Sleepover. Problem with Other Parents

Updated on November 22, 2012
M.E. asks from Tampa, FL
25 answers

My son went over to his best friend's house for a sleepover. The sleepovers don't happen very often, maybe once every couple of months. My husband and I are not sure we are comfortable with what happens over there or are we just being overly critical.

One issue- The mom (she's young 20 something. I am 38) took my son over to a friend's house without asking me if it was ok. I don't know what went on there and I only met this person once at one of their parties. My son didn't mention anything alarming. When I was a kid, I went to someone's house and stayed there. Parents never brought me some where else or dropped a father or mother at the bar (they dropped his friend's father at the bar).

Second issue- The father (who we are good acquaintescenses with) showed my son a knife. He had him feel it and told him that he can use it if he feels the need to defend himself against invaders. I don't think self defense should be taught to my son at a sleepover.

Third issue- Father left my son and his friend alone so he could pick up wife from work. He was gone 20 minutes. He said they were old enough to be left alone. Don't you think he shouldn't be deciding this? He's not the parent of my son. I would never leave a 5th and 6th grader alone on my watch.

Ok, are we being too critical or do we have a reason for concern here?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

We thought we knew the couple. We have been friends with the Mom's parents for years. They seem like the perfect family around us, but then behind the scenes, it's something else entirely. My 11 year old's friend is a nice boy and well behaved except for the occasional curse word out of his mouth.

Lucky for us, the boy is over here most of the time to play. My son goes over to their apartment once every couple of months. I get tired of always being the one to host him, but now I'm seeing that it's the safer alternative.

Father was in the military. He is very friendly and nice but I'm not sure how responsible he is. I've heard some stories about him in drunken sitations that made me nervous. I thought he had changed his ways. He also told my son he has a gun in the home but did not show him.

Their baby woke up a few times during the night. My son said the parents were arguing at one point- yelling at each other. My son's friend said to ignore it-that they fight all the time. I can emphasize. My husband and I used to argue but not when our kids had friends over.

Another issue is that they don't believe in a set bedtime. When I was a kid, I went to a sleepover and a mother would tell us lights out by 11 or so. They let their son stay up until all hours. My son had to put himself to bed at 1 pm.

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☆.A.

answers from Pittsburgh on

If you trust them enough for a sleepover....

I would have addressed the weapons in their home before my kid ever stayed there the first time. Seriously. No responsible weapon owner would be offended if you asked.

As for 20 minutes alone at 10, 11 years old? I wouldn't be concerned.

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B..

answers from Dallas on

I don't think you're being too critical. I would not let my son stay over there.

The knife incident is just bazaar.

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C.B.

answers from Las Vegas on

How old is the child? Not that it matters that much. I would not let my kids go any place or with anyone I did not feel 100% confident with.

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D..

answers from Charlotte on

Nope, you're not too critical. Just the showing of the knife and talking about defending himself would END it for me. What the heck is he doing talking about that with YOUR son?

I would no longer allow my children in that house during the day, much less for sleepovers. I would only invite the friend to YOUR house if I were you.

I mean it too. This has BAD NEWS and red flags all over the screen in my view.

Dawn

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R.M.

answers from San Francisco on

This is your son's best friend. They are 5th and 6th graders. If they are both good kids, I think they can be left alone for a few minutes in a house while someone picks someone up. That's like 11 and 12 years old?

The knife thing sounds weird, out of context, but might be nothing. Maybe the guy was looking at his knife and your son asked about it. At 11 and 12, they can get a butcher knife from the kitchen if they really want a knife, so I assume your son knows not to play with knives by now.

If you trust these people's judgment in general, then I think at 11 and 12 you can trust their decision if they let your kid go to another kid's house. But if you don't trust them, you should just say to the mom, "I know I'm overly paranoid, but I am just getting used to this phase where kids start to have more independence. It makes me a little nervous if he goes over to someone's house that I don't know, or is left alone. Would you mind just letting me know first if you are going to do that again, so I can decide if I'm comfortable with it? I know I'm probably overprotective, but that's just me."

I don't think the issue is whether you have a reason for concern or not, but you have to feel comfortable when your kid is at someone else's house, whether you are "too critical" or not, or else you will spend the whole time worrying.

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L.R.

answers from Washington DC on

Any one of the three things you list would be deal-breakers for me if it were my child. The second one--giving my child a weapon to hold and instructing him that he is encouraged to find and USE it if he - an elementary-age child -- feels threatened -- well that one alone would be reason enough for me to say my child would never go to that house again, not on a sleepover, not even for a play date. Some folks here are posting that the dad may have meant it jokingly -- but a boy this age isn't necessarily going to take it as a joke.

Do you know:

If the family collects knives or other weapons -- such as guns?

How, or if, they secure their weapons? If you child was being encouraged to use the knife, it must be kept in way that the dad assumed your child could get to it readily.

How dad got home from the bar? If mom dropped dad off there...how did dad get home? Some might say that it doesn't matter but I'd want to know if mom went out later to fetch dad -- leaving the sleeping kids at home alone again?

This couple may be perfectly nice but they sound clueless. Would you leave boys this age alone in a house with a weapon they've been not just shown but allowed to handle and told to use if THE KIDS feel they need to use it? Can you envision the possible scenarios that could play out in that situation? Even the best kids with good sense could end up in horrible trouble. These folks just are not into overseeing their child the way you would oversee yours. OK, fine, that's their parenting but it doesn't mean you have to agree to your own son being under those same rules.

I would start finding reasons for no more sleepovers at their place and possibly ensuring your son and this boy interact at your house, outdoors at parks etc., or in other activities they share. Some are going to post here that "well, this is how they parent and you shouldn't judge" but yeah, you sure can judge when your own child is in their care and they do things that even make you uncomfortable. The knife thing goes way beyond uncomfortable and into dangerous.

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S.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

It's completely your choice what you are comfortable with. None of these things would bother me. Especially if I were friends with the parents, which it sounds like you are.

My daughter has spent time with friends and their parents have taken them somewhere. No big deal.

I owned my own knife by the time I was 10 and several men I know think knives are cool, and so do most young boys. I can picture any of the fathers I know showing off his new knife and joking about "defending yourself against invaders".

I leave my 10 year-old home alone longer than 20 mins. I probably wouldn't do it if she had a friend over, but if it couldn't be helped, none of the moms I know would think much of it if I did.

If you, and your husband, are uncomfortable with these things, I'd recommend talking with the parents so they know your concerns. I would not recommend just making excuses why no more sleepovers. That leaves parents and kids wondering.

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T.W.

answers from Syracuse on

A question to ask yourself is, if their child was staying at your house would you do any of these things? I wouldn't, so I'd say no more sleepovers!

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S.H.

answers from Honolulu on

1) you and your Husband are not comfortable with this. Fine. That is your feelings/vibes/thoughts on it. And... this is YOUR child. So, if you/Husband are not comfortable with this, then stop the sleep overs. Or have it at YOUR place.

2) Do you, talk with your son... about your own expectations and head's up with him? ie: do you tell him and does he KNOW... himself well enough that if "weird" things goes on at someone else's house.. that HE CAN SPEAK UP too, and say "I HAVE TO CALL MY MOM FIRST, AND ASK IF I CAN..."? My kids, do that. They are 6 and 10. IF something, feels "weird" to them, or if they KNOW that me or my Husband would not approve or feel "safe" about something... they TELL their friend's parent or even their relatives or whomever they are with. AND they call, us. First. They speak up.

3) How old is your son?

4) BEFORE my kids go over to anyone's house, I ALWAYS tell them to call me... ANYTIME... to ask or tell me anything, that they feel is important or if they are uncomfortable etc. And they do. AND I ALSO, tell the hosting Parent.... "CALL me, if any plans change... or if my son/daughter feels they need to call me for anything, or if the visit is going on longer for any reason." I TELL THE hosting parent... this... clearly.

4) IF you do not "trust" this household/parent/parents for any reason... then that is reason, to not let your son go over there. A parent's "radar" is as such.

5) Then, you said you don't know what went on over there. Did you ask your son???? I always ask my kids, when they come home "what'd you guys do?" "Anything inappropriate?" "Was there a parent there, supervising you all?" Even my 6 year old son, will say something and articulate what they did etc.
BUT also, my kids go to friend's homes... in which I KNOW the Mom, WELL. AND, with my daughter who is the oldest one and who has gone on sleepovers, she calls me WHILE at her friend's house, just to "check in."

6) IF while at a friend's house, and the parents go somewhere else... with the kids, THEY call me. First. That is my rule for my kids and that is what I tell the Hosting parent, to do. As a head's up.
IF while at my house for a play date or sleepover... and we decide to take the kids to the mall or to a park.... I ALWAYS, call the parents FIRST, to ask them if it is okay. If not, we do not go.

7) You do not seem to really know, your son's friend's parents very well, nor are your comfortable with them. And that's fine. But you need to know, your feelings on it and if you want your son to continue going over there or not. And say so. And EXPLAIN to your son. I do that with my kids, even at their ages. They understand.

8) The Knife thing: I don't care if this is with boys or girls or what age they are... I would NOT think kindly of that. Why the hell, did the Dad need to show your son a knife anyway... and tell him that he can feel it AND that HE CAN USE IT TO DEFEND himself, against invaders??? That is weird. That isn't even his own kid. I wouldn't do that with any of my kids' friends that I was hosting.

9) Then, the Dad left your son and his friend alone to pick up his wife from work. He was gone for 20 minutes. A lot can happen in 20 minutes, REGARDLESS of age. It doesn't matter that your son thinks he is old enough to be left alone. YOU are the parent. And this is another home. Not your own. And the Dad of that friend... does NOT have the right to decide this... this is not his son. The DAD... SHOULD HAVE CALLED YOU FIRST.... to ask you. AND being he had another person's child in his home as a "guest"... he should not have left another person's child... alone while he left the house. IF I have a guest child in my home... there is NO WAY, I would leave the house, leaving my kid and another person's kid, home alone. No way.

10) then, the Mom took your son and her son to another person's house, without telling you first, and without calling you first and asking you first. That is to me, not okay. How long were they even over there? Why did they go? What did they do over there? You don't know, right?

Okay, so all of this is my own opinion and what I do and what I do with my kids. And this is my take on it, per your situation.
Too many times, a parent feels hesitant to say anything... for fear of upsetting the other parent. But, this is YOUR child and you need to decide, which is the priority? Pleasing that other parent, or looking out for your child?

The thing is, you do not know those other parents nor their family/house very well. And you do not trust, them.
Do you even know that other boy, very well????
What kind of kid, is he?

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J.O.

answers from Boise on

I don't think your concerns are unfounded, it's really a matter of what you would be comfortable with.

For me, none of that would be alarming or a reason to stop sleep overs, but that me and I realize that.

If kids sleep over here, we do go places. I'm not gonna stay home cause someone else's kids are here, but I'm also not going to put them in harms way.

I think you either have to trust them, talk to them or end sleepovers.

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H.W.

answers from Portland on

You are the mom, it's your gut instinct. You don't say the age of your son, but this is how I feel about it: if I suspect anything hinky is going on, then don't indulge the sleepovers.

I'm not wild about them taking your child out, but that's not the biggest issue here, I think.

As for leaving the kids alone, it really depends on the kid. I used to stay home when I was eight and watched my sister who was six; sometimes after school, sometimes during the summer while my mom worked. Not ideal, but we NEVER got into trouble. Of course, I know better and wouldn't do that with my own kid.:) That said, the bigger problem was that the parents didn't ask your permission first. And the knife thing is kinda creepy, to me. I kind of prefer no real weapons being present when kids are around. Giving permission to a child that they might use a weapon is just stupid. It's not like they were in some sort of perilous situation, nor should they be put on their guard 'just in case'. That's nuts.

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S.G.

answers from Grand Forks on

A fifth and sixth grader should be able to stay alone for 20 minutes.

I don't know how being shown a knife would be an issue, unless he was threatened with it. Most boys like knives and would be interested in looking at a knife. Did he tell your son that your son could use it, or did he tell your son that's what he would use it for?

When we have kids sleep over we don't necessarily stay home. We often go out for the evening. I will let the other parents know we will be out so they don't worry if the try to call, but if I had a cell phone that wouldn't be necessary. I don't worry when my kids go out with the host family when they sleep over.

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A.V.

answers from Washington DC on

I would mostly be concerned with the knife part. How old are the kids? My SS regularly walked home and stayed home in the afternoons at 11. I wouldn't worry about 20 minutes alone at home if both kids could be trusted.

I would discuss with the parents that you didn't realize that they were going somewhere else with your son and in the future you'd prefer to know (this may also come up during afternoon playdates, too). And then I'd encourage their son to stay at YOUR house so you have a better idea where your son is.

We've taken kids with us various places if they stayed with us, but if we weren't just running errands or something, we often gave the parents a head's up first. "We will be going to Jim's barbecue in the afternoon, but you can call my cell phone at any time."

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T.V.

answers from San Francisco on

No more sleep overs at this home.

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H.P.

answers from Houston on

I laughed out loud when I read the second one, just because I don't get why they don't get it. I am your age, and I would have the same issues that you have.

1. Unless there was some huge emergency and she didn't have time to bring him home or call me to get him, my son should be exactly where I expect him to be. It is not up to someone else to decide that someone else is a reasonable caretaker for my child.

2. I don't like this, but I don't have as much of an issue with it. That's kind of a man thing, I guess, to have these off-the-cuff chats. Maybe the boys walked up on him doing something with the knife and the conversation went to self-defense. Just make sure that they know that you would prefer that the knife be put out of the way where neither boy can find it when your son is there.

3. No, ma'am. 13 is probably old enough to stay home alone for a little while, but on his watch with someone else's kid, that's a no-no. Leaving one kid alone is one thing. Leaving two together is a different animal. And one of them is not his.

Even before I had my baby, I just thought that you should be even more conscientious with other people's children. Any bright ideas I have will be acted out with my own. Last year, my SIL was gonna send her 12yo daughter to stay with us for a few days. This girl is tall and stacked. Older teen and young adult males were approaching her in the presence of her mother. My stepson was 17. They are first cousins, but they have little contact with each other as they live states apart and have a five-year age difference. They were both hormonal, and we have had sexual experimentation concerns with him. I wasn't going to have them both spending the night here while I would be focused on my baby during the night. (I was actually trying to coordinate her visit with that of my cousin who is her same age.)

I relax with my own kid because we have our rhythm. I don't take that for granted with other people's children.

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K.M.

answers from Denver on

Nope! Not too critical. The knife thing is really scary, especially since he then left them alone. What if they were playing and something happened with the knife. Better than a gun I suppose but, sheesh! I would not feel comfortable with them taking somewhere else without knowing either!

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D.F.

answers from Boston on

Not an ideal sleepover house. The knife, bar drop offs, left alone. Naw, that would be the last sleepover. To be honest I never let mine do sleepovers until they were older and the parents were my good/best friends. My kids liked to sleep at home and if they wanted a sleepover I let them. It truly amazed me how many parents let kids stay here when they have not even met me. So yes you have reasons to be concerned.

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M.F.

answers from Portland on

Holding the knife, yea, no, that would be too much for me.
I know when I was younger I went over to my friends grandparents houses and went with their families to other places, and houses.
I can not tell you if my parents gave permission or not, I guess I would assume they did.
I think that I would want to at least know where they were taking my kid.

I stayed home alone in 6th grade, a LOT.
I was a latch-key kid. Came home from school alone and was alone until 5:30 or 6pm
Which is why I was out with friends and their families so much.

There were times when my friends would spend whole weekends with us, or visa-versa, and we would go shopping, go out to eat, go to other friends houses, so on and so forth.

So that part doesn't bother me.
Just my opinion.

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L.F.

answers from San Francisco on

Mary,

You have every right to be upset. I would too. These parents are clueless on what is safe vs. unsafe. I wouldn't let my child be within a ten foot pole of these people. If you want to continue the friendship, only allow sleepovers or get togethers at your house. NO more over there at all. My 2cents.

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L.O.

answers from Detroit on

no more sleepovers.. in fact I am not sure I would let my child play there unless I was there to supervise..

the dad could decide to show off a knife anytime.

or leave them alone anytime.

Updated

no more sleepovers.. in fact I am not sure I would let my child play there unless I was there to supervise..

the dad could decide to show off a knife anytime.

or leave them alone anytime.

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H.M.

answers from Dallas on

My 13 year old only started sleeping over at his friends house this last year. And if they are going to do something she always checks if it's ok. And she's asked before if it's ok if the two boys are at the house by themselves. And I am ok with it cause I know both the boys and trust them. If there was other kids then probably not. It all depends on the kids that are involved. I would let the friends parents know you don't want him left without adult supervision. And that if he needs to pick her up he needs to take the kids with him. I know I would not leave my 4th grader with one of his friends alone but I don't have him spending the night with his friends.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I would not let my child have a sleep over at anyone's house until I knew the parents better than it sounds like you know this couple. I would want to first have a conversation with them that would not only include how they parent but also what there interests are. I would expect from talking with them that I would feel comfortable with whatever they did before I'd allow my child to stay overnight with them.

I would have also talked with my child about what I expected from him while at someone's house. If you don't allow him to stay home alone at your house I would tell my child to call me so I could go get him if he was to be left alone. I would expect him to call me if someone brought out a knife and talked about how to use it. I've had these sort of conversations with my granddaughter. She knows what is expected at home and that those expectations carry on at someone else's house. She would be uncomfortable is life was different where she was visiting and would call me or her mother.

If the parent's hadn't told me that they would be leaving her alone for a period of time they would call me to ask if that was OK. I suggest that the reason this works out well for me and my granddaughter's mother is that we don't allow her to spend the night at anyone's house until we know that those parents have similar values and parenting skills as we have. We trust their decisions based on observing them and talking with them while waiting at school or by going in with her at their home.

I suggest that you talk with these parents about your concerns. I think leaving kids that age alone for 20 minutes would be OK in most cases but whether or not I was comfortable with it in your situation would depend on the maturity of my son and his friend. I would tell them that you do not want your son learning about knives. I would ask them whether they have guns in the house and if so how they're secured. I would either get to know the mother well enough that I was comfortable with her decisions about going somewhere else or I would tell her that you do not want your son leaving their house. Just have a general conversation about how you want sleep overs managed. Perhaps do this over coffee at a coffee shop or invite her to your house. Be casual and gracious. Ask her questions about various situations that are important to you. Don't tell her she can't do such and such. Ask her what she thinks and have a discussion about how this can work.

I suggest that you need to ask the parents what actually happened before jumping to conclusions. As Gamma G. suggested the knife incident may have resulted in your son being interested when he saw it. And.....what kind of a knife was it? And did the father say, he could use it for self-defense or did he say that people use knives for self-defense. Talk with the father about his view of knives so that you know how he thinks and what he was likely to have done. And then decide whether or not this is something with which you're comfortable. If not, then no more sleep overs because he has different values surrounding knives than you do.

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E.T.

answers from Albuquerque on

Well... it's all in what you're comfortable with. Personally, I think two fifth graders could be left alone for 20 minutes. And seeing a knife? Well, I could go either way on that depending on whether I trusted the person showing the knife. Taking my child to another house would bother me if I didn't know about it.

All in all, it sounds like YOU aren't comfortable, and that's all that counts. And if you're not comfortable, do the sleepovers at your house from now on with this other little boy. Then you can control what goes on and you won't have to worry.

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L.C.

answers from Spokane on

I don't have kids of sleepover age yet, but I wouldn't let my kid/s go over there anymore. I don't think any of that is appropriate. Sleepovers are for movies, candy, videogames etc...

A.M.

answers from Kansas City on

you're definitely not being too critical. you have reason to be concerned. i would not, just me personally, be allowing any more sleepovers, unless you can have this conversation with them - and most people are not receptive to "um, i don't feel like you're responsible enough to have my kid over. would you be okay with doing x, y, z, in order to make me feel better about it?" yeah. most people would just get defensive and the friendship would be over at that point. i would say, they can come over, but just kind of make an excuse, if they want your son to go there again. if they push, well...be honest i guess. they won't like it though.

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