For a 10-year-old kid, few things are more exciting than a sleepover. Sleepovers present the opportunity to hang out with your friends all night, to play video games, to secretly watch movies that have nudity and/or bloodshed, and to tentatively touch the jagged edge of independence. Also, there’s sometimes pizza.. Sure, there are house rules that need to be obeyed, but most parents recognize that rule bending — if not breaking — is part of the point. Kids who don’t test boundaries while they’re young tend to spend freshman year of college getting their stomach pumped.
I thought this was generally understood. But then I came across “Sleepover Rules,” a contract drawn up by the mother of a young son for his friends to sign. She posted it to social media but it soon made the rounds on reddit and imgur. It’s easy to see why: This list of rules is a masterwork in taking things too far.
The contract covers everything from tickling (“touching/tickling of other people will result in immediate physical separation that could remain in place until pickup time”) to volume control ( “excess volume of voice or electronics will result in suspension of such privileges”) to a no complaining clause (“Complaining will not be tolerated. Constructive requests are encouraged in a calm, polite tone of voice.”).
Her rules aren’t so much rules as they are punishments, enumerated in exacting detail by an adult comfortable with the phrase “Suspension of privileges.” And what does that mean anyway? Is this mom going to remove a visiting child’s vocal chords? Take away the iPads and blast the kid with Masterpiece Theater?
Further down on this agreement, the parent-in-question writes “If my behavior reaches and maintains Ms. [redacted]’s standards then a fun time will be had and brunch will occur the following day, Saturday September 23.”
Fucking brunch? Oh boy! Hey guys, if we follow all these rules we’ll get serious adult breakfast! Don’t get too loud or we might not be rewarded with parfaits and pomegranate juice! Maybe dad will tell us about what’s happening to the Uighur Muslim minority subjugated Beijing’s increasingly reactionary politburo! You know, sleepover stuff.
I thought about this list and how I never, ever want to meet this woman so much that I lost sleep last night.
Once, when I had a sleepover as a kid, my mom served me and four of my friends a sit-down dinner of roast chicken and string beans that she had prepared. She meant well. But I was eleven and mortified. It was a weird move on her part. Who wants to pause the fun for an hour and sit down for chicken and beans? We wanted to play Mario Kart and shoot Nerf guns.
Now imagine being this parent’s son. Word of this contract definitely spread around school like mononucleosis at a middle school dance or in the Jets organization. These things leave a mark.
There’s not much of a moral here. I would say, “Don’t do this,” but it probably never dawned on you as an option. I guess the only thing that can be said is that don’t invite a group of kids to a sleepover if you find it to be such a massive inconvenience to your fragile emotional state or if you feel the need to make them sign a nudity contract (Yep, that’s on her list too.) If you feel like having a bunch of kids have fun together in your home represents energy wasted on selfishness. Just let kids be little weirdos and get a noise machine.
Kids should know the rules, but the idea that they should follow them to the letter of the law is deeply troubling. Most parents just naturally understand this. And if they’re not down, that’s fine. No one has to have the fun house if that’s not their style. But they do have to treat children like human beings. And probably buy them a pizza.