Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

By Gretchen

“Mom? Mom?”

A twelve-year-old boy gently shook his sleeping mother’s shoulder.

After twisting in the sheets and mumbling protests, she turned to look at the bedside clock. 2:30 am.

“What is it?” she groaned, wondering if one of the sleepover guests spilled something on the basement carpet.

“We’re taking the last three rolls of the quilted toilet paper. I think it holds up better when we throw them over the neighbor’s trees. The cheap stuff falls apart and then, like, what’s the point? Also, tell dad he forgot to put the parental controls back on the TV so we learned about what chicks in Paris really style at hair salons! Well, we’re off, be back by dawn! Taking a beer from the garage fridge to share!”

“Mmmkay” the mother replies, rolling back to sleep.

The only thing that rings false in the above scenario is the kid keeping mom informed of his petty crimes and hijinks. Otherwise, the typical pre-teen or teenage sleepover often features kids doing things they’d never do in the light of day. Darkness, the lack of direct parental supervision, access to things inaccessible during the day, and peer pressure conspire to make sleepovers Las Vegas Junior. Nothing good happens after midnight.

My husband and I recently decided to ban sleepovers from our childrens’ social lives after listening to local police officer, author of The Swimsuit Lesson, and father of six, Jon Holsten, speak at my MOPS group about preventing sexual abuse. As an investigator of sex crimes for years, he formed his opinion based on the experiences he saw—consequently, he has the same rule about sleepovers. They simply aren’t allowed in their household.

Preventing sexual abuse is something parents take seriously and would be reason alone for a rule like ours. When our kids are at their physically and mentally most vulnerable, we want them under our roof.

Even in a world free of this especially heinous form of abuse, there are plenty of reasons to keep childrens’ social lives limited from dawn to late evening. Based solely on my own slumber party history, I remember nights when soft core porn on premium cable, alcohol, smoking, cruel pranks, and roaming the neighborhood were just a part of the festivities much like the pizza dinner and morning donuts. The parents involved weren’t slacker monsters, turning a blind-eye, or encouraging any of these iffy time-fillers. They were Awana leaders, Scout leaders, room mothers, Sunday School teachers. They were two floors above, asleep, or at the other end of the house. They were tired. They were trusting. Who wanted to believe their kid was raiding the schnapps and playing bartender with little Dixie cups from the bathroom?

We have taught our kids about the dangers of alcohol, drugs, guns, and seeing things that are beyond their years to handle wisely. I certainly hope when they go to friend’s houses that these lessons are remembered and honored. My parents taught me the same things, but something about the rush of wearing night’s veil made these “crimes” more tolerable. Nobody had to know. Everyone was doing it. You want to be invited again, don’t you? To a twelve-year-old girl, that invitation is everything.

Many parents had nothing but wholesome and positive experiences at the slumber parties and sleepovers of their youth. I am truly envious of them. Other parents may subscribe to the “kids will be kids” outlook on life. As long as nobody is murdered, anything goes. I can’t speak for any other parent or tell you what to do. It’s a decision every family has to make for their own children.

My husband and I are always open to revisit and reexamine our rules and our parenting style. Someday, we may cringe at what joyless hard-noses we were regarding this issue. In many other areas of our lives, we enjoy giving our kids freedom to learn and have fun and explore without being helicopter parents.

But when it comes to the wee hours of the day, we prefer our wee ones with us.

Gretchen also blogs at Lifenut.

40 Responses to Nothing Good Happens After Midnight
  1. Julie Bo Boolie
    July 20, 2008 | 1:17 am

    We just dealt with this very issue this w/end. I had blogged asking for advice and while two people told me to let my DD sleepover 11 others told me not to.. in the end we decided against it and I’m glad we didn’t. I think now that I’ve faced that challenge it’ll be easier to say no next time.

  2. […] It’s called Nothing Good Happens After Midnight. […]

  3. Iva
    July 20, 2008 | 7:32 am

    I never had a lot of sleep overs growing up. I think when I did, I had one or two girlfriends stay over. We stayed out of trouble. And they were always at my house. (The one time I did stay at a friend’s house, the parents smoked pot in the kitchen while we slept in the living room – I didn’t go over there again).

    Nothing good ever happens after midnight – so true.

  4. Jennifer, Snapshot
    July 20, 2008 | 8:06 am

    Oh, this is SO hard. My daughter (almost 10) has a good head on her shoulders, but I don’t know what she would do if a crowd was trying to do something.

    She has 2 good friends (who I know well, and know their parents) where she has spent the night, but I know that the sleepover party is coming soon, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

  5. Jeana
    July 20, 2008 | 9:05 am

    Yep, we have the same rule. I blogged about it before.

  6. owlhaven
    July 20, 2008 | 10:35 am

    Great post Gretchen. I also have memories of bad stuff that happened at sleepovers… I’ll have to think more about our own rules

    Mary, mom to 10

    PS– were your ears burning last night? Babywearing Steph and I were talking about how much we both like you!

  7. Beck
    July 20, 2008 | 11:18 am

    My daughter had a sleepover at a close friend’s house just this past week – I’m friends with her mother, and her mother gave me a careful itenerary of everything that was going to happen (for the record: she took the girls blueberry picking and THEY SAW A BEAR, they roasted marshmallows in the backyard and then they had a late night tea party in her friend’s room while watching Barbie Swan Lake. Then they went to sleep.). I was comfortable with my child spending the night there, but I do find that I generally refuse most sleepover invitations. If I don’t totally know and trust the parents, my kid is NOT spending the night at their house.

  8. jenni
    July 20, 2008 | 11:38 am

    Totally agree. Every word.

  9. Minnesotamom
    July 20, 2008 | 2:30 pm

    Wow. I didn’t realize this was an issue. I had all non-Christian friends growing up, but I went to and had many sleepovers without issue. The worst thing I recall happening was when a friend brought out a Ouija board, and I simply excused myself to another room to read a book until they were done with their idiocy.

    Guess I’ll have to approach this issue with my husband before Anja comes of sleepover age. I feel like my parents trusted me to make good decisions, and they trusted the parents of the friends whose homes I was in, but I suppose things nowadays are different?

  10. Cynthia
    July 20, 2008 | 5:43 pm

    Those are very good things to think about…thanks for this post! My kids are too young for sleepovers now, but it’s good for me to think ahead before needing to make a decision.

  11. Lizz
    July 20, 2008 | 7:52 pm

    I enjoyed this post. We’ve yet to enter into the sleepover stage with our kids. But, I suppose it is never too early to start thinking about this. I’m curious, will you let you kids go to a sleep over until 10-12 at night, occassionally?

  12. LeeAnn
    July 20, 2008 | 8:27 pm

    We have the same rule. The sleepovers I had were all good—silly, but good. Except for one. That one, we were allowed to run all over the apartment complex, through dark laundry rooms, and then watched a very scary movie in her home. I was teased pretty hard for pretending to be sleeping instead of watching it. The sounds were spooky enough. About a week later, news broke about some sex maniac hanging out in apartment common laundry rooms.

    My sister’s son was invited to a party at a trusted neighbor’s home. They allowed him to go until around bedtime and then he came home. My sister had to run to the grocery store close to their home later that night and found all the boys from the sleep over hanging out in front of the store.

  13. Mamalovelock
    July 20, 2008 | 9:20 pm

    I totally agree. We have the same rule. My kids are little, but we set that rule a long time ago. My daughter is seven and the only place she gets to sleepover at is grandma’s. Just can’t trust others with my babies.

  14. Moriah
    July 20, 2008 | 10:14 pm

    As a general rule and practice, yes, I agree. My kids are currently WAY too little for sleep-overs.

    But, I do have a small circle of my closest friends who all have kids more or less my own children’s ages and I would be totally comfortable allowing my kids to stay in their homes. Our views and principles are almost always the same and I trust them completely. In fact, some of them have kept my older babies during the births of my younger babies. (Although, I suppose that doesn’t really count as a sleepover!)

  15. Amy
    July 20, 2008 | 10:41 pm

    I enjoyed sleepovers. They were a little foray into another person’s world, my first small experiment with travel and another culture, and I remember feeling thrilled by the experience and happy to return to the familiar. I confess that in junior high, some sleepovers did involve toilet paper and roaming around after dark, although no alcohol, that was a boundary I didn’t cross until later. I found the choices I was making (though small) exhilirating and I learned that some things didn’t suit me, and that others did. I was finding my boundaries.

    Having said that, I’m much more strict with my kids about everything than my parents were with me. I wonder every day if that makes any kind of sense because I wouldn’t change my childhood and adolescence for anything. Still, my kids are young now, and I’m definitely against sleepovers at their ages and I find it creepy when some parents keep inviting my daughter when I’ve said the answer was NO. (Not creepy in a sexual predator kind of way, just creepy in a can’t-you-take-a-hint? kind of way.)

  16. Kelly
    July 21, 2008 | 12:04 am

    I slept over at my best friends’ houses a lot when I was a teenager — but I didn’t go to many (any?) sleepovers as you describe them. Maybe the difference is the number of people involved and/or how well you know the family? My friends’ parents had the exact same beliefs and values as mine. If we had been caught doing ANY of those things, we would have all been in trouble with a capital T. As it was, we got in trouble for listening to Amy Grant too loudly after 10:00 PM.

    My kiddos are too young for sleepovers of any kind still, but I would imagine my rules would be: Only if we are EXTREMELY comfortable with the family involved. I’m not going to release my children to people I don’t know.

  17. chickadee
    July 21, 2008 | 12:26 am

    same here. i do let kids sleep over at our house (rarely) but do not allow mine to go to others.

  18. Joanne
    July 21, 2008 | 1:11 am

    Kudos to you and your hubby. We allowed our kids some sleepovers, but always made sure they knew that no matter what time it was, if they were ever uncomfortable, we’d come get them. I made many trips in the wee hours of the morning to get my kiddos. I was glad, as sometimes it was just a very uncomfortable conversation a group of girls were having. Sometimes much worse.

    I let one of my daughters have a slumber party for her 8th birthday. At 10 p.m., she came to me in tears and wanted them all to go home. She’d picked a kids movie for them to watch and the girls thought it was dumb and all wanted to watch an R rated movie, or at the very least a PG13. As much as she liked these girls, she wasn’t comfortable with them in her space at that time of night. It was a very long night.

  19. Tiffany
    July 21, 2008 | 1:31 am

    Great post. We have the same rule for this and many, many other reasons!

  20. Melissa
    July 21, 2008 | 7:22 am

    Wow. It’s never occurred to me NOT to let my girl (9 1/2) participate in sleepovers. I’m sorry if I sound naive, but is this just group sleepovers or also one child staying with a friend? My girl stays with friends or has friends over quite a bit during the summer…but I know all the parents well, and in most cases, grew up with them myself. We’ve not done much of the group sleepover thing yet, but I haven’t considered keeping her from it.

  21. Heth
    July 21, 2008 | 11:31 am

    Good stuff Gretchen.

    I completely agree, in theory. Having been to many of these sleepovers back in the day, you are spot on about the mischief. And I would love to put this same rule into practice with my own kids, just not sure about how to go back on what we have already allowed. Our oldest is at a birthday sleepover as we speak. Nate and I will have to discuss.

  22. Rach
    July 21, 2008 | 12:55 pm

    We will not do the sleepover thing with anyone outside immediate family. I am so glad to know we aren’t the only ones who have made this decision. But if we had been the only ones, I still wouldn’t change my mind. Great post, G.

  23. Shayne
    July 21, 2008 | 1:53 pm

    Wow, maybe it’s because my kids are younger, but I had no idea this was even an issue. My oldest (age 6) has been to spend the night with a friend whose mother is a good friend of mine, and I had no problem with that.

    Guess I’ll have to add this to the mental checklist of things to decide as the children get older and we find ourselves faced with these situations. Thanks for the enlightenment!

  24. Amy
    July 21, 2008 | 3:21 pm

    I’ve been thinking some more about this, and I’d just like to note that it’s also possible for kids to get into mischief/sneak out of their own houses after midnight, like, ahem, a few bloggers I know did in their youth.

    And, in thinking about it, I completely disagree that nothing good happens after midnight. A lot of wonderful bonding with friends and thrilling moments of independence have happened after midnight for me, in the quiet of the night. Sitting around with friends, trying to entertain each other, and in doing so forging life long bonds, that’s one of life’s greatest pleasures and you don’t get to do it when you’re in your thirties, so you’d better do it while you’re young.

  25. Emily
    July 21, 2008 | 11:31 pm

    Thank goodness my three are all 6 and under! I guess we’ll have to rethink this in a few years.

    I know that times have changed, but I have the best memories of sleepovers, many of which were at my house. Every toilet-paper rolling experience we had involved a parent (to drive, of course), and I think that my mom was the funnest–always ready for a speedy get-away. (And unbeknownst to us at the time, the parents would get prior permission from the targeted friend’s house. I found this out when we tried to do a last-minute target switch that my mom wouldn’t approve for this reason.) I think that the key to sleepovers is parental involvement. My parents always held to the philosophy that they’d rather be the fun-house and have everything under their watch than have us out seeking fun elsewhere. And boy, did we have FUN growing up! (And imagine-mom and dad were there!)

  26. Kristin
    July 22, 2008 | 6:42 pm

    What’s the definition of sleepover? One friend or multiple? Just curious. I haven’t thought much about this issue, I guess I should.

  27. AM
    July 22, 2008 | 8:37 pm

    My son is too young to even consider sleepovers, but I imagine at some point it will come up. I’ll probably have to really rethink this at that point.

    My parents didn’t let me go to sleepovers for the same reasons you mentioned. They didn’t let me do much of anything, as they were pretty strict with me. But, speaking from experience, if a kid wants to find trouble to get into, trouble he will find. Whether it’s at a friend’s house, his own house, school, whatever. Looking back, I think my parents withheld some really neat growth opportunities because of their fears. While, now as a parent, I understand those fears, I hope I am not so scared and untrusting that my child will not have the opportunity to make his own sound decisions.

  28. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    July 23, 2008 | 5:32 pm

    Wow… eye-opening post!

    I had never even thought about this before… mine are still to young. But I think I may follow your example.

  29. Starr
    July 23, 2008 | 9:49 pm

    My daughter is a sleep over queen! Two friends in particular, then there are the cousins. I think I’m just glad school nights are back so I can reevaluate.

  30. ZaleaRose
    July 24, 2008 | 3:37 am

    When I was growing up we weren’t allowed to sleep over any where except for my parents best friend’s house. What they didn’t know was that their 15 year old son was a pervert and kept trying to get me alone. I was around 10 years old. I didn’t tell until I was older, but they never asked why I never wanted to go back. You just can’t be too careful, even at your Christian best friend’s house!

  31. judy
    July 25, 2008 | 8:46 am

    My children are all adults now. We didn’t have the ‘no sleep over’ rule at first.

    Several really strange things happened before we got a clue. I think as parents of young children the allure of having a night without kids just sounded TOO good.

    I tried just now to write about what happened to my daughter, at the age of 8, but it still makes me SO very upset about what she went through, and all just a very few feet from her own home.

    And, it never occured to me at the time that even if you know the parents well, quite possibly you do not know the other children who just may be having a sleep-over with a different sibling in that family.

    When it comes to sleep-overs, I do not think there is such a thing as being over protective.

  32. Jamie (Ohbecareful!)
    July 28, 2008 | 12:43 pm

    Our kids are too young for sleepovers, so we haven’t had to make a decision one way or the other yet.

    My own sleepover experiences were positive (although most of the time, the sleepovers were at my house, so maybe that had something to do with it); it’s surprising to me that many parents have a “no sleepover” rule for safety reasons. To keep one’s sanity intact, I get. Sleep, sure. I’ve just never thought of well-supervised sleepovers where the parents know and trust each other as inherently dangerous. Then again, I never went to a sleepover where there was smoking, drugs, alcohol, or anything of that nature. The worst my little group of friends did was make a joint decision early in the evening to put toothpaste on the face of the first person to fall asleep. Guess I should count my blessings.

    Great post, backed up by many interesting comments. Definitely food for thought.

  33. nutmeg
    August 1, 2008 | 10:39 am

    We’re with you on this one. It’s one of our most unpopular rules. We have tried to soften the blow by letting the girls go to the party but picking them up around 10:00 pm. I wish more parents would get the picture so the girls didn’t feel so singled out by our rule. We have promised that we will revisit the rule when they’re older too.

    This was an excellent post!

  34. Amanda
    August 1, 2008 | 12:42 pm

    Please consider reading this Psychology Today article:

    I think it’s extreme to flat-out ban the things that our children derive pleasure from and gain life experiences from. We don’t want our kids to be exposed to porn or TP neighbor’s yards, but it isn’t going to kill them, and they learn valuable social lessons. It’s important to be good parents and meet the parents of your kid’s friends, but if a 12-year-old can’t spend the night at a friend’s house, what will they be like in 6 years when they are in a college dorm?

  35. M Lynch
    August 5, 2008 | 6:20 pm

    As the mother of children ages 5-17 we have gone back and forth with this issue, and we have discovered that a no sleepover policy saves us from many problems. Thank you for your thought. I am glad I am not the only parent out there keeping my kidos home in the evening.

  36. mongo
    April 25, 2009 | 10:36 pm

    you all know what you are doing is not right for the kids so what if they go ding dong ditch or something silly something every teen is going to do once or twice don’t take away a important social experience from them like Amanda said what are they going to be like in a college dorm?

  37. DC
    November 2, 2009 | 11:24 am

    What a sad, paranoid outlook–you’ve been watching too much Nancy Grace, I feel sorry for your kids.

  38. SS
    January 1, 2011 | 4:36 pm


    It is easy to dismiss these parents as killjoys or old fuddy duddies, but they are simply dealing with reality. I am a police officer and have learned from experience that children must be protected. There are good parents out there who are looking out for their kids and other people’s kids, but there are also a lot of lazy and irresponsible parents who let things fly. Most kids appreciate discipline, but they will not admit it.

  39. Natalie Moore
    February 17, 2011 | 8:27 pm

    You are a crazy person. Sheltering your children like that is not healthy, they will have to grow up and face the real world sooner or later. If you put a good head on their shoulders you won’t have to worry about your child doing anything bad. So many overprotective parents these days, life you, drive their kids away, and actually make them want to do bad things. Your kid will rebel if you don’t give them any room for fun. Sleepovers are a part of growing up, and its a silly thing to take away, its not like its a big party.

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