Birthday parties have always been a minefield in my household, especially with three children known to change their minds more often than their underwear. When they were younger, a simple trip to Chuck E. Cheese did the trick. Then there were the years of the "themed party" when everyone from Reptile Man to Sunny the Clown darkened our doorstep. For me the challenge was always the same: to make sure enough guests showed up so that my little ones felt special.
As my two boys grew older, birthday parties became paintball perfection—perfection because my husband took the kids while I stayed home with my daughter. (Somebody had to!)
For the most part, I've generally gone with the flow, accepting pretty much any suggestion my kids have come up with, fully aware of how important these social occasions can be in the world of a 21st century child.
But recently I found myself in a bit of a quandary. For the last few years, my daughter, who is 10 and in the 5th grade, has asked to do a pool party and coed sleepover.
Generally she invites six or seven kids from her class, a mix of both girls and boys. They eat pizza, go swimming, make s'mores, and watch movies—with messy sleeping bags splayed across our TV room. All in all, it has seemed pretty innocent.
This year, she wants to do the same. But she's turning 11 next month and my question is: when is it time to say "no" to the idea of boys spending the night?
I've consulted with friends and, generally speaking, most agree that middle school is the time to put the kabash on coed sleepovers so, in other words, we're good to go for another year.
But it's an interesting question. I don't recall having coed sleepovers when I was my daughter's age but now I read that coed sleepovers are on the rise across the country—especially among high school students—with even Time magazine publishing a set of rules for safe coed sleepovers. Indeed, in a survey of youths by TeenPeople, more than half of those who responded said they had attended a coed slumber party.
Some experts say coed sleepovers are nothing but proof of the closer platonic friendships between girls and boys that are so prevalent in today's society. In the past, they say, girls and boys were more segregated in their activities whereas today they are more likely to enjoy hobbies and even sports both at school and after school together. (Just think of the coed soccer teams around Montclair.)
But others say sleepovers with kids of the opposite sex can only lead to curiosity and promiscuity. In other words, parents who allow coed sleepovers are just asking for trouble.
Still others say one just "knows" when it's the right time to draw the line between sexes and that it may be different for every child.
So what do you think? When is it time to separate girls and boys—or is a coed sleepover simply never a good idea?