Safe at Home

Jessie is a blessed girl. In her young life, she’s already had many wonderful experiences. She’s been to the beach, the zoo, and even to Disney. She takes dance classes and plays a musical instrument. She has many friends and spends quality time with her grandparents and her uncle, aunt, and favorite 4-year-old cousin. She even gets to use more than her fair share of hot water to take the long showers she finds so relaxing and conducive for singing. Jessie is a lucky girl indeed.

However, Jessie makes one request that her mom, Mattie, and I have repeatedly denied. Jessie would like to go to sleepovers at friends’ houses. Let’s hear her perspective.

    Jessie, Age 10
    I’m old enough to have sleepovers with my friends. I think that my parents should try to let me go to one and see how it works. Most of my friends have been having them since Pre-K. Just because things were different when my parents were young doesn’t mean that I should have the same. I’ll keep trying and maybe they’ll change their minds.

My guess is that many parents, and all of Jessie’s friends, will side with her tween perspective. Would it hurt for Jessie to have a sleepover with friends? With a 99% degree of certainty, I’d predict she would have a wonderful time, maybe not get enough sleep, but have a positive experience. However, as a cautious father, there’s that 1% chance of trouble. Therefore, Jessie sleeps at home in her own cozy bed, with her 22-pound guard dog. As a result, I sleep well, too.

I remember a discussion between Mattie and her mother that occurred the year after we got married. Mattie noticed that her dad took long naps each time we visited. Mattie’s dad has always worked hard and deserves a nap any chance he gets. However, it hurt Mattie’s feelings that her dad repeatedly slept when she had driven 45 minutes to see him. So, during one visit while Mattie’s dad dozed, she spoke with her mom.

“Mom, it seems like every time I come over, Dad goes to sleep.”

Mattie’s mom responded, “He hasn’t slept well since you left home. When you are here, he knows his girl is home safe and sound, so he can rest.”

Until recently, I hadn’t given their conversation much thought. Now, that I’m a father, though, it makes sense.

Will Mattie and I ever change our minds on sleepovers? Possibly. And it’s not like Jessie hasn’t experienced sleeping away from home. On occasion, she spends the night with her grandparents. A few times, she’s even stayed overnight with her cousin. It’s the sleepover “with friends” that she’s missed out on.

Obviously, Mattie and I can’t shield Jessie from all of life’s dangers. Trouble lurks in places we don’t always suspect. Jessie is independent, which is a good thing, and Mattie and I want her to enjoy life, not shy away from it. Like all responsible parents, we want to put our children in places and situations where she’ll have a chance to grow, but not be in harm’s way. The right thing to do isn’t always clear, and many parenting decisions aren’t easy.

But whether Jessie is resting in her bed at home or in a sleeping bag at a friend’s house, one thing is certain ’tween daughter and dad, I love my girl and my girl loves me. And should Jessie ever sleep over at a friend’s house, I’ll likely take a long nap when she returns home the next day.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. Happy New Year! We wish you a happy, safe, and prosperous 2019.

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