milling around talking, usually about their child, is almost the least unfun thing I can imagine doing, drop off and go parties are pretty cool for the moms!

At this juncture I do wish to ask why is it that moms always get given this thankless and actually really not fun party-duty task?  Taking kids to parties, and then hanging around for 2 -3 hours making chit chat with people you would never chit chat to, and to cap it all you are normally served tea instead of wine. How is it we get all the sh&t jobs of parenting ….. but let’s get back to the subject at hand.

I have started doing drop off and go parties with Georgia.  I go in, steal a cupcake and a sausage roll, scope out the scene and if it looks fine, then I am outta.

Georgia was invited to a weekend away with her bestie this weekend.  Initially Kennith said no, he did not think it was a great idea.

I sold the idea and explained that Georgia would be safe and and and ….. I was really chuffed she was going, as I knew how excited she was and a weekend with her bestie was going to be the treat to top all treats.

K (Bestie’s mom) contacts me on Tuesday and explains she has decided to invite a friend of hers along for the weekend.

Me: {deep breath} huh-huh ……

K explains that it is a man person, but there are three bedrooms, and Bestie and Georgia will be in one bedroom.  She assures me she will not let them out of her sight for a moment.  And I do not doubt it for a moment.

I think Georgia will probably be more closely monitored with K than she will ever be with me.

The previously-near-perfect plan now includes a man person who I do not know.  What was a brilliant idea is now a less than attractive option.

I want to say “sure, I trust your judgement … I am sure it will be fine” but there is this feeling that just is not sitting well with me.  I do not know this guy, and even if I met him for 15 minutes today, will that be okay for me to pack my daughter off with him?

To say it went down like a lead balloon with Kennith might not hint at the extent of it.  We spoke about it, and I had little in the way of “pro’s to upsell this idea.”

Last night at bedtime we sat on the bed with Georgia.  Kennith suggested we not tell her, I went with the “rip it like a plaster” approach.  Kennith bravely opened it with: “Georgia, Mommy has something to tell you..!”

I proceeded to break Georgia’s heart, she cried like I had wrenched her leg off.  I decided to stick to the truth, there was a “stranger to us” man there and we did not know him, and we could not give her permission to go.

She sobbed, she howled, she blew snot bubbles out her nose, she begged, she pleaded, she promised she would be good.  We let her come lie in our bed and play on the iphone!

We spoke about stranger-danger and that was all we could say.

We did not want to indicate he was a “potential bad man” but the reality was that we did not know him, and that was it in a nutshell.

I am comfortable that the choice of her not going was the right choice, but not a “nice” choice.

The thought that gnawed at me a bit today, was how are we preparing our children in this rather unforgiving terrain called Life.

When I was Connor and Georgia’s age, I was arranging my sleep outs, weekends away and everything else.  No one asked if there were going to be strange men there – cripes the world was full of strange men and I negotiated my way around them as best as I could.

I know the quick response is “But times are different now…”

How are they different and why?

Are there more predators now than there were back in the 70’s?  Or does it just seem like it because through the immediacy of information, we are hit with a daily dose of how-shit-the-world-is-and-why-you-must-protect-your-child?

Are we not conveying to our children that the world outside our house is a dark and foreboding place?  Full of danger and threats.

When was the last time you saw children playing a game with a ball in the street?  When was the last time you let your child play in the street like we did as kids?  Well never I am afraid.

When was the last time you saw kids playing and building a “gang hut” in a veld or a bush? Definitely never – I am sure I saw a movie like that and it did not end well for anyone.

My kids aren’t permitted to play outside in my drive way without someone watching them.  And we have a large gate at the end of our driveway.

I do not allow Connor to ride his bike in our cul-de-sac ….. unless one of us sits with him.  He is 10.

At 10 I was hiking into Cape Town or catching a bus alone to go and shop in the Golden Acre!

When I left school, kids in my era were backpacking all over the world, and trusting their fate to strangers they met along the way.

{All/most} of the people I knew who headed out the front door to unchartered territories returned unscathed and un/mol/este/d, with stories of adventure, and adapting to life through Europe or where ever they had gone.

Are we possibly teaching our children to be afraid of everyone – to not trust anyone?  To not dare go anywhere without a parent firmly within eyeshot?

Does all of this not make teaching our children to be self-reliant and resourceful because they have to be, a bit tricky.  The reality is we never really let them wander off  further than the umbilical cord can stretch?

The thing I am taking away from all of this is, are we cotton-wooling our children in layers of terror/fear of the unknown/fear of strangers/too much caution, which will impede their spirit of adventure and healthy curiosity as they grow up, but we rationalise we must because it will “keep them safe”?

<note this post was written last week Thursday, I delayed publishing it as I kept amending the copy>

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11 Comments

  1. Marta Paglianni

     /  November 6, 2012

    I from Barcelona, and here and around the rest of Europe we dont worry so much about those things. Sadly is most of a problem in a violent nation like the USA. if we protect our children so much then later on they are not going to be able to fend for themselves. My kids 8 and 12 go out alone and if they have playdates or overnight sleep I know well who those family are. If they stay at my sister’s home and she tells me that her boyfriend is coming over I am no worry at all. I trust my sister and she knows better than to bring a child predator to her home. And yes most child abusers come from family members.

    Reply
  2. jenny

     /  September 17, 2012

    A friend of mine’s daughter was at a sleepover and the older brother turned on the computer and showed her porn! I am not comfortable with sleepovers – also I know I do as much as possible to protect my home – imagine (horror of horrors) your child is at a house that burns down or gets attacked. I couldn’t live with that guilt.

    Reply
    • Porn is a sticky thing – especially what with cell phones and all that. And that is why my son does not have one, and he is OK with it, because they are not allowed to have them in the hostel or at school – use during school hrs seen as a punishable offence. And even then, it did not stop him from knowing who Kim Kardashian is and what she did – kids share this kind of stuff. You have to be aware of it, and know how to deal with it when it happens. As for accidents – there is only so much you can do. I am a fabulous worrier, but I know that there are better ways to spend negative energy. And I have to keep reminding myself. Feeling guilty about things that you have absolutely no control over would, in the end, impede your ability to be an effective and relatively sane parent. Is it the same as not keeping dogs, in case they bite your child?

      Reply
      • jenny

         /  September 17, 2012

        But my feeling is if somebody’s house catches alight is my child going to be their priority? Unlikely. I don’t think kids are scarred by not being allowed to sleep out until they are at least ten? Just my opinion.

        Reply
        • You are right. my 9yr old has only ever slept at Gran, Ouma and her 1 aunt, who is her legal guardian, who, God forbid, would take over if me and the Hubby died in a blazing car accident on the way to a meeting.
          I get your point about fires in other people’s homes, but like I said, the worse can happen anywhere…or not at all.

          Reply
  3. My kids (9 and 13) play in the park across the road. They ride their bikes to the NG graveyard in the neighbourhood (poor townplanning – but that is a whole other story) – obviously not daring to enter. I sometimes send them down to Spar to get a movie – 1km away, on a busy 4 way stop. They also have the odd game of tennis, hockey or whatever in our street. Luckily we stay in a quiet crescent, and they know not ever to go into the main streets. I find a reasonable protection for them, is our 2 yellow-eyed Weimeraners and the Africanis ‘special’ which are with them at all times, the minute they step out the house.

    And we have dealt with snakes, rats, etc. And they know when to take the gap. And that dogs are stupid when it comes to slitheries, but cats are clever.

    This is perhaps one of the advantages of staying in a small, sleepy seaside town. And yes, I could be in a main centre, earning huge bucks, but then, I fear our casual, relaxed lifestyle would be no more. Although we also have murders, theft, etc, here.

    Yes, I wonder if what we allow them to do is right, but at the same time, you will not find a 9 year old girl that is more independent and street smart, than Sussie. And she is planted firmly on the ground. Most days, I do not even see her before she goes to school. (Does her own hair, dress, helps with lunch pack) And yes, she knows what bad things can happen – I have also been graphic with examples, and tell them what is going on in the news.
    Both the minions also do chores like dishes, washing, peeling tats and carrrots, clearing up, etc. And until last month we had a full-time domestic. My 13yr old son can bake banana muffins and do a mean curry. (And yes, they chop with a knife, work the stove, etc.)
    So, it is very confusing. But they know that they are to tell us everything. And how to scream and holler. And most importantly – think for themselves and ask questions.
    This whole story brings me to the whole theory of fate: if it is meant to be, it will be. Whether you are sitting at home watching Toddlers ‘n Tiara’s; or speeding down the N2 – if it is your time…. Also, as parents, we are not all-seeing, omnipotent gods – you can not be everywhere. I do agree that girls are more tricky than boys. But I sometimes think that parents do their kids a disservice by pamperlanging them to the extreme.

    You need to teach your child – and give them the opportunity – to use their common sense.

    Reply
  4. Alexandra

     /  September 17, 2012

    I am very worried about how I’m going to handle this when it comes up. So far my 5 year old daughter has only had sleep outs at my sister’s or at my mother’s. I worry about how to handle it when she starts wanting to stay over at her friends’.

    Who does one suspect and who doesn’t one? How do I ask her godmother or even my sister to not leave her alone with their fiance/boyfriend without them taking offense?

    Reply
  5. You could have plucked the words straight out of my head! We all want our children to grow up safe – but not scared. I don’t think there is the one true way to do that – but if I were you I would ALWAYS trust my gut…exactly as you did.

    Reply
  6. I agree with Diddy about being honest. When I was growing up, about 3 of my friends had been fiddled with and the men in question were all uncles, brothers and one Step Dad.

    You’ve made your decision and stick to it. It does kids the world of good to sometimes not get what they want. More valuable than anything else. makes them more determined in life, instead of everything falling in their lap. Georgia will get over it and I think I respect your friend So much for letting you know about the strange extra man. Well done K!

    Georgia won’t be cynical about men, she has Kennith and her brother to compare men too. She’ll be exposed to Connor’s mates along the way and realise, like all of us, that there are good men and bad men around. The tears at averting the potential danger by not exposing her to a stranger, far outways the emotional turmoil she would go through had she been abused.

    A tough descision to make as a parent.

    Reply
  7. The Ninja Mommy

     /  September 17, 2012

    When my two stepkids moved to south africa a couple of years ago, I faced the same dilemma. They are european, and in their country, it is not unusal to find a ten yr old kids skateboarding across the city, or a 7 yr old coming home from the park on his own as it gets dark. A lot of my ex husbands furor came over me trying to explain that here, you just dont let your kids ride to the bp and back at 7pm at night. I felt like an ogre and it sucked, because when I was a kid, I did all those things I told them they couldnt do..and I remember how great it was. However when I heard about the little 6yr old girl who was playing with a ball in the street and is now lying in a coma because some asshole is gunning people down on public streets, somehow I am able to justify my fears. When we are woken in the middle of the night, because some asshole has got through the electric fencing, and is now doing his shopping on our property…I can justify it. When I am sitting at Red Cross with a sick child and see a young girl being bought in with an ambulance and police and her parents holding her shakily, with just a towel wrapped around her bottom half…I can justify it. Perhaps we can let go a little, but then how do we guage when a little is going too far???

    Reply
  8. Hi
    I’ve umm-ed and arr’d over this one since daughter was 5…… my daughter is now 13. The mistake I made (at one point when she was younger) was that I scared her shitless about men and/or sleepovers. She has been sleeping out since before Grade R ! I was preyed upon as a young girl and the stats are that strangers are not the ones to worry about, but kind old Uncle Don or Grandad Smith. Children are usually sexually abused by familiar people and not strangers. Even half brothers and step siblings….
    I’ve been very open (based on my own experiences) to the point of graphic brutal with my daughter and I think it’s worked. She knows what is inappropriate and I am 99% sure she would come tell me if something happened.
    D
    x

    Reply

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