My Child’s First Sleepover: A Report

A child’s first sleepover is a bit magical. It’s almost as exciting for the parents as it is for the kids.

Think of it as a developmental milestone—your kid is brave enough to sleep at a friend’s house, or she has established a really good friend who wants to sleep over at your home.

Our 3-year-old daughter almost slept at a friend’s house when my wife and I left town all day for an important ultrasound, but we returned home to retrieve our Little Miss just before bedtime. She was already in her pajamas, and completely okay if her adventure was to include staying overnight.

Photo of my daughter and her friend sleeping in their travel beds on our playroom floor underneath our purple Fortamajig fort tarp. A fair number of ripped up facial tissues are visible between them.

That same friend stayed overnight at our home this weekend. It was great.

We had one big thing going for us. Her friend, I’ll call her Doodle Bug, is 5-years-old and has been on a few sleepovers before. She also has a 3-year-old brother with whom she interacts well. (Little Miss plays with the boy too, but he’s into physical play while my daughter is more into a calmer level of fun like she finds with the 5-year-old).

Bug was set to arrive at 2 p.m. Saturday, so Miss began looking out our front window at noon, asking us when Bug would arrive. It was the one torment of the day because Bug would be delayed until 4 p.m.

After Bug said goodbye to her mom, she and Miss went off to play on their own. We checked on them occasionally, but they were great with unsupervised play and had no conflicts.

At one point they closed the door to my daughter’s room. When my wife knocked on the door, Bug yelled, “Miss’ Mommy, Miss’ Mommy, you can save us from the Pig Monster!”

There it stood in the middle of the room—a large plush pig.

The girls were huddled under our activity table with a mass of toys hoarded there, including all the food and dinnerware from our play kitchen, a doctor’s play kit and wooden tool kit. They had stocked up for a siege.

My wife picked up Pig Monster and moved him to the side of the room. She placed a giant panda bear on top of him and announced, “All clear!”

Now, that’s the primary difference between my wife and I. If I was asked to defend against Pig Monster, I would leap upon it and wrestle it to the death. But, whatever. The girls continued with their pretend play.

Doodle Bug: “What if the Pig Monster gets loose?”
Miss’ Mommy: “Well, then you guys can be in disguise.”
Little Miss: “Bug, I have all these dress-up clothes we can wear!”

And so they had fun assembling costumes.

I came in to check on them later when they had broken out the Candy Land box. This apparently was a major faux pas because they shoved me out of the room and chased me around the house in their fairy wings.

Here’s a hot tip: young kids will look into a darkened room and even peek behind the door, but like in a game of chess, they have trouble seeing three moves ahead. You can always find safe haven standing in the bathtub with the curtain pulled closed. You can also count on your spouse ratting you out. So you do the only thing you can do… scream really loud and run out of the bathroom in wet socks.

Around this time my wife began preparing dinner, which coincidentally is a time when Bug normally watches TV at home.

“Do you have a TV?”
“Yes we do.”
“Can we watch it?”
“No, Little Miss doesn’t watch TV. Our TV is for grown-ups only after Miss is asleep.”

And Bug went back to playing.

A few days earlier, my daughter had expressed an interest in her and Bug sleeping inside a fort, so I whipped out our Fortamajig fort-building toy. It’s basically a giant swatch of purple tent fabric with a bunch of Velcro loops around its perimeter.

I secured it to the rack in my daughter’s closet, and the top of a doll house I had moved onto our activity table, and to the top of a rocking chair (pulled into the room with the girls sitting on it). That’s a major difference between Fortamajig and a blanket fort. I
wouldn’t trust a blanket fort’s stability overnight with kids inside. A lot of anchor points (multiple ones on the same object even) would have to fail to pose a risk; but I’m sure Fortamajig is not intended for unsupervised use, so never do what we did. OK? OK.

The girls attached the Fortamajig to a lot of low-lying points around the room. It entertained them until dinner.

My wife prepared a meal we confirmed ahead of time would be agreeable to Bug — plain spaghetti and a lot of individual (never mixed!) fruits and vegetables.

Afterward, I blew up a 3-foot round balloon we had bought at a party supply store. I don’t mean a traditional teardrop shape, but an actual full sphere like seen in the short film The Red Balloon. The girls bounced it back and forth off the floor and ceiling and each other’s faces, having a hoot.

Bedtime followed our daughter’s routine with two books, each girl selecting one.

The girls then gladly retired to their sleepy fortress where they talked for more than an hour and tore up facial tissues we had left in the room. I’m pretty sure that was my daughter’s influence.

It was the bedroom chatter that I enjoyed most, imagining it’s what two siblings get to do every night.

Little Miss slept in an inflatable Ready Bed emblazoned with Winnie the Pooh characters. I despise such branding, so I was impressed with Bug’s traditional LL Bean kids’ sleeping bag and camping pad.

Miss refuses to go to sleep with covers on, making the Ready Bed even less appropriate. If she was inside a sleeping bag, we could just pull the flap back over her after she fell asleep, instead of whipping out a new blanket.

The next morning went smoothly with breakfast, a craft project of decorating toilet paper tubes, baking oatmeal butterscotch cookies in the kitchen, and some scooter-bike riding until Bug’s parents arrived.

When the event was over, we asked Little Miss:

“Would you like to do a sleepover again?”
“Who would you invite?”
“Only Bug.”
“What about your other friends?”
“Well, they all still need their mommies to go to sleep.”

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