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A few weeks ago at school pickup, Aria and her best friend bounced over to me, proclaiming their sisterhood while chanting an unfamiliar song. It went like this: "We're having a sleepover, we're having a sleepover! Come on, Mom, sing with us!" And I did. For a few rounds. Until I realized, there was a second verse that went: "Great, where, great, where?" In unison they sang, "Your house, your house!!!"
The wheels were in motion, and there was no turning back. I had a few weeks to prepare. And by prepare, I mean get back to therapy to find out why I didn't dump the party on Aria's friend's parents. Speaking of "house," they live in one; I don't. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with one bathroom for four people. Why did I agree to what was essentially a pint-sized rave in my living room, when I can confidently say that I can't handle my own two kids?
I'm what you might call a lazy mom, or just a sucky one. I don't play. I don't chase my kids around the playground and squeal with delight as they dangle from monkey bars. I don't kick balls, or even throw them. I'm a nonstop disappointment machine with my "Not right nows."
So why was I suddenly making plans, talking about the sleepover incessantly with Aria as if I were planning her bat mitzvah? I saved the money on therapy because it was just so glaringly obvious: I was being opportunistic. If I hosted the most awesome 12-hour sleepover for Aria and her BFF, I would rack up enough "My Mommy Rocks" points to go back to being half-assed-mommy for a while. I was already reeling from the possibilities of what a tri-yearly blow-out might earn me.
Aria and I planned obsessively. And two weeks of a shared focus was an amazing ride of its own. Because it involved talking and planning (I excel at both!), I was feeling the mommy points accumulating even in the early pre-game weeks!
It was liberating to commit 100% to what I'd gotten myself into: a full-on kidstravaganza. There was freedom in making a decision to solely focus on making everyone feel comfy, safe and secure. I wasn't running to check email, dashing off to the the gym or finding little ways to escape being present. I was there with as much bravado and dedication to having fun as Aria. And it was awesome.
Since then, I've held on to that mojo and the ability to check on my presence when I'm with my kids. When I'm checked out, I'm miserable. When I'm into it, I'm not. I've stopped resisting and started playing. And yes, that means kicking a ball around and kicking half-assed-mommy to the curb.
Here are 10 ways to rock your kid's slumber party, for yourself as much as the kids:
No kid ever died from an extra cookie.
1. Surrender. Resisting will only, well, kill you. Embrace it with as much enthusiasm as if you were handed a gift card to Barneys. You might wind up getting more out of it than you think.
2. Plan, plan, and did I say plan? Schedule it: From 3 to 5 p.m. we're doing a craft; from 5 to 7 p.m., we're going to make a fun dinner and eat it; from 7 p.m. on, it's sleeping bags and a movie until everyone is asleep in front of the TV.
3. Let them eat what they want. Double desserts? Fine. Cake for breakfast? Go for it. No kid ever died from an extra cookie. They get this is a special event and it scores you big mommy points. Note: You may need to check in with the other parent on this. If they are not on the same page, then why not bake some low-fat sugar cookies or non-fat frozen yogurt ice cream sandwiches.
4. Give choices. This is a big night for them. They feel grown up and empowered. Let the kids pick out the menu. They want to know what's cooking, and if they choose it, they'll love it.
5. Make the visiting kid feel safe. This is the most important of all. He needs to know he can go home when he wants. Make sure the other parent is on call and available for a pickup at any time.
6. Plan some alone time. If it's been a long sleepover, the following morning you may sense some tension between the kids. This is normal. The routine is mixed up, someone new is in the hosting kid's space, they've been "on" for hours. Tell the kids they can take a break. Maybe one kid does some games on the iPad while the other draws. They don't have to be playing together and in sync every moment.
7. Make sure the visiting kid has everything she needs. Have the visiting kid bring over her favorite teddy, doll, blanket, PJs—heck, if it's a suitcase of stuff that makes her happy, have her bring it. The first sleepover is a little scary, and the more comfort items that make kids feel safer, the better.
8. Safety first. It goes without saying to check in with the parents and get a list of any allergies, quirks, fears or anxieties. If Aria so much as sees an American Girl doll, it is over—she is terrified of them. I would want to know the same about any kid spending time at my house.
9. Get outside. You can't imagine how much time can be spent at a park. Go for a picnic, a hike and get all that excess energy out before the kids settle down in your home.
10. Finally, have fun. Embrace your inner kid. When you experience the sleepover from the kid perspective, it'll take it to a whole new level. If that doesn't work, remember, it's only one night.
Now sing with me "Sleepover at your house, sleepover at your house!"