I heard the pitter-patter of feet the second I turned out the lights. It was quickly followed by muffled giggles from under a blanket and little voices saying, “shhhhhh” as they laughed, thinking they were pulling one over on me.
The hilarious truth is that I was lying on a pull-out couch in the same room about eight feet away from them. In that moment I was overcome with two main emotions – 1) love for the continued innocence and naiveté that would make these eight-year-old girls think I couldn’t hear them; and 2) disbelief that our oldest daughter was turning eight and having the same kind of giggly late-night conversations with her friends that I remember having when I was young.
As I lay there (listening of course), the girls started asking random questions of each other. Who is the smartest girl in your class? Who is the smartest boy in your class? What is your favourite sport? If you could be something other than a person what would you be? What colour is your favourite to wear?
Then came the inevitable question – who is your current crush? One answered. The other two laughed. I smiled as I pretended to be asleep in my bed. It didn’t surprise me that the topic would come up but to hear their little voices talking about it in the dark was actually pretty cute.
As the conversation moved on from there, I was surprised to hear how serious it got for a few minutes. Our daughter told the girls about how people teased her about having a crush on a boy who really is a good friend of hers. They talked about how some of their friends aren’t nice all the time and how it hurts their feelings when people aren’t nice to them at school. I wasn’t blind to this stuff – it was part of growing up for all of us and our daughter has opened up to us about some of her struggles with friends – but for some reason it feels really different when you hear a group of girls talking about it to each other.
I woke up the next morning with a new understanding of what I was going to have to do to parent our daughter through the later elementary years. It’s about helping her keep these great bonds with the girls (and boys) that are special in her life – making time for them to play and have the conversations they need to have. It’s about building her confidence – making sure she knows that she is responsible for herself and that she should only ever do or say things that she feels good about (no matter what other people tell her). And most importantly, it’s about making sure she knows she’s loved and that she can come to us about anything.
Tied very closely to that is making sure we have one on one time with her more frequently over the next few years. I felt kind of proud that the things she mentioned to her friends at her sleepover were things we’d had conversations about before. I also realize that it only gets more complicated from here so making sure to create one on one opportunities where those conversations can be had is definitely high on my radar for the future.
According to our daughter, her very first birthday sleepover was the best birthday she’s ever had or been to. And you know what? Her mama couldn’t agree more.
Deanna is a Mom of three, wife, marketer and blogger – lover of travel, morning coffee, family time, belly laughs, good friends and uninterrupted showers! Follow her on twitter @DeannaCMiller