Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Evolution of Sleep-over Parties

A few weeks ago, I was shocked to learn that two of my 15 year-old students had never attended or hosted a sleep-over party. They had never even heard of one before. This got me thinking about how sleep-over parties have influenced the social and emotional development in my life.

Elementary Sleep-overs
If you were like me, you probably stayed up later than necessary, engaged in youthful mischief. The skills you learned at elementary sleep-over parties are very important for your sense of competition, as well as your individualism. You also learned how to interact with other kids. There are many ways to do this. Maybe you dressed up in dark clothes to play night games with your friends: Ghosts in the Graveyard, Capture the Flag, or Flashlight Tag. Maybe you stayed inside for the night to refine your 8-bit Tecmo Super Bowl skills (Bo Jackson could run for a touchdown every time with the complicated zig-zag technique to outsmart the defense). For many people, it doesn't really matter what you did, as long as you selfishly destroy your friends in the competition (but not so much that they won't want to play with you again). On another matter, if you are about the same age as me, you learned American analytical skills by critiquing pop culture. You probably either 1) unmercifully trash-talked the New Kids on the Block, or else you showed your pop icon preferences by 2) snuggling up to an adorable Joey McIntyre pillowcase in your Hangin' Tough sleeping bag. Whatever you did, it helped shape who you are today.

Teenage Sleep-overs
I suspect that as you matured from your elementary age, your sleep-over parties did too-- there were new social matters to consider. In your early teenage years, it was fun to socially "mess with" the first person to fall asleep, which often involved warm water, ice cubes, or soft whispers to coax subconscious secrets out of drowsy minds. You began to value honesty and trust by talking about girls/boys with your best friends, sometimes with games like Truth or Dare. Because it's generally unacceptable to speak to your crush directly (in your early teenage years), I'm sure your buddy learned the true meaning of courage by calling her/him while you quietly listened-in on the upstairs phone. Though phone spying is questioned in today's world, it sure was exhilarating in our adolescence, huh.

Young Adult Sleep-overs
In your college years, every night is like a sleep-over with your roommates, whether you want it to or not (there always seems to be someone you don't know staying over). This is when we begin to balance fun and responsibility by learning to prioritize. In my experience, nightly "sleep-over parties"with your roommates were almost always extremely memorable. Picture this: it's 2am, you haven't slept in 32 hours, you have a 10-page research paper due in 6 hours from now, and you've just finished your first draft. Somehow your roommates logically convince you that it's in your best interest to drive them to 7 Eleven for a Slurpee run. When you get home, you've lost all motivation to finish your draft paper, so you sit down with your friends as they watch Strange Brew (which is really only funny at this hour of the night) and personally eat a pint of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food. The sunlight wakes you up on the couch with just barely enough time to print off your paper and stumble off to class. I mean, a rough draft is almost like a final draft, and the forgettable low grade you'll receive does not compare to a memory that never fades (until you're job-searching after graduation and you suddenly realize that you don't remember much academics in the past 4 years of your life).

Young Family Sleep-overs
As young parents, Tiffany and I are trying to figure out which family traditions to adopt for our own. This month, we decided to start a new December tradition: the Monday Night Family Sleep-over Party. We pull our mattresses into the living room where we watch movies, dance, eat sweets, and try to come closer as a family. I hope sleep-over parties will continue in my home, ever-changing to meet the needs and desires of our growing family.