About a month ago, T hosted his very first sleepover with his bestest and oldest buddy! It’s the same young man (I’ll get to why I am referring to him as that and not as boy, kid, etc. in just a minute) who hosted T at his house for T’s first sleepover away from home. It took us a few months to reciprocate, but we finally got it on the calendar (by the way, when did 6- and 7-year-olds’ calendars become so socially vibrant and they so socially unavailable?!).
For the most part, the experience started out about on par with expectations. T’s friend arrived around 4 p.m., and both were uber-excited to play, play, play. We hardly saw them for the first couple of hours things were going so well. The event also began with a mini-happy hour with the parents (also great friends of ours) over a bottle of Pinot Noir. Yeah, not a bad start at all!
But we knew the boys would get hungry eventually and we wanted to be prepared. Initially C wanted to cook for/with the kids, but after considering the flow of the evening and not wanting to disrupt it unnecessarily, we rethought original plans and placed a phone call into Dominoes. We’ve personally never ordered from Dominoes before, much preferring the more local mom-and-pop pizzerias, but isn’t cheap delivery a major component to any good slumber party? Yes, yes it is. By the way, their cheesy bread is pretty damn delicious.
After pizza, we noticed that the kids were losing a little steam and a lot of direction as to what to do next. We offered putting a movie on; while T was very into it, his guest wasn’t so much and wanted to keep playing. But then they couldn’t agree on exactly what to play. There was a period of time where C was tying them to chairs and afterward allowing them to run (with full hands-on assistance) on our treadmill. All great fun, but it only lasted so long.
At around 8 p.m., the melting down started… on T’s part. T was quite frustrated that his friend didn’t want to do exactly what he had planned ahead of time. He didn’t understand why they couldn’t do what he wanted to do, play what he wanted to play, watch what he wanted to watch. It was his house and his party after all. What I don’t think T understood exactly that while a sleepover is oft referred to as a “slumber party” it’s not a party in the sense of the word that he’s come to know. Where at his birthday parties he’s oft referred to as guest of honor, I never really explained that in this situation he’s actually the host. I perhaps should have done a better job in explaining that a sleepover is more like a play date (or series of mini-play-dates) that runs overnight with a couple of meals thrown in for good measure. Whoops.
T’s friend, however and thankfully, was quite understanding of T’s frustrations, and that’s just one reason as to why I referred to him as a young man above; he really displayed a tremendous amount of maturity and compassion toward the entire situation given than T was, well, being sort of bratty. The other reason is because he happens to be about 13 months older than T. I often forget this age difference even exists until I see how T is acting in a particular setting, and not just with this friend but also compared with other older friends of his.
While I’m sure that T’s behavior was quite developmentally appropriate, that still doesn’t make it OK; trust me that we had a long chat about how to be a better, more gracious host in the future. However, at the same time, it also is not OK for me to push him (or permit him) into situations at a younger age just because the majority of his friends are older than him and participating in said situations. While nothing happened at the sleepover that was overtly wrong or unforgivable per se (the two boys have played a few times since not just without incident but with joyful exuberance), our sleepover was a light-bulb moment for me. It reminded me that these kids aren’t babies and toddlers anymore. Some of his friends are “graders” whereas he’s still in Kindergarten, and one day they will be in junior high while T will still be in elementary school. I don’t even want to think about the vast differences that will materialize in that latter example, because even as old as I am now, I am still young enough to remember my child- and teen-hood (!). Thankfully I have a few more years of parenthood to ease into those bigger and brighter challenges. And once they finally arrive, I’m sure they’re also likely to leave me yearning for this first sleepover “fail” wistfully.
We’re planning to let T try his hand at hosting a sleepover again come summertime. After all, what a difference just a few months can make, right, RMT’ers?