I would be interested in more on any of the topics you briefly addressed, but perhaps specially (and… not as… potentially personal) in the topic of first sleepovers. I feel stressed out about the idea of sleepovers and I do not yet have a child. How did you get to be okay with the parents and the overnight situation? How did Elizabeth feel in preparation – anxious, excited, meh? I suppose I am so interested because sleepovers were tough for me as a kid. I did not make it through many of them. (My poor parents. Who lived waaaaaay out of town and had to fetch me at odd hours of the night.)
I was Not Particularly Okay with Elizabeth going to a sleepover, but Elizabeth was so completely Relaxed and Fine about it, it made me wonder if this was one of those “No, in fact DON’T listen to your gut” situations. I mean, my gut was clearly telling me she SHOULD NOT GO—but my gut also tells me the kids shouldn’t get on the bus the first day of first grade, shouldn’t be left at birthday parties even when all the other parents are dropping off, and shouldn’t go up to other children at the park and try to play with them. So my gut is not really calibrated for being in charge of decisions.
In this particular case, I reasoned it out. I don’t KNOW-know the parents, but I recognize the mother enough to say hi if we cross paths. Their house is in the same neighborhood as ours. Another acquaintance of mine babysat for their daughter when she was a baby. The only other sibling is a sister (not, for example, a much older brother), and one of my older kids is in her same grade and knows who she is and has been on the same bus with her for years. I found out from Elizabeth who else was invited and what the plans were, and it sounded well-organized and well-thought-out (four girls total; plans to make cupcakes and watch a Pixar movie and stay up until TEN!! O’CLOCK!!).
Fine, I also went on Facebook and snooped the family. I looked through photos and saw pictures of the family at Disney, at what looked like a big family event, and in Christmas-card photos. I looked through wall posts and saw things like “Hey, great talking you the other day! Let’s have coffee next week! Thursday?” and “Sophia left her sweater at our house—I’ll send it to school with Ella tomorrow!” It’s not like non-okay families couldn’t have these photos and wall posts, I realize. Nevertheless, it added to my decision-making process.
I’ve heard of other parents deciding to allow things like sleepovers (or even playdates and birthday parties) only when they know the other family well—but I have almost zero social life, so that’s not going to work for me: I hardly know ANY other families well. If that were the cut-off, then my social life would have an inappropriately heavy and limiting impact on my kids’ social lives. (Or else theirs would have an inappropriately heavy impact on mine, when I was forced to form a large fake social circle to accommodate their friendships.) But this would be a great tip for people who know a lot of other families: I can picture being ENORMOUSLY reassured if Elizabeth were sleeping over at my friend Melissa’s house, instead of at the house of someone I only know to say hi to.
I also talked myself through it like this: Elizabeth is more social than I am, but at this stage she needs my help to arrange the logistics of her social life—and I have to try not to let my own social anxieties get in her way unnecessarily. I can of course say no to anything that seems genuinely dicey to me, but most situations are NOT genuinely dicey even if they make me nervous. If three other moms feel it’s appropriate to have a sleepover party at age 8, and if Elizabeth herself is fine with the idea, then I can either decide that she’s not ready and/or that I don’t want her to go—or I can let her try it, which is what I decided to do.
And it went great. I talked with her ahead of time about how to handle things if she wanted to go home early, even if it was the middle of the night. I also remembered that one of my own biggest issues as a child was not realizing that the other child’s parents were PARENTS and were therefore likely to be pretty easy to talk to if I had any situations (like if I forgot to bring something, or if I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to do something, or if I couldn’t find something), so I told a few anecdotes along those lines to Elizabeth. But she stayed the whole night and didn’t run into any issues except for forgetting to bring a comb, which she just did without.
Oh, and one more thing: I deal with stress via shopping, so I spent a lot of time looking for a good party gift, and I window-shopped for many possible purchases such as a sleeping bag, new pajamas, and so on. I think I must think things over while doing things like that, so that by the time I’m done filling an online cart with sleeping bags and pajamas I never end up buying, I’ve adjusted to the idea of a sleepover.