My daughter had been begging us to let her sleep over at a friend's for many weeks.
"Do you think you'll miss mommy?'' I asked.
"I'll still remember you,'' she said earnestly.
And off she went.
As my husband and I pondered the silence that evening, a picture appeared on my cell: My daughter, in pajamas, and cuddled between two friends. She was beaming.
This past weekend, off she went again. She watched Hannah Montana – which she doesn't watch at home – and slept on an air mattress with a giant stuffed dog. The report was that she had a blast and is the perfect guest.
I'm trying not to take it personally that Maria is thrilled to be away from her own house. Instead, I am trying to celebrate how big and brave and independent she is. But, she's only 4 – two months shy of 5, to be exact. I am surprised she wanted to sleep elsewhere at this tender age, and I still am trying to accept that we've been OK in letting her.
If you had asked me, before I became a mother, whether I would have allowed a sleepover at 4, I would have said no. But, I didn't know then that I would be parenting this particular girl. She is fierce and fearless and social. She's come back home happy and proud of herself, full of stories about adventure and girlishness.
It has made me happy for her.
I thought my husband and I would be happier for us too. I had imagined that once we had the house to ourselves for a night, we'd go all wild – like naughty high-schoolers whose parents are out of town. The first time she went, we were so freaked, we just sat on the couch, watched a movie, and waited for the phone to ring. It didn't.
This second time, this past Friday, we went to a respectable grown-up party and got home at a reasonable hour. We talked again about how strange it is to be out of our nighttime routine and how odd the house seems without Maria. My husband suggested – at 11 p.m. – that we "call the baby.'' We didn't.
Waking up after 8 a.m. the next morning – a luxury I have not known in years – didn't really taste as I hoped it would. Though, I have to say, I wouldn't mind trying that again.
You know, I am outing myself here a bit. I've kept the sleepover thing a little quiet because I know there are many, many opinions about it. I am betting most of my friends – and my mother – will be surprised to learn we let Maria have a sleepover. But, they won't be surprised to learn our Independent Miss loved it and already is campaigning for more.
So, what say you? When did your children have sleepovers? How did you feel the first time they left? If they haven't already, will they? Criteria?
Tell me I'm not the only woman with a 4-year-old yearning to break free.