Good blame

By Mir
October 27, 2007

Chickadee was invited to a (co-ed, if it matters) birthday party for today. Said party was taking place at a local campground. Because it was a camp-out.

Now, I will fully acknowledge that I am an over-protective mama, but I found this very, very weird. I don’t know this kid, and I don’t know his parents. And despite the fact that I regularly spent a MONTH at sleep-away camp every summer by the time I was 8, and these were 9- and 10-years-olds, I found a party invitation to go sleep in the woods bizarre.

The party was slated to begin at 4, and I RSVPed to the hosts letting them know that Chickadee would be delighted to come for the evening but would likely not sleep over. This prompted the mom to mail me back with a veritable resume of their camping expertise, I suppose to ease my mind that she’d be in good hands if I elected to let her stay. She also offered up a sleeping bag and a tent, as if perhaps she thought this was a decision born of a lack of proper camping equipment.

And it WAS somewhat about not having the proper equipment, only it wasn’t a tent and such that I was worried about. Overprotectiveness aside, the first and last time Chickadee went camping was not such a rousing success, if you recall. “But it was HOT then, Mama,” she pleaded. “This is different. I’ll be FINE!” She spent the week lobbying to be allowed to stay over. She spoke of little else, and I staunchly maintained that she could spend the evening but would come home to sleep. “It has nothing to do with YOU,” I kept telling her. “It’s just that I’m your mama and my job is to worry, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with letting you sleep out in the woods with people I don’t know.”

By a couple of days ago, my resolve was starting to erode. She begged and begged, pointing out that she’s NEARLY TEN and that she REALLY WANTED TO and that the mom has come into her class a bunch of times and is REALLY REALLY NICE and she was going to be the ONLY ONE who wasn’t allowed to stay and camp. I started thinking that maybe I really WAS being stupidly overprotective. Chickadee begged me to discuss it with her dad, and then begged me to discuss it with Otto, and I’m sure she would’ve begged me to discuss it with anyone else she could think of who might sway my decision.

And then Monkey came down with a cold, and by last night Chickadee was sniffling a bit.

This morning she continued to lay on the couch even after Otto announced that there were pancakes on the table, and I told her that if she wasn’t well enough to have breakfast, she wasn’t well enough to go to the party at ALL. (Young lady, you will eat these pancakes and you will LIKE THEM! I want to see BUTTER ON YOUR FORK!) She rallied and seemed fine, but I reiterated that she would be coming home tonight.

In the afternoon, she accompanied me to the grocery store while we left the boys here at home.

“Mom?” she asked, while we picked out a bunch of bananas, “If the other kids ask, can I just say that you’re not letting me stay because I have a cold?”

I gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the head. “Sure, sweetie. You can blame the whole thing on me. Tell them you argued ALL WEEK but I am just a great big meanie who won’t let you go.”

“Well, no,” she said, “I just figured saying it’s because of my cold would be better than saying ‘I can’t stay because my mom is a great big WORRYWART.'” We giggled together. “I mean,” she continued, “I guess I COULD say that, but it seems like it would just be easier to blame the cold.”

I nodded. “That’s fine. You can tell everyone you really wanted to stay.” She smiled and ducked her head, unwittingly letting me know that this was what she was after.

We dropped her off this afternoon intending to spend several hours running errands and maybe taking Monkey out to dinner… but on our first post-drop-off stop, Monkey curled up in a chair like a sleepy kitten, and we decided he really wasn’t feeling well enough to be out. We came home and I put him to bed early, which meant that Otto had to go out and fetch Chickadee.

When they came back, Chickadee made a beeline for me (I was sitting on the couch) and collapsed into my lap, snuggling in and showing me a snail shell she’d found. I asked if she’d had fun and she said she had, but that she was very tired now. I let her sit with me a few minutes while I asked questions about the party, and her eyelids drooped and she sighed as I brushed her hair back from her forehead.

Finally I whispered, “You didn’t really want to sleep there, did you?”

Her eyes stayed closed as she shook her head against my chest. “I want to sleep in my bed,” she murmured.

“That’s what I thought.” I kissed her forehead. “Did you tell everyone I was making you come home because of your cold?” She nodded. “Good girl. Let’s get you into bed.”

Funny, but I have never before been quite so delighted to take the fall.


  1. Ayla-Monic

    funny how the decisions we make are usually for a very good reason… if you had decided right off the bat that it was okay for her to stay the night, she may not have felt like it was okay to admit in the end that she didn’t really want to sleep over there after all…

  2. jennielynn

    Mama wisdom at it’s finest. Mr. Clairol and I are busily freaking out beause Drama Queen got a call from a boy she likes. Eep. They grow up FAR too fast.

  3. danelle

    I always told my kids (26, 22 and 20 now) to blame me whenever they needed an excuse for anything they didn’t feel comfortable doing. I don’t know how well it worked, but they always knew it was an option.

  4. Daisy

    Keep this technique in mind. It works when they’re teens, too. “Oh, no, I couldn’t. My mom would KILL me. Really. I’d be grounded for life.” (Insert sigh of relief that the child doesn’t have to bow to the peer pressure alone)

  5. Veronica

    My mother always let us blame her if we were being pressured into something we didn’t really want to do. She would also yell to get me off the phone from people I didn’t want to talk to.

    Glad you guys are on the other side of the world, this confession could get me in a little trouble.

    Yay for Mums!

  6. Belinda

    Awwwww. This is the sweetest thing. I’m so glad she had fun, and was happy to sleep in her own bed, and not resentful or anything. What a sweetheart.

  7. dynamitt

    Oh i remember my mum doing this for me too. Sometimes having a ‘mean’ mum is the best :)

  8. LuAnn

    That’s a great story … and what a great moment for you and Chickadee!

  9. McSwain

    A co-ed sleepover at a campground is very weird, for kids of any age under 18 for a birthday–especially with parents you don’t know. I wouldn’t think of letting my kid do that, and I don’t know many parents who would. And I live in liberal CA.

  10. jetmom4

    When my oldest (now 24) was younger, he told me how he really didn’t like to spend the night at friends’ houses (after one long night awake in a strange house.) He surprised me days later by calling and asking if he could indeed stay the night with a friend. After a few minutes of debating, I asked him, “Do you want me to say no?,” and he answered, “Yes, mom, but please.” I promptly did, and though he whined loudly while from his friend’s phone, I congratulated him for the ingenuity. It is HARD to be a kid. I, too, loved to take the fall.

  11. Katy

    Awww, how sweet.

    Like all the others, my Mom often left me use her as my excuse. It’s something I had forgotten about until reading this post and something to keep in mind for down the road. It won’t be long before mine needs to blame it all on me. Honestly, I can’t wait. *Ãœ*

  12. mama speak

    Yeah, for both you. My mom would do this for me too.

    I also agree asking to let your kid spend the night anywhere, much less camping???, without knowing them first. I would think that they’d at least approach you prior to the party indicating that they wanted to get to know you because their child was going to invite yours over for an overnighter. AND depending on the crowd of kids co-ed for an overnight does matter at that age…I think. But hey, that’s just me.

  13. alala

    Oh, yeah, I’m good at being the bad guy. We even have a code: I’m usually “Mama,” but if he calls me “Mom” in the presence of a friend (in person or on the phone) it means he wants me to say no to whatever he’s about to ask.

  14. Leandra

    I had a friend who used to regularly invite me over to her house after school, but then she always wanted to PLAY school and usually I didn’t want to go. My mom and I devised a code (similar to JetMom’s) where something I said would let her know whether I did or did not want to go.

  15. Tracey

    Good job Mom! Go with your gut and your kids will understand too! I always tell mine that “protecting them and keeping them safe” is my job, whether they like it or not!

  16. Anita

    Great job on your part! I agree with you completely that I would not let my child (4th grader) go on a co-ed sleepover – – anywhere – – outdoors, indoors, whatever. Nor would I let my child go camping with people I didn’t know. So I think you made a great call, and it is so nice that on some level your daughter acknowledged it.

    I admire you for standing strong though. All that begging would have been tough to withstand.

    So glad your daughter had fun, and I agree with the “blame the parent” strategy completely. I’m HAPPY for my kids to do that if it helps them withstand peer pressure.

  17. hok

    What a brilliant parenting idea! It would never have ocurred to me to tell the kids that they could blame me for something they didn’t want to do. I’m socking this away for when the kids get bigger.

  18. Burgh Baby's Mom

    The mother who agreed to host that birthday party is quite simply crazy! I would not want to be responsible for the well-being of several 9-year olds out in the woods for an entire night. No way!

  19. Kelly

    If it make you feel any better, I’m an over-protective mama myself and there’s no way I would have let my 11yo stay overnite at a campground with strangers! lol! Yay for mean moms :)

  20. All Adither

    I am the High Ruler of All Worriers, and I say, you did just what you were supposed to.

  21. elizabeth

    wow. I’ve always thought I was an over protective mom. but the camping party, although a strange party theme, doesn’t really throw flags at me for the nine year old set. I remember one with the church group when I was 16 that never should have been allowed to happen, but that is another story.
    it is wonderful how well you know your daughter to be able see that no matter how much she thinks she wants to right now, when it comes down to it she doesn’t. very sweet story.

  22. Kendra

    Recently my 16yo wanted to stay the night at a friend’s after the Homecoming dance. I had already heard from the mom that there would be boys and girls staying and that she had ‘called in reinforcements’ (another adult). I told her no for those reasons and because her hard earned reputation as a ‘good girl’ could be trashed if she did. Turns out there was lots of drinking going on (that would be a separate post!) and she stayed at this party, with her very trustworthy boyfriend, for long enough to say they were there and be seen. She was happy to use me as an excuse. They even made it to church the next morning.

    Maybe all of her friends are scared of me because she uses me too often? Oh well, I know she’s safe and always has an out!

  23. Niki

    I have often told my kids to use the “my mean mommy won’t let me” to get out of things/situations where they just don’t feel comfortable, or when they really don’t want to go because they think things will get out of hand. And they’re right – this mean mommy won’t let them!

    And I don’t think a co-ed mass sleepover is appropriate, no matter what the age!

  24. laurie

    Way to go. We rarely allowed sleep overs of any kind. Personally I could not stand the child the next day. I think we compensated by picking up the child at about 10pm so they got to stay up late but not all night and by giving an extra long birthday party during the day a couple of times.(the idea was that the same number of hours was included but at a better time.)

  25. Karen Rani

    I’m glad it worked out in the end (though I do hope she feels better too – we all have that stinking October cold here). I gotta say though, I don’t think you’re being overprotective – I wouldn’t have let Dylan stay over either.

  26. MomCat

    I agree — I wouldn’t let my daugher go to a coed sleepover of any kind, ever.

    I once chaperoned a 4th grade Girl Scout campout. I shouted myself hoarse. The girls were running, screaming, laughing and talking till the wee hours. We had to drag them out of bed at 6 a.m. for their day of activities. When we got back and I made a point of telling the worst offenders’ parents that they didn’t behave in a manner befitting Girl Scouts, the two other chaperone moms looked shocked and outraged that I would actually TELL!

  27. kidzmama

    Social decisions are tough. Especially when a fourth grader is involved. And she’s your first born. Our first is a fourth grade girl and between Girl Scouts and sleepovers there are many “adult” decisions to be made.

    Good job to you and Chickadee!

  28. carolyn

    My 14 year old daughter is very straight forward and would immediately tell me if she wanted to stay or not. My 12 year old son, on the other hand, is not so outspoken, and sometimes wants me to be the reason he doesn’t do something, like a sleep over. I told both of mine a long time ago that I will frequently be the bad guy in their eyes, and I would gladly be the fall guy for things like this. it’s the least I can do.

  29. Flea

    Mine know they can use me as the fall guy, but I’ve been trying something different lately. Mostly because of my own difficulty with telling people no. :( I’ve been reiterating till I’m sick, “Stand up for yourself. Never make excuses. If it’s wrong or you don’t want to, just say no.” I don’t think that I learned that as a child and I’ve been paying for it ever since. Maybe it’s only because I’m just now learning to stand on my own two feet.

  30. Lisa

    I think that one of the very best things that my parents did for me was letting me know that I could always use them as an “excuse” to get out of situations that they were uncomfortable with.
    I’m glad that she had fun and got to come home and sleep in her own bed.

  31. carrien

    I remember being in, probably, third grade, and being invited to my friend’s sleep over party. My mom totally didn’t want me to go, but compromised by telling me that I could go for the early part, and she would come toward the end and stay a while and let me know if I would be able to sleep there or not.

    Well, just as we were all settling into our second video of the evening and round of popcorn, my friend’s dad stumbled in wasted and started drunkenly groping a few of the girls in the name of tickling. I was too young to really understand what was going on. All I knew was that my mom had me packing up my sleeping bag and heading home a minute later. She arranged a sleepover with another friend, whose parents had also not allowed her to attend, to make up for it.

    To this day I wonder what happened that night, and if any of the other parents knew what was going on.

    I don’t think you can be too careful about some things, especially when it’s people you don’t even know and a little girl is at stake.

  32. Brigitte

    Urgh, Carrien, that’s frightening to think of, I would have stupidly thought there’d be safety in numbers. I’m such a naive doofus sometimes.

    I think the “co-ed” part would have freaked me out more than the “camping” part. That said, I love everybody’s “mean mommy” advice, I’m also socking that one away for when my daughter is older!

    After all, it’s not too different from the “mean spouse” thing my husband and I do sometimes when one of us just doesn’t FEEL like going out with our respective friends. :-)

  33. Jenny

    That could not have worked out better.

    And I totally wouldn’t have let Hailey go either.

  34. Kristy

    my mom *still* offers to “take the fall” for me if something comes up that I can’t/don’t want to do – “oh, just blame it on your ol’ mom, sweetie, and we’ll go shopping instead…” -and I’m nearly 30 years old, lol

  35. Ilona

    I routinely offered myself as the “fall guy” for my kids when they wanted to (or I demanded that they) turn down some invitation or another.

    In fact, we devised a code. This works when your kids are old enough to be making social plans on their own. If my child was being invited to something they didn’t want to attend, but were having trouble convincing their friends (or didn’t want their friends to know they didn’t want to participate), they would phone home for permission.

    I would ask if they had any homework. If they said “Only math”, that meant they didn’t want to go, and I was to say no, and they could argue a bit so their friends could hear it, and then they’d come home and say, “Thanks, mum.” If they said “Only English”, they wanted to go. And then sometimes I’d STILL say no (oh, boo mom) but not often!!

  36. Carolyn


    Jotting this down in my Mom Notebook. I’m learning so much! :)

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest