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.