Surviving the first big slumber party

Everything was going great … until it wasn’t.

I was washing the dishes when a wide-eyed child appeared in my kitchen, motioning to the backyard where six little girls had all been playing nicely just moments earlier.

“You’d better get out there,” she told me darkly. “People are sad.”

Um, what?! 

I hurried out back to find tween turmoil. Some were crying, some had stormed off, and some were comforting the ones who were upset. What happened? No idea. I couldn’t understand everyone’s tears and shouts.

Nervously, I called my daughter over and hissed “We need to do something!” She was wailing, too, worried that her very first slumber party was ruined before it had really begun. 

Thankfully, she’d planned a scavenger hunt, with scribbled marker clues leading her guests to discover which movie they were going to watch. The distraction calmed everyone down and they forgot about their squabble.

I breathed a sigh of relief as they disappeared into the basement to chase another clue. One hour down, and about 15 hours left on the clock. 

Of course, I really couldn’t complain, since this party was two years in the making. Our daughter had wanted to host a slumber party since she was seven. Her eighth birthday was cancelled before it could even be scheduled (thanks, COVID) and her ninth party had to be cancelled 24 hours before it was due to start (COVID again). 

We were able to reschedule her party for five weeks later, and I was nervous about having so many kids in the house at once, for an entire night. 

“I don’t really care if they sleep,” I kept telling people (and reassuring myself), leading up to the big event. “They’ll just have fun and entertain each other. It’ll be fine.”

Well, there was no sleeping.

And I wasn’t prepared for all the times I needed to step in.

If you take six nine-year-old girls and put them into the same space, apparently there will be drama. There were tears, and then everything was fine. There were hurt feelings, and then everything was cool. The roller coaster of emotions was … a lot.

I don’t have much advice for other parents who are about to host their first slumber parties, but here are a few small suggestions I can pass along:

  • Use labeled cups (we bought plastic ones with the scratch-off name labels) so you don’t go through 10,000 different cups
  • Clear pop only. Caffeinated children will not be tolerated, and yes, there is caffeine in orange pop.
  • Enlist a sibling to be the party’s official servant because you will need help plating food, pouring drinks, etc. and they will think it’s fun to be involved 
  • Try to let them work out any disagreements on their own. (If that fails, distract them with all your might!)
  • Accept that there will be arguments about who sleeps where and whose foot touches whose head. (Throw all the pillows and blankets in the linen closet at them, and hope for the best.)
  • Sleep on a different level of the house, if possible (two floors apart is even better)
  • Spell out exactly what will happen if you get woken up in the night by someone who “maybe” wants to go home, call their parents at midnight, etc. (They wake you up, they go home.)
  • Suggest they watch a show while they pick at their breakfast because they’re all going to be exhausted from not sleeping.
  • Only let your child nap for four hours after the slumber party, and then keep them awake until 7 p.m. (blow on their face and clap your hands loudly if necessary) so they don’t totally mess up their sleep for another day. 

Even with all the drama, the slumber party was a success. There was a lot of giggling, everyone said they had a wonderful time, and our daughter asked if they could do it again soon. (“No,” I told her empathetically. “Slumber parties are for birthdays only.”)

Sure, there were stressful moments — like when I felt utterly unprepared to handle six upset children at once — but we had plenty of food, no one got hurt or sick, I went to bed at a reasonable hour (two storeys up from the party) and I wasn’t woken up once. 

Her 10th birthday is in about eight months. I should hopefully be ready for another slumber party by then.

Heather Laura Clarke is a writer and editor who married her high-school sweetheart. They moved from the city to the country, where they spend their days making messes and memories with their 11-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter. Follow their family’s adventures over at http://www.HeathersHandmadeLife.com.

This column originally appeared in many weekly papers throughout the SaltWire Network.

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