When your kid is invited to a sleepover, it's like a commercial for a Royal Caribbean cruise. The list of perks is so sexy, you'd be crazy to deny them. After minimal prep that includes begging your child for the very last time to please put down the hula hoop and pack an overnight bag while your husband makes a beeline for the garage to grab a musty sleeping bag, you're rewarded with the delightful benefits of an easy 14-16 hour break from reality. As you drop off your squealing kid to the kind, unwitting hosts, you leave waving and smiling, knowing in a matter of minutes you and your husband will bask in the glory of a table for two, not a trace of Crayons and pink lemonade in sight.
At home, you giddily unlock the parental control on Netflix for back-to-back episodes of Orange is the New Black. Your husband, warmed up by the full frontal nudity, pours you another glass of wine and offers you a back rub. Thank you, sleepovers!
You rise glowing and rested, noting that it's so quiet that you can imagine your life together as retired people. You take one look at your husband when you realize you're the retired people on the Viagra commercial. Your passion reignited, instead of sneaking in a muffled Saturday morning quickie before the kids wake up, you realize you have the green light to engage in unbridled passion reserved for hotels and Kardashians. You spend the rest of the morning drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, refreshed and ready to conquer the weekend.
Then you pick up your kid.
The happy, pumped-up ball of energy you dropped off last night has been replaced by a child you hardly recognize. The kid who hugged you tightly and thanked you endlessly for allowing you to spend a night away from home greets you with a blank stare that would frighten Putin. With effort, you manage to get your kid to thank the host for inviting them when you realize that the host is also greeting you with the same blank gaze. You are afraid. You scan the floor for wayward socks, grab the unfolded sleeping bag and haul ass to the SUV before things get ugly.
That's when it hits you. Your kid has a sleepover hangover.
You've been here before, but parental amnesia is part of the package, so naturally you didn't see it coming. It's a lot like your cousin Sal's wedding. Remember that lusty trifecta of wedding romance, an open bar and an 80's cover band? When you woke the next morning in an unfamiliar hotel room wearing Sal's cousin's bow tie and little else, turning back time wasn't exactly an option.
The most important thing to do when you guide your zombie-like child into the car is to minimize conversation, otherwise, someone is bound to say something regrettable. Don't bother asking the kid what time they went to sleep because you don't want to know the answer. The car ride home will likely lull your child back to sleep, so depending on their age and weight, you'll probably want to ask your husband to carry them inside. He'll be rejuvenated from your morning tryst, so he'll happily oblige.
Here's the easy part: sleepover hangovers are just like regular hangovers. It's all about rest and rehydration. Even better, unless the kid completely binged on pizza and Sour Patch Straws, it's unlikely that they'll spend the morning puking. Gently guide the kid into their bed or onto the couch, hydrate them with orange juice and feed them a super carby breakfast. Turn on cartoons, a fan and turn out the lights. I usually stick around to make sure the kid doesn't pass out in the middle of eating a toaster strudel, just to be safe.
Just like a regular hangover, you'll want to wake the kid every few hours and give them more liquids. Wash, rinse, repeat until the child looks like your child again, and only then should you inform them that they will never attend another sleepover again. At least not for a few more weekends.
(This appeared in the Huffington Post on July 10, 2015 in the "Parents" section)