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Raising Needham: Our First Sleepover

Sleepovers are a rite of passage for kids and sometimes even for moms.

I was not prepared for the birthday invitation my six-year-old daughter got about a month ago. I was thinking the usual bouncy house, gymnastics, bowling or pool party for the cool first graders, but then I saw the words "sleep over" and my heart sank. Decades of repressed sleep over disaster memories came flooding back. I sat back in my chair, reread the invitation and immediately wondered how and if this would work.

Maybe we would be out of town, maybe my daughter wouldn’t want to go, or maybe there would be a hurricane and the whole stress-inducing, bad-childhood-memory-making day would disappear. Then I decided to let my daughter decide and put my ridiculous, overblown (because I had some excellent sleepovers) memories behind me.

So I showed the invite to my daughter and she screamed with joy, ran upstairs and started packing her mini pink suitcase. She even made a list of the things she thought she needed. Clearly the issues that came to my mind when my six-year-old was invited to her first sleepover were all mine. But just to be sure there were no surprises, I ran through how the day would go, who would be there and asked her what she would do if she started feeling pangs of homesickness at bedtime.

She told me she was OK with the schedule, albeit crazy because my husband and I had a wedding to attend during the day so the sleepover would start early for her, my son needed a sitter which he handled well after I promised him his own special treats and I needed a Valium to keep the day’s schedule straight and sane.

Then she looked at me with her oh so serious eyes and asked me if she could bring her sleep sack with her. This was a deal breaker. No, my daughter no longer wears her sleep sack (a wearable blanket many small children use and she has long outgrown physically) but she hugs it at night like it is the best thing since mint chocolate chip ice cream on a summer day. I smiled, said of course, and told her I would bet all of the other sleepover guests would have their favorite night time lovey too. With that she was 100 percent ready for her first sleepover. But was I?

Drop-off was uneventful, and my daughter raced off with the birthday girl and I moved on with my night. Luckily, the mother of the birthday girl and I are friends and she knows me well and maybe even sensed my anxiety. Throughout the night (read: throughout the wedding we attended), I got text updates and even some pictures. My daughter looked so happy, and that made my night. Oh, and the bride and groom were successfully hitched, so that was good, too.

When we finally got home and paid the sitter, I did my usual check on the kids only to remember that one bed would be empty. I lingered in my son’s room, knowing the waterworks might start upon entering my daughter’s room. Formal dress and all, I hopped in her bed and thought of her having the best time with her girls. My husband, far more sane than I, walked into my daughter’s room, found me in her bed and announced that I was crazy and to get into our bed. I did.

The morning routine was out of wack with me missing my little girl and my son missing his playmate, but we managed a nice breakfast and play time. I watched the clock eagerly and at 9:30 a.m. jumped into the car to pick up what was sure to be one happy but tired little girl. As I pulled into the driveway, my daughter was playing outside and then our eyes met and I got the best huge running hug. I was thrilled to see her, and I think the feeling was mutual. We went inside to say our goodbyes and pack up the mini pink suitcase. The ride home was an amusing play-by-play of the sleepover complete with meal descriptions, sleeping arrangements and stories of a little doggie the hosts were watching. Once home, a nap was inevitable but the day quickly fell into place as if she was never even gone.  

My girl had survived her first sleepover. But, more surprisingly, so did I.      

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