Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sleepovers as Medicine

Do you remember the first time you invited your friend over to your house for the entire night, all the way until breakfast the next morning? I don't mean that time your cousin slept over when you were four, but later, when you could choose your person, your best friend for a sleepover. As a girl sleepovers sent me over the moon with excitement. My mum would always say yes to having a friend sleepover, probably because she kind and generous, but also to give herself and my father a break from entertaining me, their only and probably very demanding child.

I was never the popular girl, never a girl who thrived in big groups of friends. While I had many friends, the perk of attending a small school where we moved from year to year together as one class, whenever I was immersed in a big social group I always felt like my place was on the margins of the group, one foot in, one foot out. But I like to think I was really good at being someone's friend. Friendships, just the two of us, that I could do. I was loyal and patient and I cared deeply about the people I loved. I still am all of these things.

So a sleepover was a Big Deal. It was a chance for me to spend time with a good friend on the terms I could understand. It wasn't about fitting in. It wasn't about being pretty or good enough at sports. For me it was about spending time with friends who got me, or as Anne Shirley would say, with kindred spirits. In big groups I often felt judged by others and by myself, but one on one, that part of me slipped away enough for me to relax and just play. Even in grade two or three I felt this very powerfully. This seems to remain my experience even now, though I'm getting (sort of) better at quelling the self-judgement. But what hasn't changed is my love of spending time with my close friends. And I still look forward to sleepovers.

Alyce has had a rough year at school and it breaks my heart. I'm hesitant to say too much about her time at school this past year because she's getting old enough to tell her own stories, to share her own feelings, and I don't want to speak for her here. It's enough to say that she's struggled all year as a result of a bad fit with her teacher and the ups and downs of being a seven year old girl, with all the complicated social struggles that go along with it. She navigating the good and the bad of being a person out in the in the world and I'm learning alongside her how to help her the best that I can. It's so hard to watch her when I just want to fix everything, to declare who her friends and teachers ought to be. But I can't, I know that. Isn't it funny how parenting small children feels so difficult and then they start growing up and you begin to long for the days of toddler tantrums and hurt feelings that could be fixed with, let's be honest, boobs?

Alyce is also a good friend. She adores her friendships, holds on tightly to those around her who light up her world. And this weekend she reached the sleepover milestone. Her best little friend from school came to our house on Saturday for a night of fun. They were up past midnight and exhausted for two days after, but I'd wager it was worth every lost hour of sleep.

So I will leave you here with a list, written by Alyce in the painful hours waiting for her friend to arrive, of all the things she wanted her first sleepover to be. It's a long list, perhaps a little too eager, but they managed to pull much of it off.
  • do crafts*
  • watch a movie with candy and popcorn*
  • make bracelets
  • play board games
  • do Just Dance*
  • read books*
  • have dinner*
  • play some more*
  • paint*
  • listen to music*
  • build Lego*
  • build puzzles
  • watch T.V.
  • play with Shopkins*
  • play on the computer
  • draw*
  • dance party
  • pillow fight*
  • spooky stories*
  • read again
  • play  more*
  • look at my money
  • read more books
  • have gum*
  • go to sleep in the same bed*
*Indicates successful completion.

Be well!

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