Having recently packed my boys off on their first sleepover at a friend's house, it will soon be my turn to return the favour. But hosting a sleepover is a daunting prospect and having never had a sleepover before - or at least not since I was 15 - I'm not sure what to expect.
Before my boys embarked on their first sleepover I was faintly terrified by the prospect of having other kids sleep over at our house. I value my sleep and am pathological without it, and since my boys were babies they've been similar sleep-loving types who are frankly much easier to be around when not over-tired.
Here's what my friends had to say on surviving sleepovers..."Don't have them in the first place." 'Get children picked up reasonably early to allow recovery time." 'Wear ear plugs." "Gin" (presumably for me).
If only it were that simple. I suspect their wry words tem from the fact that sleepovers are a necessary evil - something parents endure. But they don't have to end in tears, so here are Parentdish's top tips for surviving sleepovers:
Be clear about what's expected.
Are you hoping the children will go to sleep at a certain time, or is staying up as late as they like allowed? Don't be afraid to impose a bedtime and enforce it. Sleepovers don't have to be about staying awake all night and spending the following week paying for it.
Have emergency contact details to hand for the parents of all the children.
It seems obvious but who wants to spend the night in A&E with a gaggle of other people's children?
Have a coping strategy.
Be it gin, earplugs or threatening to make them sleep in the shed if they don't pipe down, make sure you're well armed if it's mayhem at 3am.
Remember it's meant to be fun.
Hover just enough to overhear the funny conversations and make sure everyone's ok but relax the usual rules and let them have a laugh. If this gets difficult remember one day they'll be teenagers and will eventually leave home and you'll be longing for the days when they kept you awake all night under your own roof.
Expect grumpy children the next day.
And when they're weeping with exhaustion use the opportunity to persuasively instill the idea that sleepovers are seriously over-rated.
Surviving sleepovers also means negotiating invitations to sleepover at other people's houses, too. Mum-of-two Sandra Carr wasn't afraid to put her foot down when her daughter was invited on a sleepover at the age of seven. "I didn't know the parents well plus they're very 'hands off' so I wasn't sure how much supervision there would be, and a couple of the children in the group can be very bitchy."
To combat the pressure to say yes to the sleepover, Sandra explained that her daughter needed a full night's sleep and an early start for a family day out the following day. "It turned out that all the kids had slept in one double bed," Sandra adds. "They got to sleep at 12.30am and were all awake at 4am, and at a school event a few days later some of the children were crying with exhaustion. Even Amy admitted I'd made the right decision by not letting her stay."
Therein lies my favourite bit of advice for surviving sleepovers and indeed parenting.
Sometimes being a parent means saying no and if you're lucky, your kids might even thank you for it.