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Mama Said: Kids love sleepovers. Parents don't

Were you a 'Hyper' or a 'Sleeper'? Emily Martin’s daughter has reached the age of the sleepover and she's having flashbacks

Emily Martin's daughter has reached the age of the sleepover. . . (49892453)
Emily Martin's daughter has reached the age of the sleepover. . . (49892453)

One sunny weekend I went over to my friend’s house for the afternoon with some other friends and all our kids. The kids played while we chatted in the garden and, as afternoon turned to late-afternoon, which turned to early evening, we decided to get pizza and all have dinner together.

But after dinner, I started to think it was probably time to go and instantly all the kids sensed it. They came up to me suddenly, in a bunch. “Can we have a sleepover? Can we? Please can we? Please?” “We’ve got pyjamas HERE,” offered the little girl whose house it was - ready to deflect the only excuse she knew I’d be able to think of in the short time I’d had to prepare.

My friend (whose house it was) looked at me helplessly as the bunch of children looked at us from one to the other. Four pairs of eyes blinking together like they were one earnest creature, four pairs of palms pressed together, smiling pleadingly. We weren’t prepared.

When I collected my daughter in the morning, my friend was very gracious and said she’d been “good as gold”, but everyone looked tired. One of the other mums called out, “Thanks so much, I’ll have them all next time!” Oh my God. I quickly got into my car and drove off.

A couple of weeks later and we went on our traditional multi-family holiday to Norfolk. Children-wise the holiday always involves four girls (now aged 7 to 11) and three boys (aged 3 to 15) and it’s basically a week-long mega sleepover for them, supervised (quite sporadically and badly) by us adults.

The children organise themselves hierarchically into beds (both real and blow up) by age and by status and I barely see my daughter for most of the week, but sometimes I do peer into their room in the evenings and catch a glimpse of someone flying from one bed to the next while the others shout and chant and scream and whoop.

Occasionally someone will come down crying and snuffle out some story like, “I was Granny,and she wanted to be Granny, and we were all on the bed, and I pulled her arm, and she just FELL” and one of us will heave up from our chair to go up and say something half-hearted like, “Right, can you all calm down a bit please?” But that’s pretty much all we can do.

At that age I was also partial to a sleepover and some memories endure. There was the organised sleepover for your friend’s birthday, where maybe earlier on you’d been bowling. Or the impromptu sleepover, where someone’s mum had collected you from school on a Friday and a plan to sleepover had been hatched on the hoof. Mums would be telephoned (“Well it’s alright with me if it’s alright with you. No problem”). Responsibility relinquishing parents would struggle to contain their excitement at the front door as they passed in their child’s overnight bag.

The sleepover itself would involve watching movies recorded off the TV onto three-hour VHS tapes. The first half would be labelled The Neverending Story/Labyrinth/Flight of the Navigator. PG rating. Exciting! We’d all watch. But then it would run into whatever the next movie recorded on the VHS tape was: Highlander/Terminator 2/Alien. 18 rating. And really this is where I got my REAL education.

We’d get takeaway pizza and have to tolerate other people’s greasy fingers on our sleeping bag. And eat chocolate. Often melted onto our sleeping bag. There’d be the planning of a Midnight Feast that literally has never materialised in the history of all sleepovers.

And then, as darkness fell, the group would divide into clear roles. There’d be the Hypers (kids who intended to fall asleep last), the Sleepers (the ones who wanted to go to sleep now) and the Mediators (the ones who were up for having fun, sure. But felt the Sleepers did have a point, it was pretty late).

By about 10pm the allocated mum would have said goodnight and everyone would be in their places on the sofa cushions. Some would have drawn a shorter straw and got the weird-shaped sofa cushions, but reckoned they could make it work, despite their feet sticking off the end into the fireplace.

The Sleepers would fall quiet. But then the Hypers would start making noises to entertain the other Hypers and, to the Sleepers, their friends would suddenly become their most loathed enemies.

“SHUT UP, Becky!” A Sleeper would lift their head from a sofa cushion in the dark. Peals of laughing would burst forth from a Hyper.

A Mediator would pipe up, “Guys, I really think we should all try and get some sleep now, it’s getting late and my mum is coming really early.” “Is Zoe asleep?” “YES,” Zoe would reply. Eventually, somehow, everyone would drop off.

Things would often go wrong during the night too. Nosebleeds were a thing. Having to go and find someone else’s random mum in the night because you’d had a nosebleed and gently tapping the slumbering mum on the arm. Jolting her awake and then standing before her in the half-light of the landing, your face smeared with blood. As a mum, if that happened to me in the night, my instinct would be to scream and throw my bedside lamp at the bloodied beast.

Anyway, my daughter wants to have a sleepover for her birthday this year so I’m braced. And hopefully her friends are all Sleepers.


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