The sleepovers

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 66, No. 3, April 2024, Pages 72,74 Editorials

Loyal readers of this publication will recall that in 2021 and 2022 I was Mother of the Year (MOTY).[1-3] In 2023, I was the runner-up, temporarily losing my crown to Jennifer Garner when she was able to get the sugar content of her white broccoli brown sugar cookies below 1 gram while mine remained at 4 grams. Nonetheless, you can understand my confidence heading into 2024 that my children were in excellent hands.

Stating the obvious, I also assumed that other people’s children were in excellent hands with me. So, when my son’s 9-year-old friend chose our house to attempt his first sleepover, it seemed like the natural choice.

To make the experience unsurpassable, I began by making sure the four mandatory criteria were met: 1. Pizza: Pepperoni (if you have to ask what type of crust, you probably shouldn’t be entrusted with the care of children) and also cheese pizza (to allow for last-minute changes of taste). 2. Movie: Home Alone (the original with the swear words) but not The Dark Knight (I am not that kind of parent). 3. Privacy: Interruptions are to be kept to a minimum (Q47-61 minutes to facilitate tech support and bubbly water refills). 4. Bedtime: Begin with an opening offer of 8:00 p.m. to give the perception of submission to the cleverer party when you settle on 9:30 p.m.

After the hangout portion of the sleepover went perfectly, I navigated bedtime with the kids, taking care to be warm but not suffocating. Both boys gave me a hug and dutifully turned out the lights after reading about the latest from my favorite role model and protagonist, Greg Heffley, in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It went seamlessly, and I remarked to my husband, “See, kids just feel safe here.”

Given the thoroughness of my planning, I was unsurprised when the kids awoke happy and refreshed the next morning, already planning their next sleepover. My son’s friend even remarked to his mother that our house was “the best” because we let them spray whipped cream into their mouths directly from the can (organic, of course).

FIGURE. The texts my son’s 9-year-old friend sent to his mom.You can imagine the damage to my osteoporotic psyche when the boy’s mom later playfully showed me his texts [Figure].

Determined not to let one setback derail my bid for MOTY 2024, I offered to host two of my daughter’s friends for their first sleepovers a couple months later. My daughter is 2 years younger, so, to the untrained host, this might have seemed like more of a challenge. However, the infinite wisdom of my experience has taught me that younger children, while more agile during the daylight, are more exhaustible and, therefore, fall into sleep more quickly, increasing the chances of success.

The girls’ sleepover began with some free time while I carefully prepped the ingredients for Nutella chocolate chunk cookies. The three children then self-sufficiently prepared the dough while I stood guard to ensure there was no double-dipping in the Nutella jar and the mixer-driver role was allotted evenly. Following that, there was paint-by-numbers and then a movie with pizza (in this case, obviously not from the place with the pure-sugar crust and the green stuff on top).

Bedtime was a breeze with the 7-year-olds as they all read their books independently, followed by a couple of stories read by me and a quick song. (Oh, did I mention that I sing?) One of the girls had expressed some nervousness about being away from her mom, so at her request I stayed in the room for bedtime. We had been texting with the girl’s mother throughout the evening, and we phoned her together at bedtime to say goodnight. A nice touch, I thought.

Naturally, I want a better life for my children than the hardships I faced during my childhood sleepovers, so I happily dragged a mattress in from another room rather than having them suffer through sharing a bed. (A sleeping bag on the floor is out of the question.) The girls fell asleep quickly, and I congratulated myself on a mission accomplished.

A long while later, as I lay on the floor next to the mattress, I heard a knock at the door. I went downstairs and was confused to find one girl’s father at the door. Somehow, she had maneuvered her Apple watch under the sheets to conceal the light and sent an emergency sleepover pickup SOS text. She later described to me how the process was additionally complicated when she learned that her mom “had gone out with the ladies for sushi, so she knew she’d be drinking sake, so she also had to text her dad.” With ninja speed, the little girl came down the stairs, bag packed, and was out the door.

“Okay! Bye! I’ll bring your cookies to school on Monday!” I called after her.

“There’s no nuts allowed at school,” she promptly reminded me, and closed the car door.

When I asked my daughter if she thought I was a good mom for hosting a sleepover, she told me I was “pretty okay.” In her experience, the best of the moms was the one who let them push the cart at Ikea before they got to lick envelopes and put the stamps on Christmas cards. It appears that the MOTY competition is fierce this year. I am thinking of buying a puppy.
—Caitlin Dunne, MD, FRCSC


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1.    Dunne C. Does working part-time mean I’ve failed as a feminist? BCMJ 2023;65:277.

2.    Dunne C. Gratitude—the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. BCMJ 2022;64:420.

3. Fake newspaper article: Local mother wins “mother of the year.” Accessed 22 February 2024.

Caitlin Dunne, MD, FRCSC. The sleepovers. BCMJ, Vol. 66, No. 3, April, 2024, Page(s) 72,74 - Editorials.

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