Gender Equality vs. The Co-ed Sleepover
March 22, 2010 2:00 PM   Subscribe

My 7-year-old daughter wants her BFF to spend the night. BFF is a boy. Is that ok?

My daughter is a serious tomboy, and her best buddy is a nice little boy named Brian. They play in dirt together, chase the soccer ball, and discuss the finer points of Bakugan. This last weekend was her 7th birthday party, and she started agitating to let Brian spend the night. She very rightly pointed out that both her older sister and cousin were having sleepovers by this age (albeit with girls). I put her off with the excuse that the house was mess, and I'd think about it.

Now, I don't know what to think. In my family, we tend to be pretty liberal, and I personally would have no problem whatsoever with it. However, I don't know anyone who's done this before. We live in a fairly conservative area, so I tend to be wary of that. Is this ok with the population in general? Brian's parents are older (his closest brother is 17), and they seem wwwaaayyy mellow, but in more of a "rancher way" than a "hippie way" if you know what I mean, but I don't know them well at all. What are the odds that they'd freak on me if I brought it up? Should I just act casual and go for it, or should I flat-out ask them how they feel about it? Should I tell my daughter "Sorry, you're a girl, he's a boy, that's the way it is"? I really have tried not to raise my girls that way, but there's also this thing called reality. Help me navigate here!
posted by SamanthaK to Human Relations (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some of the answers in this thread may help you, although those kids are closer to puberty which is definitely a game-changer.

I'm not a parent, so I won't try to answer this for you, I just remembered that previous question and thought it might give you more to think on.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 2:05 PM on March 22, 2010


I used to have sleepovers with my male best friend when I was younger, until we were about eleven or twelve. I never stopped to think twice about it, and apparently my parents, who are relatively conservative, had no problem with it, but were very clear we were to always stay in separate beds and change clothes in the bathroom, etc. I thought nothing of it, honestly, I just thought they were normal rules.
posted by banannafish at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


What's the harm of mentioning this to Brian's parents in a value-neutral way? I mean, if they're going to say no, then there's no point getting worked up over it. Just thank them and hang up or leave. If they say "I'm not sure" or "We've never heard of boys being friends with girls," then you can take that as an opportunity to discuss the situation over coffee or something.
posted by muddgirl at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2010


I have three sons, when they were that age they had boys and girls to overnights, it was no big deal. They'd camp out in sleeping bags on the living room floor. Ask the parents what they think, if they are really opposed to the idea just let it drop.

If the parents say no, just tell your daughter they said no, and that some people think that boys and girls shouldn't have sleepovers together.
posted by mareli at 2:13 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd definitely allow it. Ask the other parents what they think. Set whatever rules the parents think are appropriate. But I can't think of any reason not to encourage this friendship.
posted by decathecting at 2:13 PM on March 22, 2010


Allow. Supervise.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:17 PM on March 22, 2010


I had one coed sleepover when I was ten I think? My parents are pretty liberal, but I don't think it's a problem. I wouldn't necessarily shout it from the rooftops though.
posted by kylej at 2:21 PM on March 22, 2010


Let's put it this way, anything your daughter does with her male friend she will likely do with her female friends. Case in point - I've seen my 7-year-old son kiss his male friends.

A sleepover is no big deal.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:22 PM on March 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I used to have sleepovers with my male best friend when I was younger, until we were about eleven or twelve. I never stopped to think twice about it, and apparently my parents, who are relatively conservative, had no problem with it, but were very clear we were to always stay in separate beds and change clothes in the bathroom, etc. I thought nothing of it, honestly, I just thought they were normal rules.

Same here (boy, had sleepovers with girls), though my parents weren't very conservative. Wasn't no thing, though, just kids being kids. Ask Brian's parents if they'd be down with it, but don't bring up your potential discomfort with gender issue; if they mention it, then you can discuss.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:23 PM on March 22, 2010


My daughter is 7, and one of her best friends is a boy. They've had quite a few sleepovers, and while it's never been explicitly planned that way, they've always been of the camping-out-in-the-living-room variety. Granted our families are extremely close, but I'd say there would be no harm in bringing it up to the other parents, in a neutral "hey, here's a thing that came up, what do you think?" way. If they're not into it, no big deal, it's the sort of thing that some people just aren't comfortable with.
posted by padraigin at 2:24 PM on March 22, 2010


We had a boy sleep over with our daughter at a birthday party when they were 6 or 7 (I forget). I think we made it clear that everyone was going to change clothes in private (subtly) but really it's no big deal, at least it wasn't for us.
posted by GuyZero at 2:26 PM on March 22, 2010


Not being around 7 year olds, I would work out in my head what the worst that would happen. Call his parents and discuss. If you don't think that the weirdest scenario is likely in this case, go ahead and have a sleepover. Hopefully she won't scar him by dressing him up in her princess outfits.
posted by anniecat at 2:27 PM on March 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


My friends have an 8 year old and he's had sleepovers with girls (at his house at at theirs) many times - no one thinks anything of it (but we're Seattle liberals, so YMMV).
posted by tristeza at 2:36 PM on March 22, 2010


She's 7.

OP is aware of that; she's asking whether we think others in her relatively conservative community will be more uptight.

I'd go through the parents, but at that age, you do that anyway, right, so that the invited child won't get their hopes up and make their parents crazy begging? I'd just say, "Hi, SamanthaKJr just had her birthday and was wondering if she and Brian could have a sleepover over here in the next couple weeks. Would that work for you all? We'd love to have him."

If they say no, it may not be because they're irrationally modesty-crazed. I know kids who aren't allowed to sleep over at other people's houses, period, one of them because of a health thing that he doesn't want everyone knowing about, so his parents just pretend it's their weird rule.
posted by palliser at 2:39 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Chit-chat with the other parents, but as an anecdote: my parents wouldn't let me be in the same room with the door closed (during daylight hours with parents around) of a boy that lived down the street from me when we were both the same age (and roughly around the same age as your daughter).
posted by sperose at 2:42 PM on March 22, 2010


My seven year old boy has a best friend who's a girl. The reason that I wouldn't allow a sleepover is that she is not a tomboy and they send each other little love notes. If she were more of a rough and tumble friend vs. a hand holding friend I'd be more willing to give it a try.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:44 PM on March 22, 2010


KokuRyu has it - anything she'll do with male friends, she'll do with female. 7 was the starting age for my same sex "experimentation" stuff. if that's the concern, it's a red herring to think gender matters at all.

go for it, camp out in the living room. she changes in her room, he changes in the bathroom.
posted by nadawi at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was about your daughter's age, my parents did something that made me angry. I announced that I was running away from home, and that if my parents wished to find me and win me back, I'd be at Claire Yearwoods house, down the block. I went up to my room and found all the important things in life - legos, books and an extra pair of boots - and I tied them all up in my favorite blue blanket and attached it to the end of my stick horse. I slung it over my shoulder like a good little Dust-Bowl-era hobo, and I made my way down the alley between our houses, kicking a few rocks for good measure. My parents waved me off as I set off into the sunset.

I'm sure they called the Yearwoods to alert them to my arrival, and I'm sure they all laughed about it, and I'm sure my parents assured them that I would probably not last past dinner - but in case I did they would stop by and entice me away with promises of ice cream or something equally important to my little brain.

And so I arrived on the Yearwood's doorstep, and announced that I had run away from home to come live with them and my BFF Claire, and they welcomed me with open arms and we set up my very own little hobo camp in Claire's room and then we all went to sleep.

Of course, I didn't stay forever. I'm not sure I lasted more than a couple days. But that wasn't the point. The point was that it was just all in good fun, and so long as all the parents are on board with it and the terms are understood, there shouldn't really be a problem with it. So talk to them! Ask them what their rules are (they may not allow Brian to have sleep overs!) and be certain to announce your own rules so that they know how things will be run if/when their child is in your care. And if it can't work out - for whatever reason - be ready to compromise with your daughter so that she still gets to celebrate her birthday in a special way of her own choosing!
posted by greekphilosophy at 2:48 PM on March 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


My bff forever when I was 7 was a boy. we had sleepovers. He was going to be a builder and I was going to be an apothecary and we were going to marry and have tons of kids! I was a shy kid who didn't have many friends, and having these moments really made me a happier kid. I still smile at the fun we had. So yeah, if it is in any way possible do it, please! And you know, if they end up playing "doctor" games, this is kind of normal. You can just tell them to stop. (it's a bit sad that we as a society get worried about the sexual implications of two small kids having a sleepover.)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:56 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


BFF a boy, me a tomboy, slept in a tent in the garden on many wonderful occasions over years and years. At some point his aunt was babysitting overnight, and we told her we were going to camp out. She was against the idea and made noises about it not being appropriate or something. We were utterly confused, followed by utterly horrified, followed quickly after by horribly offended. I couldn't tell you what age we were when she voiced her objections, but I can tell you I still think she's a dope.
posted by Iteki at 3:09 PM on March 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think most folks have this exactly right. Monitor as need be, set some boundries etc. Screw what the conservatives in the area might think. My son's last sleepover was in a tent in the back yard, with me sleeping on a couch in the backroom about 10 feet away with the window open. About 3am I heard some stuff I figured wasn't kosher, and didnt really know what to do about it. What do I do? Take the kid home in the middle of the night? I wanted to stop it, but I didnt want to scar someone for life either. In the end I just yelled out the window, "Hey, knock it off you guys." Coupla sheepish looks over pancakes the next morning, but thats about it. Ive got a girl 11, and a boy 13, and their just at that age where they are discoverying folks. I dont know what to tell you other than its gonna happen, and all the best wishes in the world isnt going to change that. Really, common sense is about the only defense on these situations.
posted by timsteil at 3:17 PM on March 22, 2010


Yep, no big deal. My son's bff at that age was a girl, and there were sleepovers back and forth for years. Once they got to puberty, it all changed, with no parental intervention.
posted by theora55 at 3:56 PM on March 22, 2010


If you are okay with it, I'd definitely ask the boy's parents and go from there. If they say yes, to hell with what anyone thinks. He's her best friend.

I'd be all for letting them have sleeping bags out in the living room or setting up a tent there or even building a fort! That would be cool. And you know, they will probably just want to sleep in their clothes and eat junk food and stay up after bedtime anyway. At 7, that's the cool part of a sleepover.

If you REALLY want to or feel the need to keep tabs on them, you could just set up a baby monitor in the room so you could listen in occasionally and make surprise visits to see if they brushed their teeth, turned off the lights, okay, this is the absolute last time now it is lights out, etc.

But then I would probably let them have flashlights and books to read, too.
posted by misha at 3:58 PM on March 22, 2010


Who is the gossipy, bossy, but well-meaning woman in your town/neighborhood? Ask her what she thinks. If she says it's okay it probably is.

If she says it isn't okay or acts shocked, well, you can still do it, knowing what the gossip mill will be churning out.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:12 PM on March 22, 2010


I'd say its a bad precedent.

Seven is fine, I guess, YMMV, but at what age do you suddenly say, "Okay, that's enough"?
posted by codswallop at 4:12 PM on March 22, 2010


> Seven is fine, I guess, YMMV, but at what age do you suddenly say, "Okay, that's enough"?

She can worry about that when they get there.

I have a seven-year-old boy, and if he did sleepovers (he doesn't, for reasons that aren't relevant here) I would be fine with them being at a girl's house.

I doubt the girl's parents will freak out if you ask them. They might say no, but this doesn't seem like a bizarre thing to ask.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:16 PM on March 22, 2010


Clearly okay.
posted by beerbajay at 5:23 PM on March 22, 2010


My son's best friend was a girl when he was growing up. They had sleepovers all the time.
To keep is seemly, they either slept together in the living room, or they all bunked in with his sister. We never let them sleep in a room together alone. She also went of family vacations with us and it worked out great.

I think it was pretty easy for us because his sister was always there to make a convenient third, but we would have made it work without her, too.

When they got into their later teens (15+, probably) it died a natural death. They are still friend, but have grown apart little. Oh, and each is romantically involved with someone else.

When you ask his parents, specify some kind of set up for them to sleep in a public zone, and I bet they'll be fine with it.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:33 PM on March 22, 2010


I'd say its a bad precedent.

Seven is fine, I guess, YMMV, but at what age do you suddenly say, "Okay, that's enough"?


I think it's a wonderful precedent. As a child, my BFF was a boy, and we had sleepovers from ages six until about twelve—usually in the living room. When puberty started to make things weird, we just sort of stopped by mutual agreement. Later, when I hit fourteen, I resumed having totally non-sexual sleepovers with platonic friends of both genders—a phase that lasted until I was about, oh, thirty? I turned out okay. Having friends of the opposite gender is awesome! Sleepovers are awesome!

No need to overthink this. Have a chat with Brian's parents. They'll either say yes, or no, and you can go from there.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:38 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used to have sleepovers with my best friend who was also a girl. But in practice, most times if we were at her house, it meant sleeping over with her brother who was a year older, and her other brother who was a couple of years younger. We used to all play together, and then sack out together in sleeping bags on the floor. I remember us playing you-show-me-yours-and-I'll-show-you-mine once, but the whole thing was a non-issue.
posted by not that girl at 5:44 PM on March 22, 2010


I'd say its a bad precedent.

What's the bad precedent? That friends of the opposite sex can have fun together without there being any hankypanky? I'd say that's actually a pretty awesome precedent heading into adolescence.

Another data point: I regularly had sleepovers with my male bff throughout childhood. The last one I remember was when I was 8, but they stopped because we both started feeling like "ew, cooties!" around that age, not because our parents put a stop to it. All the parents involved were hippies, though.

One of my coworkers has a 9-year-old son who's only friends with girls. Apparently they all have sleepovers together and when another coworker asked if any of the other parents minded, my coworker was like "no, why would they?"
posted by lunasol at 6:08 PM on March 22, 2010


Wouldn't it be funny if your daughter turned out to be a lesbian? You'd quickly realize that you shouldn't have been allowing her to have sleep overs for years with those female friends because who knows what was going on after the lights were turned out and you went to sleep?
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:39 PM on March 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


My best friend when I was little was a boy. Occasional sleepovers, sure.

(And I got FURIOUS when neighborhood moms simpered that he was my boyfriend. No, I'd reply, he was my best friend, don't be weird.)
posted by desuetude at 6:54 PM on March 22, 2010


I responded in the thread Fui Non Sum linked to, but what I said there is worth mentioning again: There is some finite chance that the boy has no interest in your daughter as anything other than a friend. I think this goes double, given their ages.

Regardless, the issue needs to be about specific children in specific contexts. You'll have to judge this one largely on your own, regardless of what we say.

And if, seven years down the road, your daughter finds herself another male best friend, make your decisions not on the basis of the child's gender, but on the basis of the likelihood of hanky-panky.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:11 PM on March 22, 2010


Ok, I guess I'll chill out & see what happens with his folks. It's nice to know I'm not way off base. My mom has described us as "blue people in a red state," and I've caught untold amounts of grief throughout my life when my normal was interpreted as freaky-liberal-goin'-to-hell behavior.

Wouldn't it be funny if your daughter turned out to be a lesbian? You'd quickly realize that you shouldn't have been allowing her to have sleep overs for years with those female friends because who knows what was going on after the lights were turned out and you went to sleep?
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:39 PM on March 22


This has also crossed my mind as a hilariously ironic scenario :)
posted by SamanthaK at 8:38 PM on March 22, 2010


For the record: that's exactly how it turned out in my situation. Weirdly as a teen, my mother wouldn't let me share my bed with guy who was visiting, he had to sleep on the couch. We were both openly gay mind and my mother new that. Girls, be they straight, gay or explicitly my girlfriend.... they could sleep in my bed.
posted by Iteki at 11:58 AM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


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