We have all been marching along with the new school schedule this year where both kids get on the bus at the same time and come home at the same time. I like that I don't have to get in the car to drive Dal to school, but sometimes trying to get both kids ready at the same time in the morning is maddening. There is always the rush of getting dressed, brushing teeth, double-checking backpacks, and trying to stay clean. We seem to be getting into a pretty decent groove, so hopefully that will continue.
Along with the new school year comes new teachers and new friends. Both kids are absolutely nutso about their teachers, and they're both usually enthusiastic about going to school every morning. This last week was exceptionally long for Lottie, though. Monday night, I was at a meeting at the school when I ran into the mother of one of Lottie's pals. Lottie and the girl are in different classes this year, but they still play together during recess. The mom asked for my phone number so she could text me information about the girl's birthday party that was going to be on Saturday. A sleepover birthday party. The sleepover part was optional, but anyone who knows Lottie knows that she is all about keeping a party going for as long as possible. I made the mistake of telling Lottie about the invitation before I had received a text from the mom. Rookie error, right? The rest of the week, I was peppered with questions about the party, whether or not I had heard from the mom, and if I thought Lottie could just show up at the party. Saturday morning dawned with no word about the party and a 7-year old crying over breakfast. I cried, too, because I felt like I had somehow let her down, and I wished I had never mentioned the party in the first place. We planned a fun day of playing outside, a special dessert, and a family movie night; I could tell, however, that her mind was on the party most of the day.
The sky began to darken around 2:30 that afternoon, and I called the kids inside. I was in the middle of making the chocolate dessert that I knew my little sweet-toothed girl would love when I heard the chime of a text message on my phone. I picked up the phone in between separating eggs to see a text from the mom inviting Lottie to the party...the party that started in twenty minutes. All at once, I was angry, excited, irritated, incredulous, and frazzled. I hadn't bothered to get a gift because I thought Lottie had been forgotten. Lottie was sweaty and filthy from playing outside all day. A serious thunderstorm was headed our way. I could think of a million reasons why she shouldn't go and only one reason why she should. Even though I wanted to erase the message, I knew I should let her go to the party. After a quick whispered conference with T, I told Lottie what was up. I know it sounds completely hokey, but the sun shone out of her eyes. She hadn't been left out, and she was going to her first slumber party. She ran upstairs to take a quick shower while T packed an overnight bag for her. I tore downstairs to find and wrap a suitable birthday present from the box of surplus gifts I keep in the basement. Before she left, I held her face in my hands and told her that if anything felt off or she just didn't want to stay, she could call us any time of the night to pick her up. She hugged me tightly, kissed her brother, and skipped out to the car with her dad. About two minutes after they left, the tornado sirens blared, and I wanted to run out in the street and call them both back home.
I spent that evening with T and Dallas, and although it was cool --and totally weird, too--to be able to focus on just one kid, my head was with Lottie. I wondered if she was getting along with the other kids at the party. I wondered if the threatening skies and the heavy rains were scaring her. I worried that she wanted to come home but was too afraid to say so. Would she sleep well? Would she sleep at all? (And before all you other parents chime in with the "you-have-no-idea-wait-until-she's-a-teenager" stuff, just don't. It's never helpful and it diminishes what I am feeling now. Not cool.)
Of course, in the end, Lottie had a fantastic time at the party. She ended up staying with the birthday girl for most of the next morning while T and I paced around the house wondering when she would finally come home. She seemed exactly the same but also a little older, a little more grown up. It was her first night staying with anyone who wasn't family, and she loved it. I was thrilled that her first sleepover had been a success, but if I am being totally honest, I was a little sad, too. I realized that the first slumber party was just the beginning of many firsts that T and I wouldn't be a part of. Spending the night at someone's house doesn't mean that she's ready for her own apartment, of course, but it's the start of a whole new world for her. She is starting to realize that there is so much more to life than just our home and our family. My job as a parent is to give her those experiences and encourage her growth in every way; I just didn't know that it would all start so soon. Teaching her new things will continue to be my job, but now a new part of my job is making sure that home is where she will always have a soft place to fall.
Not too long after reading time Sunday evening, I noticed that I hadn't heard a peep out of Lottie's room in a while. I went to check on her, and I found her fast asleep with her Lamby in her arms. I took a minute to drink in her quiet, sleeping face before I called T in to see how quickly she had passed out. I'm willing to embrace her newfound slice of autonomy as long as I can still tuck her in most nights for as long as she lets me.