13 May 2012

social commentary Sunday . . . 'the sleepover check list & . . . police check'

Greetings all,
This is a post on the old . . . is my child old enough/ do i know the family well enough . . . for a sleepover topic.  Sleepovers with friends were our first children-away-for-the-night experience.  I always covered the basics & ran a police check in my head - do i know the parents well, have they ever mentioned a spell in prison, drink driving, neighbours running a meth lab, a savage dog, a creepy uncle & what is the general vibe.  I have to admit, generally i have known the family for years first & i'd much rather children come to my house than mine to theirs.  
One dear friend of mine, who i'd rate as completely normal, would say things like "i always invite children here, you might notice my children have never gone to a sleepover, not worth the risk" . . . ironically while handing out slumber party invitations!!  She'd offer a full run down of the night's schedule, guest list & contact numbers, very thorough . . . i was waiting to sign an indemnity contract from her solicitor (giggles) but i liked it, she put you at ease that it was a well supervised event.    
I will admit, i have skirted around & avoided many sleepover invitations if it doesn't feel right.  A party i was considering years ago . . . i commented to the mother "oh, you're brave, 12 x 8 year old girls" & she replied jovially "oh, we'll just leave a couple of DVDs for them & go out for dinner".  I quickly burned that invitation & told my daughter she wasn't going to the party - to my surprise she said the party girl was "a bit weird anyway" - instincts!!  Warning: just as a conversation starter when you RSVP, ask if the parents are actually going to be there too!!     
So on Friday night when my 10 year old twins trotted off to a sleepover with 10 other school friends, i had not met the parents before, so i chatted away to get a vibe: the father was military police, the daughter is an only child, they're about to move interstate . . . the other much-more-wary-than-me-parents were letting their girls stay too, i felt Ok with this & didn't use my 'we have something early on in the morning, i'll collect them at 9 tonight' emergency excuse. 
So when i collected the girls & my middle daughter proceeded to burst open her lolly bag of Skittles which sprayed all over the car (we'd never eaten Skittles before, they are revolting but easy to vacuum up) they gave me a run down of the night, from eating pizza & braiding each other's hair to watching Sex And The City.  Sorry what now??  I asked calmly "what did you think of that show" & my 3rd daughter said "it was a bit boring, didn't really understand it, so we watched The Ugly Truth instead".  Great, another M-rated-sex-based-movie!!  I don't mind my children watching an M movie on occasion, with me, so i can say "that's not appropriate for you" or um, "Samantha Jones has enough sex for everyone in the world."  You know, control the situation, like when your child asks "do you want longer lasting sex??" from the billboard on the highway.  I'm pretty aware of what children are exposed to on the radio, television ads & primary school playground chatter, so i set them straight about what they heard - so they don't use words like "threesome, wanker & orgasm" in class.  You can't control your own environment anymore - pull up along side a car blasting "bitch rape" rap lyrics & playing porn on an in-car-screen??  You can't walk about with ear muffs & blind folds on your children.  I find the most offensive language is actually heard walking behind teenagers at a shopping centre!!    
Anyway, back to my children . . . when my husband Skyped in & asked how the party went, i told him what the girls had seen & he said "Jennieeeeeee, no, you don't know this family."  He of course is right, no matter how annoying & correct his parenting is from the other side of the world.  Even a seasoned primary school parent like me gets it wrong.  I love that my daughters told me so openly, as i know many of their friends will keep it a secret & possibly be having nightmares about Samantha doing things their mother has never mentioned about sex!!  What i found MOST disappointing about the whole issue was - one sweet girl piped up bravely & said "i don't think i'm allowed to watch this" & the birthday girl said "i know, let's take a vote, that you go to sleep & we watch it".  That was downright nasty.  I told my daughters that it was a great opportunity for them to step up & say "i agree, i don't think we should watch it or exclude anyone at a party" & bless them, they agreed they should have.  
Ever had a party hiccup like this before??  Found yourself explaining to your 10 year olds that Samantha "must have been a gymnast" at 9a.m. on a Saturday morning??  FYI the MP husband - he was asleep, on slumber-party-movie-police-duty!!  Love Posie
PS just in case you've never seen Sex And The City (movies or series) Samantha Jones is the fabulous & feisty tall blonde PR guru who has sex with an average of 3 guys each episode - it's rarely bedroom sex either, often some entertaining twist (balcony, desk, wardrobe with lots of boobage) & always explained in detail to her girlfriends the following day over lunch, just in case you missed it visually.  The Ugly Truth is basically a movie about how men get women into bed.  


Catherine said...

Oh no I'm one of those mothers that don't do sleep overs, unless I really trust the parents but then when I did Miss 12 came home telling me she had watched an M rated movie mmmm. It's good that you have such an open relationship with your daughters that they feel comfortable enough to share with you what happened. I think I'll try and avoid it for as long as possible. x

Brenda @ Mira Narnie said...

Oh dear! Well my husband has already given me the "our children will not sleep at other peoples homes" speech, so i am prepared for when the invites come. I guess i can just say "sorry my husband disagree's with sleepovers!" As for your ordeal....i think your kids are so grounded it will be like water off a ducks back! poor things having to watch Samantha at it like rabbits!!

Jan-Maree said...

Ahhh Jennie we all get it wrong some times no matter how hard you try not to. All you can do is your best. Just keep teaching your children the right way to behave and react and they will end up making the right decisions when they get in the wrong situations. That is all you can do.

Mum on the Run said...


I could write a novel - but I'll refrain.
I have taught ten year olds for the last couple of years.
The discrepancy in parenting among this age group is HUGE.
The differences in boundaries, appropriateness, exposure... are so vast.
The complacency of some parents has dumbfounded (and saddened) me.

I love the honesty of your girls.
Testament to you.

SportyMummy said...

I'm a little in shock after reading this!! 10 years old....At least you can talk to your girls about it openly and explain the truth behind the TV show. My Girls don't even know about the birds and bees yet!

NessaKnits said...

I wouldn't consider those movies appropriate for my 10 year old in my home, so I don't know how that girls' parents possibly thought they were appropriate for a room full of 10 year olds. Never again! Oh well, we all make bad decisions from time to time, so we can learn from them!

polkadotpeticoat said...

This is such a hard one but I always go with my gut feeling and listen to it....Its so hard and it always amazes me how quick people are to drop their kids off and you don't hear from them for almost 20 hours.....but yet there are wonderful parents also that monitor everything also.
I always want to meet the homes and parents also.

Sarah B said...

Hmm, I'm a big SATC fan but 19 year olds? I think not! A good way to scar them for life :)
I'm sure if I was a mother I'd be over wary but your girls seem so level headed. You are doing a brilliant job x

Amanda said...

Soooo inappropriate posie, I am so wary of the m rating and worry about taking kidsto those movies, at least DVD usually explicitly say what the content is. We made a big mistake and my husband took my son to hunger games after much pestering and he checked with a few people who assured him it was fine, he came out appalled, I wish I had read the book before letting them go.

Coal Valley View said...

Oh man! This age group of girls scares the bejeezus out of me. Having to ask whether a child's parent is actually home sounds absolutely ridiculous but is sadly necessary as I learned last year when we are living in Sydney. My daughter was invited by a child's mum to have a play for a couple of hours at their house after school. However she didn't tell me that she wouldn't be there and a Nanny was there instead. My daughter told me the older sister of the friend showed them music videos of girls shaking their bottoms (a la Katy Perry). The Nanny was of course too busy watching TV to supervise. I was so furious. Imagine what else these 7 yr olds could have had access to on a laptop. Like you, I was glad my daughter told me as she was told by the sister "don't tell your mum!". Never again. I really hate making parenting mistakes when the stakes are high. Mel xx

The Provincial Homemaker said...

Hmm, a few years off for us yet but I totally agree with your stance. I like your early morning sport excuse - might keep that one up my sleeve.

As to the movies - it seems tame by comparison but I remember coming home as a 12 year old from a sleepover and telling my Mum I had watched Clueless - M rating I think. She was outraged and it was the last time I was allowed to sleepover with that particular friend:)

Posie Patchwork said...

Oh Clueless, i think that has drugs too??!! In my day (i'm 37) it was Nightmare on Elm Street movies, yikes!! If you dared, The Exorcist, shudder, no wonder i can't watch scary movies as an adult.
Thanks for the feedback. I think it's extremely important to talk about sex to your children, from when they are very young, so it's just part of life, nothing taboo or wrong, i mean, my children started asking me how they got here when they were 3!! Love Posie

Joyful Things said...

The time we spend talking with our kids has effect on them and when they see or hear something they will know whats wrong and whats right. Things like don't drink and drive, don't hurt anyone physically or mentally and sex with strangers is not only wrong for your dignity but can make you seriously ill. The best thing is to get upset so that they will always come and talk to you. First time my son saw anything like that he was too embarrassed to watch and went into the kitchen and had a visit with the mom.

ally said...

Such a minefield this parenting business...so much easier from the other side of the world!!!
We have one really persistent mum inviting people over but her 19yo son is left in charge occasionally(??) and she sometimes smells of alcohol during the day...I'm getting really good at the excuses!!

Salley said...

I can see its only a dollies house living room, Posie... however I must warn you....I read once where a family let their 2 chickens grow up in the home...and then when they became outside chooks, they would peck on the back door at 4pm EVERY day, ....just so they could come in to the living room and watch Playschool! When the programme finished... they would walk out again! So, I am glad to see the Dolls house TV is switched off!

As for the whole sleep over thing...its a hazard. Very disappointing for you....to be so undermined by a parent with different standards.
Maybe at a class Mothers Coffee morning ...this type of incident (and some others ) could be debated.

The Accidental Housewife said...

My goodness, that's scary. SATC is so mature, there are bits in there that still make me uncomfy, I can't imagine letting my girls watch it until they are quite mature themselves. It models terrible relationships! What were those parents thinking!

I'm sure that one anomaly won't ruin your girls, though. You sound very grounded and sensible, I'm sure they'll be just fine!

Nancy said...

Oh Jenn - this is just the kind of mess that leaves parents wondering if they made a reasonable decision. Now I do also want to state that it is much more challenging for parents who move around the country aka military families. I find that it is harder to get a handle on things because you are often thrust invitations earlier than you expect and not wanting to make your child a social pariah - can agree before you have obtained a full security clearance. I would agree with Mum on the Run who said that parents of 10 year olds vary incredibly in their monitoring of what their little ones are up to - they are still too young to structure their own party. And there is a huge problem with the hypersexualization of girls - often younger and younger. I like the way you had a great discussion including the one about social inclusion/exclusion (one of my pet peeves with girls). I think it speaks volumes that your girls a) recognized that it was wrong to watch Sex in the City and b) told you what happened. The only thing that might be useful is to give them an out - a way to contact you so they can go home if they are uncomfortable. This will put them in good stead as they encounter issues with under age drinking, drugs and other situations.

Karla {Ironmum Karla} said...

Oh wow, things to consider in years to come...hows the story about the parents that went out for dinner, that is a disgrace..who does that sort of thing!!xh

Virginia said...

Hmmm - the sleepover issue and the TV/movie issue all rolled in to one!! Help!!! Certainly something that we'll deal with one day but not yet thankfully! (and my eldest is 10) We've had one sleepover and only with a very close friend/family who have the same views as us. Posie, a credit that your girls are so honest with you.

I've had conversations with kids at school - three Harry Potter movies in one weekend for kids 5, 7 and 8!!!! How many of them are M rated??? The books are one thing but the movies??? And The Big Bang Theory for an 8 year old with her 'favourite characters'. Surely these aren't aimed at kids this young. I could go on.

How can we let our precious little ones grow up too quickly - happens soon enough all on it's own!
Thanks for opening up the discussion with such honesty and selflessness, Posie.

supermac said...

Dearest Posie,

I guess they are bound to be exposed to these stuff and I like how calmly you responded to the situation and just explained to them how inappropriate it is for kids their age. We have a "conservative" culture here in Manila and somehow, our kids are spared from stuff with sexual innuendos (the billboard you cited will never ever be allowed here). However, they hear songs and see videos (I have since disallowed them already to watch MTV) that are too sensual for kids. In the past I will just cover their eyes, hurriedly get the remote and switch channels, and in a state of panic, will just yell "Not for kids!!!!" Now that they are older, I guess I will have to take the cue from you and calmly explain to them the reasons why such stuff is restricted. Thanks so much, Posie. Learned a lot from you today.


Sally said...

Great post... and I guess the bottom line is that we can't control the environment in which our children live. They're exposed to ideas that we don't approve of all the time... and hence the importance of good strong relationships where children feel they can be open and these ideas can be discussed.
Sounds like you did an ace parenting job to me.

Bron said...

We do all get it wrong at least once then I resort to the we have an early appointment so I'll pick them up later tonight....call it avoidance but whatever it takes i reckon xx

le_third said...

you know what I think ... they got it wrong - I remember the ugly truth and the 'flick the bean' scenes and commentary ... did they ask you about that !! I don't have wee girls - only boys aged 7 and 9 - no sleepovers for them except with nana and pa as yet ... I even stay at birthday parties ... now does that make me over protective ? hmmm it just makes me me :) le xox