Category Archives: Sleepovers

Sleepovers and The Importance of Inclusion

Emma has asked to have a sleepover for months now.  She doesn’t want to have ‘a’ sleepover, as in a single sleepover, she wants to have sleepovers, the way her brother Nic does, almost every weekend.  She wants to have time away from us, where she is with another family and their children.  She wants to have the experience most parents and children take as a matter of course.  I’ve had parents say to me, “Oh sleepovers and play dates are highly over rated, she’s not missing much.”  But the truth is she IS missing a lot and the fact that she so desperately wants to have a sleepover is something I would assume ALL children desire.  I doubt any child doesn’t hope for this, whatever their neurology.  My guess is those who don’t ask for a sleepover are doing so not because they don’t want one, but because they do not have the ability to ask or communicate their wish.

The question has been how to orchestrate sleepovers for Emma when she’s never been invited to have a play date, forget a sleepover.   We have tried to have kids over to our house, but they all end up playing with Nic and while we’ve been able to get everyone to play a few games of duck, duck, goose, it still ends up being mostly a play date for Nic.  Last spring, Emma’s therapist, Joe invited Em over to his house for a sleepover with his wife’s god-daughter, and Emma had a great time.  But Emma wants more than a one time event and increasingly Richard and I have discussed how to get Emma over to people’s houses who have children Emma considers her friends on a more regular basis.

So while I was away at the AutCom Conference this weekend, Richard decided to do what he does best – take matters into his own hands.  He picked up the phone and called our friends asking them if Emma could have a sleepover at their house.  This is not something I feel comfortable doing.  It feels like an enormous imposition, I wouldn’t want to put people in an uncomfortable situation.  I wouldn’t want them to feel uncomfortable saying no, I wouldn’t want to feel the sadness I would feel if they did choose to say no.  Just as I cannot use restrooms in restaurants or stores unless I’ve actually bought something, I cannot call friends and ask if my child can come to their home for a sleepover…  but Richard can and did.  And they said they would be thrilled, in fact they said they were really honored that Em had asked to come to their house.

These are good friends, friends with twins, Nic’s age.  The twins, J & G have known Emma her entire life.  We adore all of them and have spent many a Sunday hanging out together.  When Emma heard that they’d invited her, she jumped up and down, threw her arms up in the air and twirled around while saying, “You get to have a sleepover at J & G’s house!   So excited to see J & G!”  Then she ran into her bedroom and came back out with her backpack filled with her nightie and a blanket.  Sunday night Richard and I received a text with these photographs.  (We have been given permission to post these photos.)

Emma used her skills of persuasion to get everyone to play a rousing game of Duck, duck, goose.

J & G & Em

The sleepover was a wild success!

When Emma came home the next day she ran over to me, threw her arms around my neck and said, “Do you want to know Emma’s sleepover was so much fun?”

“Yes!  I do want to know that!” I said.

“Emma had fun at Emma’s sleepover!”  She said and then ran into the other room to find her dad.  A few minutes later she came back and said, “Go to Gabby’s house?  Have a sleepover with Gabby?”  (Gabby is one of Emma’s cousins.)

I will have to take a page from Richard’s book, gulp down my nervousness and do something I would normally never do.  I will have to call my cousins and ask.  Maybe they’ll say no.  Maybe they’ll say yes.  Either way I have to ask because my daughter needs to do this.  She needs to have these experiences, they are important and my shyness and concerns have to take a back seat to the more important issue here, which is to do what I can to have Emma included.  The Autcom Conference gave me a glimpse into how important inclusion is, not just to those who are routinely excluded, but to all people; we all benefit from inclusion.

A Sleepover, a Storm and Our “Adventure”

Emma loves going to our cabin.  It has become a tradition to spend the night there at least once during any given trip to Aspen.  Yesterday was our designated “sleepover” night and Emma was beside herself with excitement.  We packed backpacks and some bags up, put them into the front of the 4-wheeler and set off.  This is our equivalent of taking a fully equipped camper out to a campsite and calling it a “trek.”  I made a number of derisive comments about our lack of adventure (aka laziness) while Richard and Emma ignored me.  At one point Richard stopped the 4-wheeler and said, “No one’s stopping you from walking, you know.”  Which pretty much shut me up.  Until we ran into this –

Richard, not one to be easily deterred, proceeded to put the 4-wheeler in reverse in an attempt to go around the tree branch, and in doing so went up a steep incline and over a large boulder, while almost flipping it.  After much excitement (aka me yelling in a hysterical voice, “you’re going to flip it!” causing Richard to say, as one wheel hovered a full foot off the ground, “you know, you’re not exactly helping.”  Eventually he brought the 4-wheeler to a stop with all four wheels planted firmly on the ground (much to my relief) and we abandoned it.  “Well you get the best of both worlds,” Richard remarked, as we hoisted our backpacks and bags (some filled with Emma’s books) on our backs.  “Now you get to walk.”

When the cabin came into sight Emma, carrying the bag with her books in them, began to run.

“It’s the cabin!”  Emma yelled as she bounded up the steps.  We settled in, put the screens into all the windows, swept up the cobwebs and made up the beds, while clouds began to roll in over the mountains.  A number of red-tailed hawks flew overhead calling to each other, or at least that’s what I assumed they were doing.

The rain came first preceded by a smell I cannot describe, but one that I recognize as being the forerunner to a storm.

Lightening and thunder followed.  The rain came down in sheets.  Emma stayed inside.  She peered out the window and made loud crashing noises.  “It’s scary,” she said.  “I don’t like it.  Mommy come.  Sit together.”  So we did.

But eventually she felt safe enough to go sit next to her dad on the porch.  Together they watched the storm.

Within an hour the storm had blown past and Emma was happy.

By 10:00PM all of us were asleep.  Emma slept until after 8:00AM.  This was noteworthy as her usual waking is 6:00AM.  Reluctantly we packed up and made our way back to where we’d abandoned the 4-wheeler.

When we got back home, where Nic and my mother were I said, “I bet you guys were worried about us during that terrific electrical storm!”

My mother smiled and said, “No.  Actually when it began to rain we said to each other – Boy am I glad we stayed home!”

They have no idea what they missed.

Emma’s Momentous Sleepover And How We Barely Coped

Joe and Angelica came to pick Emma up for her sleepover Sunday evening.  Emma, who had prepared her pink spiky backpack for this momentous occasion by packing: 3 hardcover books, her green furry monster and traveling companion Muzzy, a nightgown, her string (the old string with a few modifications is back!), her Cokie, toothbrush, floss, hairbrush, change of clothes, bathing suit, bathrobe and she insisted on packing her sheepskin slippers, despite my protests that it was too hot, (it was in the high 80’s.)

When Joe and Angelica buzzed, Emma ran to meet them by the elevator.  When Joe and Angelica then came inside for a moment, Emma, with her backpack on waited patiently as the adults discussed drop off times, sleeping arrangements etc.  At a certain point Emma made her way to the front door, waiting.  Another minute later Emma had the front door open and continued to wait, now outside our loft and in the hallway.  Finally, the adults, having concluded their endless conversation about logistics, food, and other important matters made their way to the front door.  Emma already out the door, never once looked back at Richard or me, but instead purposefully headed toward the elevator with the grim determination of one who is afraid her departure may be, at any moment, thwarted.

“Bye Em!  Have a great time!”  Richard and I shouted to her as she boarded the elevator.

Just as the doors were closing we heard a cheerful, “Bye Mommy!  Bye Daddy!”

And that was it.  She had left.  No kisses, no “I’m going to miss you,” no look conveying conflicted emotions, nothing.   And there we were.  Left to ourselves, looking at each other.  Then Richard stepped toward me and a grin widened on his face.

Oh come on, people, remember where you are!  This is a blog, not some sultry, titillating web site you just happened upon by mistake.

We went to dinner and the movies, feeling the joy of doing so without paying for a babysitter.  It was ecstasy!  We stayed up late, (oh stop it!) and slept in… until 6:30AM.

I actually was up at 5:30AM, but used the time to make some corrections to yesterday’s blog post and did some other work related stuff.  Eventually we took a long leisurely stroll along the High line and then returned home to await Emma’s return.

When Emma entered our loft, she barely looked at either of us, shot into her room, threw on a swimsuit and requested that she go to the sprinklers in her favorite park.

“Em!  I’m so happy to see you!”  I told her.

She grinned and then said, “Have fun at Angelica’s house.  Have fun with M.  Have fun with Oliver and Trouble!  (Angelica and Joe’s two cats)  Have fun in the sprinklers.  Now go to Seal park!”

That was it.  We never did get any more out of her.  She had fun.  What more was there to tell us?  It was good to get these photos from Joe, however, and somehow Richard and I made it through those sixteen hours, just the two of us, on our own, without any children, I don’t know how, but we did it.

Emma’s sleepover with M.

Playing in the sprinklers with M.
My latest piece My Fear Toolkit published in the Huffington Post