This side of a medical emergency there are four words that can definitely strike fear in the heart of a parent.
Unless, of course, the big event, also known as a sleepover, is at someone else's house, and then sweeter words were never spoken.
For those new to this parental rite of passage, it's probably best to resist the temptation to leave town. Especially since the most independent child can suddenly become fearful once the lights are out and all is quiet. Or not quiet enough.
Such was the case with our older daughter. Her closest friend had planned a much-anticipated sleepover. It was to be the best party of all time. The girls were going to watch movies, eat lots of junk food and drink all the Mellow Yellow they wanted.
About 2 a.m. our phone rang.
"Mama," said our daughter. "I'm sick."
Prince Charming couldn't get out of the door fast enough to rescue his damsel in distress. Once she and her dad got home, the truth was revealed.
"I couldn't sleep," she admitted. "They wouldn't be quiet."
I'm not sure what she had expected.
It's common knowledge that boys wouldn't dare be caught enjoying anything as silly as a spend-the-night party. Oh no, they prefer the term campout, which according to my experience, is exactly like a sleepover only with a tent.
Those of us who are veteran parents would probably agree that any trip through parenthood wouldn't be complete without at least one spend-the-night party, I mean campout, set up within 15 feet of the backdoor.
When our older son was 9 years old he invited over a couple of buddies. We set up a tent, built a small fire and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows.
Eventually everyone went inside leaving the campers to their late evening plans, which at their age was pretty much limited to flashlight shadow puppets, scary stories and burping contests.
Surprisingly, it wasn't long before the campground was silent, at least for a while. Sometime just before dawn, I was awakened by an array of loud whoops and hollers.
Before the campers had a chance to awaken the entire neighborhood, my husband opened a window and vainly tried to get their attention. Then I heard the backdoor slam. Thinking I should go check things out, as well, I found my half-asleep husband standing outside chastising the boys. To this day, I'm not sure my husband is aware that at the time he was wearing nothing more than his fruit-of-the-looms.
Needless to say, he had their attention.
This weekend our 8-year-old daughter had her first sleepover. When Mary Kate, Ashli and Ciara arrived with our Anna right after school, I had a snack ready for them.
They devoured the chips and dip, eager to get upstairs to see what Anna's big sister had planned for them.
Before long the four little girls were dressed up in hand-me-down prom dresses having their makeup and hair done by the big sister.
After supper, the girls ate birthday cake and got ready for bed by pumping up a queen sized air mattress for the den floor.
"We're going to stay up all night," I heard Anna excitedly tell her friends.
I knew better.
Sometime in the night, I went upstairs to check on the girls and found four sleeping beauties all curled up on the air mattress, sweetly snoring away.
The next morning when the first mama arrived she expressed surprised disappointment that her little one had made it through the night without her.
"She didn't cry or anything?" inquired the mama.
"No, she was just fine. They had a blast," I said, and then I gave the mama a quick review of the past evening's activities.
"I don't think I'm ready for this," said the mama sadly.
"I know," I said. "No one ever is."