Archives for January 2013

Mom Said We Can Have A Sleepover!

Mom Said We Can Have A Sleepover!


In the annals of parenthood, there are mistakes and then there doozies! A small mistake might be forgetting to check your daughter’s backpack for the remains of the snack you gave her last week and then smelling the “science experiment” growing in the bottom of her bag.

A DOOZIE, on the other hand, might be allowing your 9 year-old to have a mid-week sleepover with her best friend on a school night.  Yup, in hindsight, that was a mistake.

“Mom said “We can have a sleepover!”

Should have taken longer to decide. Seriously.

Should have taken longer to decide. Seriously.

Lulu and her best friend, Daisy, have been begging me for weeks for a sleepover.  They’ve assured me they would behave and do their homework.  They would go to bed at a decent hour.  They would not make a mess in the house.  They would even clean up.

Yesterday was an early release day and I agreed to let the girls play at my house after school and then have the sleep over.  As soon as they arrived, true to their promise, the girls grabbed their homework folders and started what I assumed was ALL of their homework.  Two minutes later (yes, I timed it) the doorbell rang. Their friend, Ryan, a classmate, wanted to know if the girls could play.  I should have said “No.”  I should have responded: “The girls need to finish their homework and I NEED TO CHECK IT before they can play.”  But I didn’t.  I just let her in like a dummy. And the homework, of course, was quickly forgotten as Daisy, Ryan and Lulu took off for the park.  It wasn’t until they were out of sight that I remembered Lulu had Hebrew school.  What, exactly, was Daisy going to do while my daughter was at school?

You can imagine Lulu’s shock when I told her, at 4 o’clock, that she needed to wrap up their game and get ready for Hebrew School. At first Lulu’s response was one of indignation: “What?  You mean you are actually going to make me go to Hebrew School when I have a friend over?  That is so uncool Mom!”  Then she quickly hatched a plan and asked “Can Daisy come to Hebrew School with me?”

“Yes, you are going.” and “Uh, no she can’t.”

As if by magic, Lulu turned on the waterworks and screamed that I was the “WORST mother EVER!” Daisy was going to be SO bored hanging out with me!  What was she going to do for all that time? (hint: It’s a little show called H2O and it’s on Teen Nick.)

As we drove the mile plus to our synagogue, Lulu begged me to roll down the window so she could jump out.  “Even death,” she explained, “would be better than spending even one minute in Hebrew School!”  (She’s quite the drama queen when the moment lends itself, don’t you think?) Daisy did try to assure Lulu that it would be alright but Lulu wasn’t going to backdown and risk ruining a moment to express her great anguish and suffering. I practiced my deep breathing exercises, tried not to respond to the histrionics in the backseat of my car and imagined that I was on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a margarita in hand.

bora bora island

Internally, I scream “Serenity Now!” as I channel my desert island, Bora Bora

At precisely 5:30 p.m. we picked up Lulu.  Under her breath, and perhaps to ensure that I wouldn’t change my mind and send Daisy home, Lulu quickly apologized for her Oscar worthy performance. Once I accepted, she turned away from me and acted as if nothing had happened. (Typical pre-teen.)

The night progressed smoothly.  No homework was attempted but we did enjoy the Easy Bake Oven version of red velvet cake.  By 10:00 p.m. the girls were ready for bed and collapsed on the couch in our basement.  (They were far enough away that Adam and I wouldn’t be disturbed Perhaps having a sleepover mid-week wasn’t such a bad idea? WRONG!


What I didn’t know (and no one told me) was that Daisy had NOT finished her homework nor completed her assigned reading.  And this was an issue. Unlike Lulu, who could care less whether she finishes her homework or not, this child REALLY DOES CARE about getting her work done. Not doing her homework was keeping Daisy up (that, and, as I later learned, Lulu throwing Starbursts at her face.)  At 11:00 p.m. just as I was falling sleep, Daisy appeared at my bedside, stated that her stomach hurt and that she had not finished her homework.  In hindsight, this may have been a ploy to get away from the Starburst launching Lulu who I assumed (correctly) had eventually stopped hurling candy at her friend and had fallen asleep.  Nevertheless, I really was not sure what to do.  This NEVER happens with Lulu.  First of all, this kid was not going to do her homework in the middle of the night because I was not going to stay up with her! I debated calling her father to pick her up.  But, I didn’t want my husband to “told me so” in the morning by reminding me that it was a really bad idea to allow Lulu to have a sleepover.

So I sent Daisy to Lulu’s room, grabbed some books off of the bookshelf (Walter The Farting Dog, anyone?) for her and told her to read until she fell asleep. But that was not the end of Daisy’s nocturnal visits.  At 5:30 a.m. she woke me again to tell me that her stomach hurt. Is it bad to admit that I wanted to respond: “Yeah, well my head hurts from not getting enough sleep kid!  What do you want me to do about it?”  Note to Daisy’s parents if you are reading thisI DID NOT SAY THAT! I sent Daisy back to Lulu’s room and instructed her to get in bed and read “until I come to get you!”


At 7:00 am  Adam awoke me by asking for an apology “Yes, I am sorry.  You were right.  Having a sleepover mid-week was a HUGE mistake.”  I was EXHAUSTED!  Walking downstairs, I noticed that my once clean kitchen was now filled with Easy Bake baking materials, flour and (I assume) cake frosting was on the floor.   The dog was slowly licking the neon pink strawberry frosting off of the cabinetry.  There were dishes in the sink, homework scattered around my table and no semblance of order.

I got the sleepy girls out of bed. I discovered Lulu in the guest bedroom.  They refused to get dressed (despite my pleading and threats) until they had finished their conversation about 4th grade social politics. Once  they finally dressed in their seasonally inappropriate clothes (short sleeves when it’s 10 degrees outside?) and went upstairs to inhale breakfast, neither one of them thought to get their materials organized and ready for school.  So at 8:25, when I announced that lunches and snacks, homework and folders all needed to go into the backpacks, Daisy told me that she STILL had not finished her reading and had not finished her homework.  Her eyes filled up with tears when she realized that she would miss recess so she could finish her assignments until  I pointed out the upside of the situation: since she lost a mitten somewhere in my house, she would miss outdoor recess because she had to do her homework.  Homework definitely was a better alternative to frostbite.  At least she would have a reasonable excuse to not have to go out in the cold.

By 8:40 (a mere 5 minutes before the 2nd bell rang and the girls would be officially late for school) Lulu and Daisy were still jumping around the house trying to find their shoes, socks, jackets, boots, hats etc. Despite the fact that I had hung everything on hooks in the front closet the night before, Daisy insisted that she could not find her book bag: the bag in which she carried all of her library and pleasure reading.  It was in her viola case, of all places. Once I started yelling that they were now officially late for school and I would NEVER allow another child to sleep in my home on a week night, everything was magically found, put away, the girls bundled up and in the car screaming that “We are going to be late!  Gun it!” It was at that moment that Daisy announced, “You know, Renee, I am not the most organized person?  My dad has to really help me in the morning.”  No kidding.

It’s been two hours since I dropped the girls off at school.  The dishwasher, full of Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven cooking instruments, is running and I am falling asleep at my desk. I am trying to remember who’s idea was this?  I feel like I was the one who had the sleepover, not Lulu.

Was the sleepover a “rookie’s” mistake or the act of an overly optimistic mother trying to make her daughter happy?  After almost 10 years of parenting, I don’t think that I can be referred to as a rookie anymore.  So, I guess I’ll have to go with the optimistic (read: naïve) mother defense.  So I am guilty of making a REALLY bad and exhausting decision.  Even worse, my husband was right: Having a sleepover mid-week was a REALLY bad idea.

I HATE it when he’s right.  I really do.


Summer Camp: Why It’s Important For Your Kids

Summer Camp: Why It’s Important For Your Kids

KidsI have NEVER relished the idea of sending my precious child to overnight camp.  In my last post about Lulu leaving for camp, I tried to come to terms with why it was a good idea for Lulu (and for me) to go to camp. Since writing that post, I have been approached by a few parents wanting to know about Lulu’s personal experiences at camp and how specifically, she benefited from the experience at such a young age.  (Lulu was 7 years old when she attended Camp Thunderbird in Bemidji, MN.)  I thought that her experiences and my observations were worth sharing with others who might be considering sending their children to overnight camp this year.

friends1. Make new friends: Learning how to get along with other children

Lulu has never had a problem venturing into new environments when she doesn’t know a lot of people.  Lucky kid, right?  But because she is an only child, she has also learned how to survive amongst ADULTS and not necessarily other children. It seems that meeting and befriending adults is a lot easier than befriending children her own age.  Being at camp has helped Lulu learn the social cues appropriate for children her own age. A well run camp allows for social trial and error without there being lasting and significant social consequences.

2.  Working together as a cabin and a community teaches teamwork: one of those “rest of your life” skills

Overnight camp is more than just a place to do”Arts & Crafts”  and “Swim in the ice cold lake.”  Lulu is part of a bigger group made up of campers, counselors, specialists (or teachers) and Camp Directors. Because she lived among all of these people and could not go home, she worked to get along with people from a variety of backgrounds. She couldn’t run back home for assurance.  For example, the girls in Lulu’s cabin worked together to keep their cabin clean so they could win a multi-scoop ice cream sundae at the end of the summer. They had to negotiate who would do a variety of chores including cleaning the bathrooms and showers.  I think that may have been the first time that Lulu willingly picked up a broom, let alone cleaned a toilet.  (BTW:  The cabin did not win the “Paul Bunyan” Sundae challenge last summer.  I guess her toilet cleaning skills were found a bit wanting.)

3. Facing the consequences:  Making choices (good and bad) and becoming self-reliant.

While I don’t consider myself  a “helicopter” mom, I definitely don’t hold back from sharing my opinions on all sorts of topics related to my child.  Summer camp gives Lulu the autonomy to make choices for herself without her parental figures influencing her opinions and actions. As soon as she got to camp last year, Lulu had to decide, and then negotiate with her cabin mates, which bunk to sleep in:  the top or bottom?  Which 2 clothing “cubbies” were hers and where it was okay to hang her poster of Justin Bieber?  Each day, her counselors asked her what she wanted to do during the 4 activity periods the next day. She could decide whether she wanted to swim or practice archery.  Work at the farm or go horseback riding?

4. She has ownership over her life.

As Lulu so eloquently put it when I asked her why she loved camp so much: “I can really just be myself and everyone accepts it.”

Camp counselors typically don’t hover the way that parents do.  Campers are responsible for making many decisions on their own, and face the consequences of those decisions. For instance, if Lulu spends her whole summer working on pottery, she might miss the chance to try out for the camp play or go on a fishing trip. At camp, Lulu owns her choices and, other than reading a letter from home, doesn’t have to share them with anyone or receive anyone’s unsolicited input like she would at home.  And we’re hoping that practicing these skills might help her when she gets a bit older and we aren’t as accessible to talk through choices and consequences with her. The best thing about becoming more self-reliant is the incredible sense of self assuredness and confidence Lulu has when she comes home from a summer away from home.

Despite spending several summers at camp, my daughter still relies on Adam or me to remind her to make her bed or brush her teeth. Camp is a great way for children to learn to do these things on their own. Because I’m not there to remind her, Lulu is forced to remember them or suffer the consequences of the camp counselors or director. When she returned home from camp last year, I was astounded that she made her bed and brushed her teeth without my constantly having to remind her. (Note: The Camp Director told us that this would happen and that it could last up to a month.  It last 2 weeks before I had to remind her to make her bed and feed the pets. But those we 2 very wonderful and liberating weeks for her parents.)

5. Hey! Slowdown girl!  Life slows down for 8 glorious weeks.

No cell phones ringing.  No dvd players, television or video games glaring to distract my child from the world going on around her.  And yes, there is at least an hour a day where the girls must play quietly in their cabins, read a book or listen to music on their iPods. There is a big part of me that’s convinced Lulu actually learned how to read because she couldn’t watch television at camp. And she didn’t seem to miss her electronic toys—at least she never mentioned them in her letters. Without these distractions, she was able to find new hobbies, connect with other kids through card games and jacks and, perhaps, sharpen her imagination and story telling skills.

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6. Who knew that I could light a fire with just one match?  Or play the guitar? 

It’s obvious, but one of the benefits of summer camp is that kids get a chance to learn new skills. Regardless of the type of camp a child goes to (sports, art, circus), a child comes home with new skills and perhaps a lifelong love for something she may have never discovered had she not attended camp. For a mother who attended a Quaker (aka: no violence, please) high school, it’s ironic that my daughter loves and is good at Riflery.  They don’t call her “Eagle Eye” for nothing, you know?

7. I really MISSED you MOM!

This one’s my favorite:  All year, it is taken for granted that Mom and Dad are around to make my tween’s life easier  When she comes home, at least for the first few weeks, Lulu is SO appreciative of all of the little things that we do for her: like put her laundry away. All of the sudden being picked up from ice skating lessons takes on a new importance and appreciation.

So there you have it, seven great reasons to send your child to camp for the summer.  I admit, in January, summer camp seems a million years away.  But the time creeps up on us parents pretty quickly.  Between running back and forth to school, making sure that homework is done and ensuring our children make it to sports practices and music lessons on time, the idea of camp may actually sound pretty appealing to many parents.  My point is that not only will you benefit from some time off from your parenting responsibilities but so will your children.  You will be amazed at how much they grow, change and succeed!

The saddest sign to a camper:  "So Long."

The saddest sign to a camper: “So Long.”