Brianna Michaud’s ’90s childhood was filled with sleepovers at friends’ houses. Her mother sometimes came inside the house and chatted with the parents for a few minutes, but sensitive topics like bodily autonomy, gun safety or technology use — except for the rule that she not watch anything rated PG-13 or higher — weren’t the kinds of things discussed.
“It was a different time,” Ms. Michaud, now 35, said.
It may come as no surprise that parents are experiencing more anxiety in general these days. There is an increased awareness of issues like sexual abuse and gun violence, said Christy Keating, a licensed parenting coach based in the Seattle area. Almost half of parents in the U.S. describe themselves as overprotective, according to Pew research published last year.
And perhaps no scenario tests a parent’s vigilance more than the prospect of allowing their child to sleep at another family’s home. For some parents, one solution to this is the “sleepunder” — also called a “lateover” — where children come to play, but they don’t stay to sleep.
Qarniz F. Armstrong, a mother of three children, ages 12, 14 and 20, has never allowed her children to spend a night away from her, even with other family members. She does, however, want her kids to have normal childhood experiences, so she has settled on letting them attend parties if she can bring them home at bedtime — even if that means 2 or 3 in the morning. Considering the alternative — saying no altogether — Ms. Armstrong, who is 43 and lives in Murrieta, Calif., feels this is “a good compromise.”
Her oldest, Mecca, has a different point of view. Although he believes his parents were looking out for his best interests, he said, “I was definitely feeling left out a lot.” He remembers begging his mother for two hours when he was 15 years old to let him attend an overnight, but she said no. By that point, the invites had been drying up, and he “really did not want to be the one kid who had to go early.”
That was perhaps the hardest, loneliest part: not necessarily being picked up early, but being the only kid who was. “I would have felt better if other kids’ parents did the same thing,” he said.