Recently my oldest was off to for his first sleepover at a friend’s house. The week leading up to the big day I was nostalgic over how quickly the time has flown since we brought him home on a dark and rainy night 8 1/2 years ago.
I was your typical nervous first time mom. But, amped up a notch because of the week he spent in NICU. Every time I held him in the hospital I was so careful of the IV and monitoring cords, he seemed so fragile even though he was born at over 9 lbs. There were incredible round-the-clock nurses caring for him there. But then, just like that he was handed over to us to take home. No job experience no references, two completely exhausted untrained idiots, who just happened to also be his parents. The books don’t prepare you for that powerful moment when they are all yours, driving through that rainstorm at about 10 mph with his tiny little hand gripping your finger from inside the car seat you spent weeks researching.
Here’s the thing, it’s amazing how quickly kids seem to let go of that hand they hold so tightly. What seems like a minute later your big kid can hardly sleep at the thought that the next day he’s leaving for 24 hours to have an adventure away from you. There is another missing chapter from the what to expect books. Chapter 57, what to expect when you think you finally have this mom thing down and they let go.
We packed the overnight bag. The necessities put in by me-toothbrush, pj’s, pillow, change of clothes. His definition of necessities add by him-rugby ball, full-sized blanket, Pokémon cards and his collection of miniature football player figurines. At the last minute, we added a coat, bathing suit and stuffed animal too. Then a book and another stuffed animal.
I reviewed as many things as I could think of. Use your manners, don’t touch anything you know you shouldn’t etc. I remind him he can call me if he wants to talk about anything or if he wants to come home. To which he replied I’m not going to want to come home, can we go now? No need for mother/son declarations of love on my account son! He waved me off, already busy with his friend and all their plans. It may have been the quickest goodbye in history, very Bye Felicia!
That night even though I literally talked to his hand I was alert. I was ready for call that he promised I wouldn’t get. Our entire town lost power around 7 pm and I hoped it wasn’t affecting the evening too much. Then I begin to worry that he’s still having fun. Followed by hoping that he’s sleeping OK without his nightly bedtime story and good nights from dad and mom. Then, around midnight wondering if he wakes in the night, if he remembers where he is. He lived up to his promise, the call never came.
The next morning it was pick up time. I was greeted by a happy fella, full of morning pancakes and memories to share. Everything was awesome-from the pizza to the rugby games in the yard to nighttime chatting as they fell asleep. I’m sorry mom he says quietly in the car, I only missed you a little. It was this moment that I realized that while he was fully ready for this milestone I hadn’t been. It had been me who needed to grow with him. Me who needed to trust, relax and let him have his adventures with a family we know and trust. I needed to loosen my grip a bit on that hand, it was no longer tiny.
When they grow, we grow. Sometimes, in exactly that order. Just as we are there to teach so are they. I remind myself that it is an example that our parenting is on track. He knew we were here but didn’t need us..this time. But for now I survived my first sleepover. Worrying comes with the territory of motherhood, it starts before we even met our babies. I will always worry because this is the most important thing I will ever do. But, I embrace the bittersweet moment he flourished and I floundered, hoping I do better next time. I will appreciate tonight’s bed time stories together. Because the grip on my hand is loosening but the grip on my heart never ever will.
Guest Contributor Janet Richardson grew up in Indiana. She said goodbye to snow boots and hello to sandy toes when her family moved to Tampa Bay 3 years ago. Janet has been married for 8 years to her amazing British best friend and partner in crime. She is also blessed to be mom to an 8 year old philosopher and 6 year old diva. Janet is a crafting addict and CEO of the International house of Richardson (stay at home mom). She never met a beach, morning cup of coffee or Netflix mystery series she didn’t want to get to know better. Check out her blog Give Me the Details, where she blogs about details on everything big and small.