I still remember my first sleepover. I was about five or six and at Angela and Caroline's house. It was all going fine, and I drifted off to sleep in my makeshift bed.
But I woke up in the middle of the night, and the house was dark as dark can be, and of course, I needed a wee. But everyone was asleep and I didn't want to disturb them, so somehow I plucked up the courage to creep to the downstairs bathroom and do my business.
Shaking with fear, I picked up the toilet roll, AND ACCIDENTALLY DROPPED IT DOWN THE BOG. And of course, then I started wailing inconsolably.
I used to feel sorry for that poor child struggling in the toilet in the dark. But now, I feel sorry for the mother who had to get up at 3am to stick her hand in someone else's child's wee to fish out a sodden roll of Andrex. (I'm sorry, Angela and Caroline's mum. I understand why you never asked me back.)
Now I realise that sleepovers are full of potential middle of the night trauma not only for the kids, but for the parents, too.
They're meant to be treats, so you have to put on a happy smiling face, break out the Haribo and tolerate all kinds of high maintenance behaviour.
And when the sun goes down, and there's every chance your child's sleepover dream can turn into a nightmare...
'I had a child round for a sleepover who refused to eat margarine, only real butter. Then she asked. 'Can I look at my room so I can see it's the way I like it?' says Annie, wearily. 'Then we turned off the landing light when she'd been in bed for hours, thinking she wouldn't notice. BIG MISTAKE. She shouted: 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I CANNOT SLEEP IN THE DARK!' and woke my kids up.
"In the morning she got up at 6am and proceeded to go downstairs and open up the art set, making poo type swirls with tubes of paint on the carpeted floor (near some paper). Never again." "We had a child stay over who didn't feel well and threw up!" says Allison. "When I rang his parents they'd been out and were over the limit and couldn't pick him up. I had to take him home whilst holding a bucket."
As well as sickness, there's also an undercurrent of violence, as mother of one Linda recounts.
"My friend had to remove her child from a sleepover at midnight. The host Child A said he was waiting for Child B to go to sleep so he could poke his eyes out with a pencil. They were NINE!!"
Yes, usually a parenting rule of thumb is that some things get easier as kids get older and more independent. But that doesn't seem to apply to sleepovers. In fact, nine seems to be the age when the sleepover demons start to surface and go rampaging into the night dressed in someone's mum's best clothes.
"When I was nine, I went to my friend's house for a sleepover," says Emma, now a responsible mother of three. "We put on her mother's clothes and in the middle of the night we crept out of the house to walk around the neighbourhood at 3am. On another occasion, when I was a bit younger, me and my friend painted each other with blue and green paint from top to toe – over our clothes - everything."
And it's not just the kid's behaviour we have to control. Our own children might be used to our funny little habits, but other people's children might not be so tolerant of your scary Saturday evening face mask. Even worse, they probably won't be interested in listening to a word you say to them.
"I just hate having to behave myself while other people's (judgemental) children are staying," says Lucy, "And I hate those little buggers who are TERRIFIED by their own mothers but not by me, and proceed to destroy my house within minutes of arriving. Thank god they're teenagers now."
Ah yes, teenage sleepovers. Well, the trouble doesn't seem to stop when they hit puberty, either. Especially, if they er, hit puberty during the sleepover. One anonymous dad found himself in a slightly delicate situation, without any equipment to go with the flow.
"One of my daughter's friends came over for a sleepover, and it was just me in charge. Something about being in our house triggered her first period," he recalls. "Me to visiting, weeping girl: 'Um, would you like to ring your mother?' 'Yeeeesssss' she replied."
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