My oldest daughter, Harlan, started kindergarten this year. She’s always been incredibly independent and has never had an issue with doing things separately from me. It’s one of the things that I love most about her. She is always willing to try something new regardless of whether or not I am there with her.
Her independence is refreshing — something that I wish I had when I was her age. When I was little I had a hard time separating from my mom. It was difficult for me to do anything without her right by my side, which in turn limited the things that I was able to do. I never wanted the same for my kids, so I am always trying to let them do their own thing while I keep a watchful eye from afar.
Last week as I picked Harlan up from school the first thing she said to me was that her friend invited her for a sleepover. My first thought was that this was some fun little plan that the girls talked about during lunch time and that it probably would never come to fruition. I brushed it off and tried to let it go.
The next day when I picked Harlan up from school it was the same conversation. The little girl who invited her over for a sleepover is having a birthday party and is inviting some of her closest friends. Harlan seemed very excited about it and had already planned which pajamas she was going to wear and which dolls she would take along with her.
The thing is, my daughter is five years old. She’s in kindergarten. As much as I know she is capable and mature enough to do it, I don’t know if five is old enough for a sleepover. Is there a “right” age for children to begin to have sleepovers? If so, is five it?
I’ve been in an internal debate with myself about the entire situation, which has ended up giving me knots in my stomach every single time I think about it. I don’t know if I am just being an overprotective mother, or if she is, in fact, old enough to attend a sleepover. She’s only ever slept away from my husband and I twice in her life and she was so young she probably wouldn’t even remember them now. The situation for her to have to sleep away from home hardly ever arises, so it’s really not anything that I have thought much of before.
Perhaps this isn’t a matter of whether or not she is old enough, perhaps the struggle is really within myself. Deep down inside I know that Harlan is mature enough to spend the night at her friend’s house and she will probably have the best time. Her friend lives only a few houses down from us, so if anything were to happen I could be there in a matter of minutes.
She’s not the problem. I am.
I’ve always been an advocate of her independence but I guess it’s only been to a certain point. As I’ve thought about this situation over and over again in my head I ask myself a series of questions: what if she needs me before she goes to bed or what if she wakes up in the middle of the night and gets scared?
Deep down inside, I’m being selfish. I am having a hard time letting go and facing the reality that she is growing up. It’s quickly setting in that she doesn’t need me as much as she used to. The days when all she wanted to do was tug at my leg are slowly fading away.
I don’t know if there is ever a right age to start the sleepover process and maybe this is the perfect starting point because it is only a few houses down the street.
This is a new chapter for both of us. The one where my daughter takes one more step towards independence while I have to become more independent of her. And that’s why I don’t want to turn the page just yet.