A Mother’s Guide to Sleepovers for the 18+ Set

bunkbeds“I feel like I am running a brothel,” my across-the-hall neighbor said one recent morning as we opened our apartment doors for the newspaper. “There’s sex going on in every room!”

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and all three of her children had come home from college with weekend guests in tow. For my neighbor and many other 50-somethings around the country, holidays now mean a whole new set of houseguests with a whole new set of issues – the teenagers they sent off to college return, wanting to be treated like adults. Or at least like dorm dwellers used to being free from the constraints of parental supervision. And what that means is they want to have sex with their significant others whenever and wherever they want, even if mom and dad happen to be in the next room.

“Well,” said my own college age son, “isn’t turnabout fair play?”   Touché.  But wait a second, does that mean our walls aren’t as thick as my husband and I thought they were? Never mind, I don’t want to know.

Back to the dilemma facing parents whose young adults are acting like young adults right under their noses. Is there etiquette to sex in your childhood bedroom and is this something you want to discuss with your children when they go off to college?

Absolutely on both counts, says my husband’s aunt, who forever endeared herself to me junior year in college when my husband (then my boyfriend) and I stayed with her for a night on our way to meet friends for spring break.  “Here is the spare bedroom,” she said. “Sleep together if you wish but please remember you are guests in my home.”

Not only did we appreciate her worldliness, but her “guests in my home” comment stayed with us as we traveled together before we were married. Eventually, we stayed for a week with my father in the home where I grew up. My dad, who was widowed when I was 12, had never slept with any of his subsequent girlfriends in our house, at least not to my knowledge.  Now, home from college for Christmas break, I was expecting to share my bed with my boyfriend.

When my guest dropped his knapsack on the floor of my room, my dad didn’t blink. Of course, by then he had invited the woman who would become his second wife to move in with him, and I don’t think he wanted to risk being called a hypocrite. That week, all four of us were on our best behavior. Things were quiet behind closed doors, and we were fully dressed when walking the hallways.

The rules felt both odd and liberating, but they worked, and I have shared this story with my own children. They say that some of their friends’ parents lay similar ground rules – particularly clothing requirements. A few parents insist on separate rooms or the couch for guests, but many of them make a point of telling their children when they are retiring for the evening. These tips represent just a handful of the ways parents deal with young adult sex, and the rules you set will be determined by what feels right for you and your household.

“There could be a lot worse things than separate bedrooms,” mused my other son. “The rule could be that you have to do the dishes.”

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Image via Joe Goldberg/Flickr