Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slumber Party

I am nervous. Katie is on her very first friend sleepover. This is a huge deal for her, and she feels so grown up. Her friend, who is 17 and also has a form of autism, is like Katie in many ways, but different in others. Her mother suggested having a sleepover a few months ago, since her daughter has never had a friend spend the night, and we thought this might be the perfect opportunity. Since she knows how Katie can be, and Katie won't be bothered by anything out of the ordinary that her daughter might do, we decided to try it. My oldest daughter also loves that family, so she was invited along too. That made me feel better that she could help Katie out with whatever she might need, and also be there for emergency purposes. Autistic children tend to create different emergencies that other people might not understand. Like dinner not being on time, or dogs barking, or drinking too much pop at nighttime.

Sleepovers are an intregal part of the growing up process. They foster independence, solidify friendships, create long-lasting memories, and produce endless pictures to remember them by. My rule for my children was that, unless it was family, they had to be in 4 th grade to have, or go on, sleepovers. My oldest has had endless friends over. They make cookies, walk up to the corner store, make movies, watch tv, plan their lives, and eat non- stop. My youngest just began the sleepover years, and could not wait to get started. We even framed a picture of her and her friend at the first sleepover. Katie, however, has never experienced the fun. One reason is that she talks herself to sleep every night for a few hours. What friend would put up with that? Another reason is that I don't know if the friend, or the family, would be able to handle the random issues that Katie creates. To see her for a few hours in school, or in sports, or at church is one thing. But Katie, 24 hours worth, is quite another.

I trust my friend. We have spend endless hours discussing our daughters and their issues. I have heard many stories about what she deals with, and she has heard mine. I know that whatever Katie might come up with, my friend has probably already seen and dealt with, with her own daughter. And if she hasn't seen this specific problem, at least she won't get rattled or spooked or horrified by it. So what exactly am I expecting Katie to do that is so horrible? I have no idea, but it is going to keep me up tonight. Because, even if I am confident in my friends ability to handle Katie, and even though my oldest daughter is with her, I am still terrified by the fact that she is spending the night at a friends house. Don't ask me to explain it, because I can't. People who know me understand this about me. It is just like the night before school starts. You know the school, you have met the teacher, you love the classmates, but you are still nervous for them. I was the same way before she went to her first middle school dance. She was excited, there were plenty of chaperones, her friends were there with her, and all I wanted to do was hide behind the door and peek in to watch.

It is a bittersweet moment for sure. Bitter because you just never know how she is going to act. Bitter because so many things could go wrong. Bitter because it is a step closer to growing up. Bitter because this is only her first sleepover and her little sister has already had 3. Bitter because she has never been invited by other friends, even if I wouldn't let her go. Bitter because, although her older sister is ther as a friend, I wouldn't have let her go without her big sister to watch over her. But sweet, so sweet. Sweet because there is a special, special family out there that we have so much in common with. Sweet because she has a friend that loves her for being Katie, and Katie loves her back. Sweet because my oldest daughter is there, watching her, protecting her, but also encouraging her to live her life big. Sweet because sleepovers are part of being a grown up girl, and she wants to be a grown up girl so very much. Sweet because my friend has been texting me constantly, so I know that Katie is having the time of her life.

Sometimes I stop and look at Katies life. It is no so different from other girls her age. She might not have a lot of friends, but the friends that she does have are very good to her. She might not talk on the phone all the time, but she does have girlfriends call to chat. She might not live on the computer, but she loves to send, and receive, emails. She is growing up in bits and pieces. Slower than some, faster than others, but just right for her. In about 3 inches she will be taller than me. She already can wear my clothes and most of my shoes. As scary as all of this is to me, I want her to become a teenager as easily as she can. I want her to do everything that she wants to do, be in whatever club or sport or event that she wants to try. I guarantee that she will find her niche in life and become comfortable in her own shoes, regardless of how scary her journey is for me. I love that she is on a sleepover right now. I love that my friend and her daughter welcomed her into their home unconditionally. I am not going to sleep tonight, because even though Katie's Adventures in Autism are thrilling to her, I white knuckle it all the way.

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