A few weeks ago, my daughter asked if she could sleep over at her (teenage) babysitter's house. The mom said it was OK with her, but warned me that she wouldn't be home. It would be just my daughter, the sitter, and the sitter's dad. I didn't hesitate. Of course she could sleep over at a house where a dad was in charge.
My decision was made purely on how well I know this family, but I'm finding that's not how it works for everyone. Some parents -- many parents -- don't let their daughters have sleepovers if there's a guy supervising, even if that guy happens to be the father of one of the girls involved.
In a recent Dear Prudence article, one single dad even confessed he was worried he couldn't throw his 12-year-old a sleepover birthday party because of his gender.
America, is this really where we are?
I thought the dad who wrote in to Prudence was well-meaning. As he explained, he had thought about inviting a female friend over to co-chaperone. He was "worried her friends' parents will say no because they feel uncomfortable about a man looking after the kids by himself."
Good for him for anticipating other parents' concerns.
How sad that he would have to.
My husband is everything you could ever want in a father for a little girl. He'll cuddle on the couch and watch Tinkerbell movies. He'll buy her poofy dresses. He'll help her build LEGO towers and teach her how to kick a soccer ball. He's a good dad.
Good enough that he's stayed home with our daughter and her friend while I've left the house to run errands, have dinner with a friend, or get some work done. He's never balked at the situation, and fortunately, neither have the parents of said friends.
So I had to wonder: is this dad being overcautious? Is this even a real problem in America? I decided to ask other parents -- moms and dads both. Their answers, well, I was surprised by some, to be honest. Here's just a sampling of what moms really think about daddy hosting a sleepover in 2013:
1. I would have to know the dad pretty well. He would have to be an involved dad I had seen before. Even then ... maybe not. Even if it's paranoid, I feel like protecting my daughter matters more. -- S, a mother of two
2. As with all sleepovers, depends on the host family and the mix of kids. But there's nothing about a dad hosting that would make me veto just because he's male. -- K, a mother of two
3. If I knew the family, I wouldn't have a problem with it. Although, I wouldn't feel comfortable having my daughter spend the night somewhere if I didn't know the other Mom either. -- A, a mother of two.
4. My husband would be OK with hosting one; truth be told they probably have more fun with him because he is such a big kid himself. I wouldn't ask him to though. I also don't think I would allow my daughter to go to one ... just don't like the idea of it. The only way I would even consider it is having to know the family REALLY WELL. -- A, a mother of two
5. I won't let my daughter have sleepovers unless I'm home. I don't want other parents to be uncomfortable with my husband hosting or for there to be even the slightest question. -- B, mother of two
Oh, and how about the fathers? The dads I asked were all more than willing to play host if their kids had a sleepover -- although one joked that he'd be a little upset that his wife managed to find an excuse good enough to disappear on the night that a crowd of giggling girls descended on their apartment. These dads' fears of hosting a sleepover are more akin to those of the moms I know -- that their daughters will keep them up late and take over the TV.
And yet, there's an acknowledgement that there is a gender divide, that there are people still afraid that a dad somehow represents a danger to his daughter's friends.
"It offends me that people would ask," said Whit Honea, a father of two. "Obviously knowing the parent is important, whether it's a man or a woman, but to make a decision based on that factor alone is troubling."
My husband's thoughts on the matter are similar; he'd be offended if another parent were concerned with him being the responsible adult at our daughter's sleepovers. "If they know me, they know what I'm like, what I'm about," he said.
As for our daughter sleeping at the house of another kid, he says it doesn't matter if the parent is male or female ... either one has to be trustworthy. That's what matters.
So how about you? Would you let your daughter sleep at another kid's house if only a dad was in charge?
Image via durham_friedman/Flickr