Why sleepover contracts aren’t such a bad idea
Our daughter turns nine later this month, and it feels like we're officially living in the Upside Down.
For years we mourned the loss of the Saturday lie-in that was replaced with 5.30am wakeups, demands for a bottle and our undivided attention. But now it's us having to wake her up to ferry her to whatever activity she's "trialling" this week. Tennis. Drama. Mid-Century furniture appreciation.
Birthday parties feel like they're happening in a parallel universe, too. Apparently, nine-year-olds just want to "chill" at birthday parties now. They don't want clowns, they don't want to run around in bacteria-infested party barns, they don't want to climb monkey bars at suburban parks while their parents eyeball them from a safe distance, drinking pre-mixed cans of G & T. It's deeply odd.
Asleep is the new awake when you're nine years old, and everything else is just "laaaaaaame Dad. God, how can you be sooooo uncool?"
Sleepovers and slumber parties also seem to be happening so frequently that I can't remember the last time our daughter slept in her own bed. Which is a shame really, because we spent so much money on those organic Egyptian cotton sheets.
Calling it a sleepover is a bit of a misnomer, really, because no one actually sleeps at these things.
They stay up "talking", which I assume means DMing each other on their phones, only looking up from their backlit screens when they want a sugary snack that will keep them up for even longer. What happened to pillow fights? Surely there's an app for that too now.
As a parent, the day after a sleepover you spend your entire Sunday babysitting a zombie on a sugar comedown, which is still relatively light work compared to the broken shells of parents that bravely (or stupidly, depending on how you look at it), had 12 nine-year-olds sleep-talking on air mattresses in their lounge rooms all night.
My wife and I aren't brave enough to host a slumber party yet, but I really do empathise with anyone willing to sacrifice their Saturday nights to entertain other people's kids. That includes one American mum who was recently roasted for the sleepover contract she drafted for her 10-year-old son's friends.
While the contract isn't legally binding, it's pretty extreme and includes no tickling. No disruptions. No excessive volume. No complaining. No full frontal nudity in front of other kids. Admittedly, that last one is pretty reasonable.
The consequences of a breach seem more like a reward than a punishment. "If my behaviour falls below Ms [redacted's] standards then future playmates and sleepovers might not occur again without serious consideration and stipulation."
And on the off chance the kids do as they're told and sit in a perfectly symmetrical semicircle, consensually holding hands, and studying bible all night? As per clause 3.82 in the contract they get rewarded with a "fun time" and the mouth-watering prospect of brunch the next day.
Yes, brunch. I'm not sure how many nine-year-olds you know, but brunch is about as appealing to them as a trip to the hardware store.
But who am I to question the methods of someone brave enough to look after an entire football team's worth of children on a Saturday night? After all, when it came time to plan our own daughter's ninth birthday party we decided to write a very special caveat into the invite.
It read: "Please pick your child up by 8.30pm. Sharp."
Darren Levin is a columnist for RendezView.com.au