Now, whether or not you have pre-teen kids or stepkids, I can assume you fairly well remember what it was like to be elevenish. And this is an elevenish thing, so think back to those wonder years and tell me if you recognize any of this:
My daughter's friend asked to sleep over last night because her mom had some kind of early appointment Sunday morning and she didn't want to be left alone with her teenage brother. Okay, fine - We were supposed to go to a charity thing but my husband was really happy to get out of it by agreeing to stay home with the two girls. He took them out for pizza, then made popcorn for them while they watched a movie. So far, so good.
I came home from the concert (architects showcasing their musical talents to benefit Habitat for Humanity - not bad, actually) about 11:00 to find my husband fuming. He had just told them it was time to get to sleep and he saw that the friend was in my daughter's bed and my daughter was on the air-bed. The friend had all the blankets - the quilt and small blanket from the bed, and the big fleece blanket that he had brought in with the air-bed sheets. He mentioned that even though our house is warm at the end of the day, it gets cold during the night so the fleece needed to go back on the air-bed. Fifteen minutes later he heard them still talking and said they really had to sleep - my daughter has a workshop on Sundays and really couldn't be up until midnight. He noticed that the friend still had the blankets and my daughter had a little throw blanket from the sofa.
In the morning, I found out that the friend had said she didn't sleep well at home the night before and she needed to sleep in a real bed that night. She also said she gets really cold at night, so she needed all the blankets. (Her pajamas were a tank top with boxer-style shorts.) When we were alone my daughter said she really didn't sleep well since it's kinda weird to sleep in your own room but not in your own bed, plus it was cold with just that little throw so she kept waking up shivering, and that she was too tired to go to the workshop. She hadn't wanted to switch beds with the friend, but she felt bad saying no, so she did it anyway.
I said she had to go to the workshop. I told her that she was manipulated out of her bed and her blankets and that she should have either figured out how to say no or asked her dad for more blankets for her friend. This wasn't even a serious problem and she just allowed things to be bad for her because she wanted to be "nice". She would just have to be tired at the workshop because she had to live with the consequences of not standing up for herself in her own room, and that next time she should think twice before agreeing to let somebody else have whatever of hers they want. If she wants me to trust her in sticky situations, she needs to learn how to find solutions without just giving in to somebody else's wants.
Was I mean? I'm bummed that this friend did this (it turned out she had done it last time she slept over, too, but we just didn't ever find out), but I'm also bummed that my kid let herself be walked all over. If this friend was just horrible, I would put a moratorium on any more sleepovers with her - especially if she invites herself! But this is a generally good kid, although it seems that she has learned too well how to negotiate getting her own way by playing her recently divorced parents against each other.
I'm just worried that I was too hard on my own kid. She isn't very savvy to the kind of manipulations that kids with siblings are used to battling on a daily basis. I think that's one of the big benefits of having siblings - to learn when you need to stand up for yourself. But she doesn't have that tough skin - she doesn't want to say no if she thinks the other person will be upset. And in a few years, if that situation involves drugs or getting into a car with a drunk driver or some unwanted physical attention, I just want her to have the strength to say what she really means, instead of just giving up and muttering "Umm, okay, I guess...".
It was only a sleepover, and maybe I was overly influenced by my husband's bad reaction, but it really bummed me out. Why didn't she just grab one of the blankets back when she woke up shivering? Why didn't she come wake me up if she couldn't find another blanket in the closet? Did she even bother to look for another blanket?
At the same time, I don't want to teach her to be selfish. How do I make sure she can be a good hostess AND take care of herself? And later, how do I tell her that she has to be a good friend AND call the police if something scary is happening? All I know now that this teenager thing is not going to be easy...