Care and Feeding

My Child Keeps Getting Invited to School-Night Sleepovers

This is bananas, right?

Collage of a woman putting her hand on her face in frustration, next to three kids eating popcorn in a tent at a sleepover.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Milkos/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I enjoyed many a sleepover as a child, and now as a parent I am happy for my elementary-age kid to do the same with families we know well and trust. However, there seems to be a push for school-night sleepovers, which just sounds wild to me.

My partner and I have been clear with our kid that our family has a no school-night sleepover policy. But she is bummed because she knows a couple of her besties do have weeknight sleepovers pretty regularly and she has had to turn down their invites. We have explained the reasons for our family policy—namely, getting homework done and being rested for school. Our kiddo has an extremely hard time getting to sleep on a regular night, and when they do have sleepovers, they are up until the wee hours. I have no problem sticking to our rule, and I think it makes sense for our family. But since the invitations keep coming (mainly from one source), I have started to wonder, am I crazy, or are school-night sleepovers an unusual thing?


Dear W?,

Your reasons for not letting your child do school-night sleepovers seem perfectly normal to me and appropriate for your family and your daughter’s specific needs. I don’t think the idea of a weeknight sleepover is intrinsically wild, but also it’s not important what other people do—so just offer to host frequent weekend sleepovers and all will be well.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My sister is having a baby in October. This is exciting news for our family. I love babies. I also love my sister. She and I are very close, so I have been privy to many talks where she emphasized that she did not want a baby (because of her demanding career, because of her carefree marriage), even up to December of 2018. I don’t even know why she was so adamant about not wanting one, but she was. We went on a trip for a week last year (just us), and she spent much of it complaining about how unhappy her friends who have children are. She and her husband are both fancy-pants people. He’s a professor, and she’s a scientist who travels endlessly for work and is leading at least three large projects. And now she’s pregnant.

The way she told me about it was she said her husband talked her into it. Just, like, “Oh, John talked me into it.” I keep playing that part over in my mind because it immediately alarmed me. For these reasons, my joy has been held back by concern. I don’t know if she’s playing it cool so she doesn’t look like she always wanted a baby (we are the type to play it so cool at our own expense) or if she’s really just like, “We have everything else we could want in life—whatever, a baby now is fine.” I don’t know how to address it with her either, but I would like to address it in a kind way. Anyway, we go on a two-week trip in 10 days, and I’d like some perspective or advice before we see each other again.

—Talked Into It

Dear TII,

This is a tough one. It’s entirely possible that, as close as you and your sister are, the decision to have this baby was a long and careful one (obviously, I too would be perturbed by the December of 2018 comment timing) and complicated far beyond “Oh, John talked me into it.”

What I want you to do is go on this trip and just focus on genuine connection. Don’t initiate the baby conversation; let her bring it to you. You’ll see it in her face and in how she talks about it. Not to mention that … the baby is happening. If she was talked into it, that’s in the past. So just be there. Ask about her work, talk about what engages her, and be soft. It’s almost inconceivable to ask, “So, uh, do you actually want to have a baby?” so don’t. Be the close sister she knows she can bring difficult and complicated emotions to. I’d like to revisit this question afterwards and hear how this trip goes.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am expecting my first baby in a few weeks. My partner and I are extremely excited, but we are also fairly private. We are both only children and live about an hour or so away from my extended family. I was never very close with my aunts, uncles, and cousins; we see them for a few hours on the major holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas, really), and we’re kind of fine with it staying that way. Though sometimes I wish I could give my child a different experience than the one I had, we’re very close with and supported by the family-by-choice we’ve built in our community.

I’m writing now because my extended family is experiencing a really sad and unfortunate rash of seriously bad health. Several people are in terminal condition or hospice care. My mother told me recently that several relatives have said things along the lines of “With all this loss, it is so nice that we’ll have the new baby for comfort.”

I’m not sure at all what that means, but it makes me really uncomfortable. We have no plans for being more integrated with the family than we are now. We are not religious and have no plans for a baptism, but perhaps there is a secular equivalent we could put together to give the family some opportunity to come together outside of their grief? But also, on a deeper level, it feels like so much pressure to put on a baby—and on us—for providing some kind of emotional resolution to people we aren’t that close to. Part of me hopes it’s just something they are saying to my mom because no one knows what to say in times like this? Am I missing some kind of empathy gene?

—Not a Grief Counselor

Dear NaGC,

This is just a thing people say. People do not know how to handle death, and it’s a comfort to think about new life when you’re spending a lot of time in and out of hospices and hospital rooms and funeral homes.

You do not have to change your current level of interaction with your family, but also, the experience of having a child is going to change you. That doesn’t mean you’re going to suddenly become someone who shows up back “home” for every minor holiday, but you may experience a greater desire to connect with your family when you have the newest member of it in your arms. Or you may not. Making plans about how you’ll feel after you have a baby before you have a baby is always an exercise in futility.

What you do want to be careful about is requests to drag your newborn to see a bunch of sick old people in places surrounded by other sick people. Send extra pictures, maybe do some FaceTime-ing, but don’t let anyone feel like your baby needs to contract RSV in order to heal the world.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m the mother to a joyful, rambunctious 20-month-old toddler. I also have a career that I love, but which has taken a back seat since he was born because it requires a lot of international travel.

I have an opportunity that I’m so excited about, but would require me to travel away from my son for nearly two weeks. Whenever I think about going, I feel thrilled and excited and inspired, but those feelings are quickly followed by intense worry and sadness and guilt. For a kid my son’s age, 12 days is an eternity. He’s too young to understand what I’d be doing, and I can’t even explain to him that I’m coming back. Of course we’d have FaceTime, but I’m terrified that I will do long-term damage to our relationship and his trust in me.

My son is well taken care of by people other than me. He is as close with his father as he is with me, and he goes to day care full time and has teachers and friends whom he loves. My partner encourages me to go; he sees how excited I am when I talk about this project, and he knows how much I have missed this aspect of my career. He assures me that within a few weeks at most, our son won’t even remember I was gone. I have many male colleagues who do this kind of thing all the time, so I also know I may have some internalized gender hang-ups about it.

But I can’t shake this anxiety and sadness, and think that maybe I should cancel my trip.

What do you think?

—Fear of Flying

Dear Fear of Flying,

Go on the trip.


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