The Dad’s Guide to Hosting (and Surviving) Your Kid’s First Sleepover 

From one father to another, here are some tips to keep in mind.

by Jeff Vrabel
Originally Published: 

The Son’s First Sleepover is both a rite of passage for any dad and a thing that will make your living room smell like the interior of a horse. And not, like, a good horse, but an ailing horse that’s been standing around in mud eating hay for like a week. It is truly a horrible thing to behold. (The smell, that is, not the horse. We like horses a lot more than we like odors. Frankly, we can’t believe you’re considering inviting such necrotic funk into your beautiful home.)

But if you’re set on hosting a junta of small male endorphin machines in your house for a night — and especially if you’re new to the idea — I’d implore you to keep these tips, thoughts, facts, and hideous truths to help you navigate what will, for a few hours, be louder and more chaotic than presidential tweets. (Incidentally, I am limiting these tips to boys, because I only have boys, and wouldn’t have the first clue how to administer a girls’ sleepover anyway. It sounds terrifying.) Here’s to it.

Where should they sleep?

As adults, we pay a lot of attention to our accommodations and spend a surfeit of our time sleuthing around for perfect hotel rooms, campsites, preferences, amenities, and prices. Kids, quite enviably, do not give the first damn about any of that and can, without a second thought, sleep on the floor of a spare room. As such, basements and/or guest rooms are the best arrangements, of course. But if you’re offering a mix of beds, couches, and floor space, find a fair way to allocate real estate, such as rock-paper-scissors or arm wrestling. However you do it, know this: None of your guests are the slightest bit worried about sleeping arrangements. At some point, they’ll probably just fall down.

Should I wonder about food?

Seriously, these are boys. Throw pizza, hot dogs, and maybe a couple bowls of popcorn at them and you’ll be fine. As for beverages, we’d like to remind you of the carbonated ravages that Mountain Dew unleashes on an adult system, and caution you to consider its effect on people whose hormones are already lighting themselves on fire 22 hours a day. If you want people to sleep, maybe ease up on the Faygo, is what we’re saying.

What entertainment should I prepare?

When you were a kid, sleepovers necessitated games and cards and maybe an extra NES controller. Since we now live in the glorious future, all of your attendees will probably bring a device that carries four million Showbiz Pizzas with them in their pockets. Unless you have a theme, such as baseball, musical theater or Fortnite, make sure everything has an operational electric current and get the hell out of there. Part/most of the fun of a sleepover is letting the group organically devise their own fun activities, while you sit in the other room wondering why your wifi isn’t working. (It’s the Fortnite.)

When should the kids sleep?

HAHAHAHA it’s hilarious to think we exert some measure of control over this. They’ll sleep whenever their sympathetic nervous system stops moving, so don’t sweat it too much. They’ll be grumpy trolls the next afternoon, but that’ll be their parents’ problem.

How much will I sleep?

Well, let’s see: You’ve essentially become the counselor of a small camp of antsy, overcaffeinated hormone demons freed from their usual routines and discipline situations. You will sleep in 15 to 30-minute increments, except in the morning, when you will wake up at 5:15 a.m. because one of them woke early and decided to help himself to your Netflix. You’re the supervisor on the graveyard shift, and should basically approach this as such. Unless, of course, things get really out of hand. Then call in your wife, she’ll fix it.

How do I handle that one kid who keeps getting up in the middle of the night?

First of all, it might be yours! Sleepovers are intense, and it’s not entirely unusual for even your own kid to find them a disquietingly major change from the usual routine. If it’s not your kid, close your eyes and remember back to when you were at a sleepover, when you found yourself in some unfamiliar house sleeping on a floor with a bunch of exceedingly stenchy boys. Some kids are built for that sort of adventure, and some are, quite understandably, thrown off by the absence of the comforts of home. Be as kind as you can. Offer something to drink. Maybe reserve a couch or a guest bed in a quiet room for anyone who needs a little extra chill. And remember: If you’re of a certain age, this whole thing might seem pretty weird.

How do I handle that one parent who checks in every 15 minutes?

What’s the worst part of other children? Right! It’s their parents. (Unless you’re dealing with one of those kids who pees all over the bathroom floor, which you probably will.) It’s perfectly natural for even non-helicopter parents to want to check in on their children, especially if those kids are in a new house for the first time. (And maybe your place is a filthy garbage hovel! Look, we don’t know how you live.) It is not normal for them to do so four times an hour, but if we turned this into an article about normal parent behavior we’d be here for six billion more words. Respond once or twice, and send a picture of the happy group if you can. Parents are weird, but try to be patient.

What do I offer for breakfast?

There’s no better way to wake up than by smelling fresh bacon on the skillet, cinnamon rolls in the oven, and eggs on the stove. You will, of course, do none of this, because the grocery store has “bags of donuts” and two or three of those should take care of it.

When do I send the kids home?

Literally as soon as possible. You’ll be sleeping the next day for 14 hours, so if anyone hasn’t left by 11 a.m., just have them wait in the driveway.

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