When my seven-year-old was invited to a sleepover birthday party from her sweet friend who lives up the street, I thought it was a very nice gesture. You see, her friend is 10. And the party was for 18 of her friends.
My daughter was honored to be invited. She wanted to go. And there was nothing I could do to convince her otherwise.
The sleeping away would not be a problem. She has spent countless weekends at my parent’s house near Atlanta, without mom and dad. She has stayed the night at several friends’ houses before. And this time, she would only be two houses away.
Instead, I worried about what she might be exposed to, with dance parties, movies and well – 10 year-old stuff with 18 girls. But her sweet friend told her that she planned movie choices knowing what my daughter felt comfortable with, and filled her in on all the plans.
My daughter has played at this friend’s house enough that she has gotten to know a few of her other friends, who were coming to the party. And she knew two girls at the party from her own school – who have younger siblings in her lower elementary community.
Even though I knew she would probably get overwhelmed by all the partying beyond her years. She was GOING. And I couldn’t tell her otherwise. She felt comfortable and she was ready. I know the mom, the kids, and that these girls are not a real “worldly” group in the sense of what might be discussed beyond nail polish and purple eye-shadow.
So with confidence, my daughter packed her backpack with pajamas, her blanket, toothbrush, a change of clothes for the morning, and a book (the total introverted bookish type that she is). She was also excited about taking her new sleeping bag I sewed for her that day, as well as the mama-made gift for her friend. A doll outfit and matching girl skirt.
Knowing that she gets nervous in big groups and unfamiliar situations, my daughter made the mighty smart suggestion that we show up early.
“I feel better when it is just a few people, to get used to things before there is a big group there,” she said. Displaying a surprising amount of insight into herself which is true, and has been the case ever since she was a very shy toddler.
Then off she went.
I walked her up the street to the house. While she was running ahead, a few of the girls already there and on the porch shouted her name saying hello. She felt welcomed. She felt ready to do this. There was no doubt in her mind. She could handle it.
I was still hesitant. But if anything, I knew this might be a lesson for her. We had lots of talks about how there would be a lot – 18 to be exact – girls there older than her. And if at any time she wanted to come home it was OKAY. There was nothing to be ashamed about. I’d just walk up and get her. No big deal. Her friend would understand.
Originally, weeks ago when the party planning was in it’s first phase, the mother suggested my daughter could just come for a few hours in the beginning. Because she worried the sleepover part might be something outside her comfort zone. But this friend wanted to officially invite my daughter, just as she did her 10 year-old friends. And being a very loyal friend, my seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter was going to be there.
I wanted to protect her from coming home crying because she just couldn’t hang with 18 kids who were three grades ahead of her in school. But she was too stubborn. She was having no part of my warning talks and my wanting to say no to the party.
“Mom. I will be F-I-N-E,” she said – in a teenager kind of independence, foot-stopming, way.
So I embraced the situation and went with it. My husband was supportive and agreed that we should let her try it out.
To put our foot down, and say no, would have sent the message that we didn’t trust that she trusted herself. Because she was VERY confident that this party was going to be GREAT.
Well, you can probably guess what happened.
After I dropped her off we headed to a school picnic celebration for Earth Day. My middle girl had signed up for open-mic night to play her violin. The party started at 5:00. The picnic at 5:30. At 6:30 I texted the party mom (a friend of mine) to find out how my daughter was holding up.
Her reply: “She is ready to come home. Are you home yet?”
Just as I suspected and thought might happen – sometime after dark – happened a lot earlier.
Sometimes moms just know.
When we got home I walked up to get her. She was playing with the other girls and having an okay time, trying to hold it together. Trying to hang with the big kids.
Maybe it was the loud dance party with 18 squealing girls that sent her to the porch to read her book. Maybe it was the overall different scene than she is used to, when it’s a smaller group putting on theater productions and playing with dolls. Probably both.
When I got to the party the girls were in the yard and on the front porch, again. My daughter greeted me on the sidewalk with her stuff in her hand. I kneeled down for her to hop on my back for a piggyback ride home. And I happily waved to all the girls, playfully shouting happy birthday to the birthday girl up in the tree. Then we walked down the hill.
Immediately my daughter gave me a teary kiss on the back of my head and said, “I love you. You’re the best mom in the whole world.”
Sometimes moms just know.
We came home and had an impromptu slumber party, sister style on the floor of her room. All sisters were on deck. Books were read, laughter was had and my two big girls slept the entire night on the floor of their bedroom in sleeping bags. My daughter ended up just where I thought she would.
And you know what? My daughter was right. She was just F-I-N-E.
I was glad I trusted my instincts, and that I trusted my child.
Moms do usually know what is best for their kids. But it’s always better when our children figure it out for themselves.