Recently my 10-year-old daughter boarded a bus in route to summer camp.
I sobbed as soon as I got back into the car. I missed her already. For four days and three nights she would be beyond my grasp. I wouldn't be there to
pray with her, to kiss her forehead as she drifted off to sleep or to put the covers back on her
at 2 a.m. because she had kicked them off. I wouldn't be there to remind her to
say "please" and "thank you," to make sure she was eating and drinking enough and remembering to apply sunscreen and bug spray, or most importantly, to make sure she was safe.
Many family members were shocked that I was letting her go.
Myself included. I'm the mom who doesn't do slumber parties or sleepovers. I'll happily host
her friends (for her birthday last year we had a hotel slumber party and my mom
and I supervised) and she's had friends spend the night before, but she has yet
to spend the night at the house of a friend.
There was an occasion where she attended
a slumber party and I picked her up early rather than having her spend the night. And
on a Girl's Scout overnight event I volunteered and came along too. But this was church camp (the staff and volunteers all undergo background checks and the kids ventured everywhere in groups of at least three).
Even so, if I could have got on that bus to go to camp, I would have.
In a heartbeat.
Because, the truth is, I don't trust (most) people. And I know
that things can happen anywhere.
So my husband and I make it a point to have important conversations
with our daughters (Yes, even the 2-year-old, age-appropriate of course). Sometimes
we think we know people but we don't. Sometimes we are too trusting of people, and with our most precious commodities at that.
The more I live (and watch the news, though I rarely watch the news) I am reminded of how little is really within my control.
As a child I hated that my mom
always had to meet parents and come into the homes of my friends. Why couldn't
she just drop me off or talk to them on the phone? But as a grownup, I am thankful
for her desire to form relationships with the parents her child was spending
time with and to make sure that both of us were aware of my surroundings.
Do you know who lives in the home that your child is
sleeping over in? Beyond that, do you know who has access to that home and who
will be supervising the children?
My own personal family history and career in child welfare
has likely played a role in my tendency to be extremely and, in the eyes of
some, perhaps overly cautious when it comes to playdates (even those that are only a few hours ), slumber parties and even
spending the night at a family member's house. And yet, the more I live (and
watch the news, though I rarely watch the news) I am reminded of how little is really within my control.
Letting my daughter go to summer camp was me (and her daddy encouraging me to) letting her have a little more room to spread
those wings of hers during a season when she still returns home to our nest.
Right now she can flap and fly and fall and fly again, and we are close by to
help her through it, to nurture her, guide her and champion her until she's
ready to soar on her own.
I so desperately want to keep her safe. To protect her. She
and her sister are more precious to me than anything. We do our best, her daddy
and I. And we want the parents of friends, friends (and bullies), teachers, church staff to
know us, too. If you are interacting with our children we want to—we need to—know who you are. We will fiercely protect our
children; we will trust in God and in the fact that we have and continue
to give them the tools to help them navigate this beautiful yet broken world we
In the meantime their friends are welcome here at our place.
Anytime. And if, as a parent, you're not comfortable, we get it. Trust me. When in doubt, trust your gut and keep
your kid at home, right?
What are your thoughts on slumber parties and overnight playdates? Are they a do or
a don't? And if they are a do, how did you come to that decision. Is it based on your child's age, the family of the friend or if multiple children will be there?