Question: I have a 7 yr old daughter who has recently started doing the “sleep over” thing. At least.. trying. All of her friends seem to have no problem whatsoever at staying over at our home. However, my daughter doesn’t seem to be ready to sleep anywhere other than her own home. She tries to but then ends up calling home to be picked up. Last week there seemed to be a breakthrough and she stayed all night at a good friends home. Last night my daughter decided she was ready to do this again. She felt confident that she could and would sleep over again. The night prior her friend had stayed at our home. When it came to bedtime, we received a call. She was crying and said she missed her mommy and daddy. Of course, we couldn’t bear to think of her crying herself to sleep or having a restless night, so we went to pick her up. My friend (the mom) thought my daughter was calling to say good night to us but that wasn’t the case. When I arrived to pick up my daughter, my friend was somewhat annoyed. She asked my daughter why she did not want to say and my daughter answered that she thought she could but then realized she missed us and wanted to come home. My friend went on to say to my daughter not to ask or talk about staying overnight anymore because she only ends up disappointing her daughter. She then went on to say that once a decision is made then my daughter to stick to it… she should learn to suffer the consequences. My jaw dropped. How could I not go pick her up? I then apologized for my daughter’s behaviour but stated that this is typical children’s behaviour… afterall, they are only 7… they are not teenagers. Am I wrong to feel disappointed with the way my friend spoke to my daughter or, was she right to express that annoyance and frustration to her??? Angelina
Answer: Your daughter sounds like an articulate little girl who is very much in touch with her feelings and needs. I would be very proud of her for acting with a great deal of personal responsibility and also for her ability to understand that her choices caused disappointment in others who were looking forward to her company. She even understands that feelings change, that she thought she could do something and then she felt overwhelmed. I am happy that you could respond to her with respect and sensitivity. In time, she will be a sleep over pro! In the meantime, I think sleepovers at your house are a great idea and I would continue building her confidence staying overnight where she is comfortable.
I also think that it is quite all right that your friend and her daughter communicate their disappointment about your daughter leaving as long as they do not shame your daughter or minimize your daughter’s feelings. She is not “a baby”. She is not “immature”. As you said, she is 7 years old. Your friend may have been caught a little off guard by the unsuspecting phone call and I agree that you may want to wait before planning another sleep over at their house.
It is natural that two different families and households have different values. Parenting changes from child to child and from family to family. You know your daughter well and know that she is not being manipulative or sneaky by asking to come home from a sleep over. Another parent might know their child will have fun at a sleep over and just needs a little extra encouragement. Another parent might know their child will stop crying as soon as they hear the parents say “we love you, have fun”. Everything you described suggests that this is not a behavior issue for your daughter and she is learning important steps to separation and independence. Other parents may face behavior issues in similar circumstances and may not know your daughter as well. The wise parent learns how to “read” children and situations with honesty and openness. The wise friend learns how to accept differences and still remain true to themselves.
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.