Monday, September 22, 2008

I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Erika wants a sleepover. With a boy.

So far, I've done a good job of deflecting the issue. When I picked her up the last time she had a playdate with this particular boy, and she asked, "Can David and I have a sleepover?" I responded, oh-so-smoothly, "David has an electric scooter? That is so cool!"

What I really want to know is, why can't she? Erika and David are seven years old. Their friendship is completely innocent, and based - as far as I can tell - on the kind of shrieking, chasing and general roughousing Erika's girlfriends are not typically interested in. Our houseguest, Rhea, asked Erika what she liked about David recently, and she said that he was funny, and "a weirdo, just like me."

So romantic.

Still, I can't shake this feeling that it's somehow wrong for a boy and girl to have a sleepover. Am I really afraid of what they'll do when the lights go out? Not really, despite the fact that Rhea also told me about another friend who found her young daughter in bed, under the covers, with her clothes off, with a boy who was visiting. Frankly, if that's what Erika and David really wanted to do, they'd have plenty of opportunities during the course of a regular, non-sleepover playdate.

Is it the where-do-you-draw-the-line issue? That is, if I let her have sleepovers with boys when she's seven, will I have trouble telling her no when she's nine, or eleven, or thirteen? I don't think that's it, either. I mean, there are a seemingly infinite number of activities that are appropriate at different ages, and kids understand that. Just because it's okay to shower with Daddy when you're four, doesn't mean it's okay to do it when you're fourteen. Just because it's okay to run naked on the beach when you're two - etc., etc.

So, although I'm probably not going to let Erika have her sleepover, I can't help but think that by doing so I'm sexualizing her to a far greater degree than exposure to Bratz dolls or "High School Musical" could ever do. And teaching her, from the beginning, that friendships between boys and girls are different, and more restricted, than friendships between girls. As if she won't learn that lesson soon enough.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

This is a tough one. I'm not really sure what I'd do. On one hand, I think at 7 it isn't a big deal for a girl to have a sleepover with a boy she's good friends with. On the other, you're right - friendships between girls and boys are different.

Interesting topic.