Last night was a new milestone in our house – the seven year olds had their first sleepover. Yes, both of them! The very courageous and exceptionally kind mother of one of their friends invited both of my girls to spend the night.
The girls have slept away from home before. For the past two years they’ve had an overnight at one of their summer camps. And they stayed with a family friend when my husband and I took our anniversary trip last year. But a sleepover, spending the night at another kid’s house, that’s what big kids do. That’s what their teenage sister does. It must be cool. It was something to aspire to!
So first of all, when the sleepover invitation was issued I was determined to get some mileage out of the event. Mid-afternoon, after a few hours of negotiations texted between the friend’s mother and me…
“Are you sure you want to take this on?”
“It might be hard to get them to settle down….”
“They’re early risers….”
“You can always send them home if it’s not working.”
…I sat both girls down in front of me.
“Girls, would you like to have a sleepover tonight with Fun Friend?”
This question was answered with screams and squeals of excitement, which I interpreted to mean “yes”.
“OK then, I need to you do three things first.”
(A cheap parenting trick I know, but we have to use whatever leverage we can.)
“Before you go on the sleepover, I need you to clean up your room, practice the piano, and write some thank-you notes.”
Damn, we need to have sleepovers more often because they cleaned up their room – together – in ten minutes with no fighting! They practiced the piano. We didn’t write thank-you notes because that required parental involvement and I had laundry to do, but the girls were ready and I couldn’t come up with an alternative quickly.
Oh, this was a big rite of passage and all afternoon I heard repeated exclamations of “I can’t believe I’m actually having a sleepover!”
Next, with the little girls out of the way, was the question of how to spend the evening. Teenager had been working on sleepover plans of her own, but by early evening those plans had fallen through. That left me with three options:
- mom and daughter night
- leave her at home and have a date night with my husband
- the three of us could go out together
All were very appealing, but the choice was pretty evident because the last time the teenager had had an evening out with her dad and me was over a year ago. In fact, getting us to herself is something that has rarely happened since the twins rocked her only child world when she was eight years old.
Without the little girls, there are so many more dining out options. The three of us ended up going to an upscale pub where we shared food and laughed a lot. We stopped for frozen yogurts on the way home. We had a wonderfully fun evening together. And then we went our separate ways – she upstairs to her room to watch The Hills or Vampire Diaries on her computer, my husband and me to our room to fall asleep during the opening monologue of Saturday Night Live.
As we lay in bed I said to my husband “it feels weird to be in the house without the little girls; I’m ready to have them back.” But there is no having them back. As it was with the teenager, this was another step toward their independence from us. Yes, this was a milestone indeed.