Care and Feeding

My Son Keeps Calling Me to Pick Him Up From Sleepovers

How can I put a stop to this?

A boy, looking upset, holds a phone to call his parents.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 8-year-old son invariably needs to come home from sleepovers in the middle of the night. He gets homesick. I did as well, so I understand that horrible nauseating feeling. The problem is he keeps wanting to attend sleepovers just the same. This is not a sustainable situation! I don’t want to ban him from attending, and obviously I hope it will gradually help him get over his homesickness, but that just hasn’t happened yet. What do I do?

—I Don’t Want to Be Driving at Midnight Every Two Weeks

Dear Chauffeur,

As someone who never made it through a sleepover without having my dad come get me until it involved sex and sleeping over as an adult, my heart goes out to the wee lad. I think 8 is old enough for a sit-down in which you say it’s a real pain to have to pick him up in the middle of the night, and you want to take a temporary break from trying sleepovers again until he’s 9.

Maturity growth happens in jumps and bounds over time. He may have a totally different experience when he’s a bit older, but right now … he ain’t got it. There’s no harm in recognizing that reality. Why not say that in the meantime he can attend sleepovers with a planned pickup at 9 p.m.? Make up some sort of early visit to see Grandma. That way, he gets to have fun with his friends without lying awake thinking about how much he’d rather be in his own bed.

Give it a try.

Dear Care and Feeding,

This is absolutely one of those emails where I just want reassurance that I’m right and my neighbor is wrong.

My (recently purchased) house has an in-ground pool, and within two days of moving in, I discovered my neighbor’s kids swimming in it, completely unsupervised. I returned them, dripping, to my neighbor, who got really upset and told me the previous owners always let them play in the pool as much as they wanted.

Am I a witch to end this policy?

—I Think I’m Right

Dear ITIR,

You’re both right. You are right to end this policy (I am getting hives picturing your legal liability here), and your neighbor is right to be bummed out that an established situation has suddenly changed. Life is full of bummers.

I would probably offer to allow them to swim in my pool to their heart’s content only if one of their parents is actively supervising, and I would lock the HECK out of the pool when you’re not using it.

Be assured that you’re being exquisitely reasonable and that this is unlikely to ruin your reputation in your new neighborhood.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Can I forbid a television show my kids enjoy just because I find it intensely aggravating?


Dear PJ Masks,


Dear Care and Feeding,

My 17-year-old has started doing an elaborate multistep skin care routine (her skin looks increasingly fantastic; I do admit this), but I have … feelings about it? Just the idea that she thinks this is a good use of her time and money makes me think I messed up somewhere. Is this valid? If so, how to bring it up?

—Double Cleansing!

Dear Double Cleansing,

Teens have always obsessed over their looks. It’s almost impossible to parent one out of it. If it’s her own money, I think you should just let it go. I remember the genuine joy I felt as a kid, saving up my money to buy that horrible St. Ives apricot scrub, or those blackhead strips. Think of it as a meditative practice, perhaps? It’s a hobby, like any other, at its core, one that requires purchasing hobby-related equipment. You haven’t failed at raising a girl, so try to detach unnecessary guilt-driven emotions from the situation.

And, maybe, ask her for tips. The teens always know.


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My 9-year-old daughter claims she is mostly friendless and describes a rough, heartless situation at school. But in the next breath she will talk about the singing group she’s formed or how she teamed up with Katie on a project. I want to listen and advise, but I’m starting to suspect she has a distorted view of the reality. How can I help her?