Theresa Boedeker shares a story about her daughter attending a sleepover and learning how to advocate for herself. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Leslie Yu on Unsplash
Overnight birthday parties for my daughter were commonplace when we lived in Seattle, but now that we had moved half-way across the continent, Ashley had not been invited to a sleepover for over a year. Until now.
All the seventh-grade girls from her small private school would be attending, she told me on the drive home, bouncing in her seat.
Everything seemed in order until Ashley mentioned the movies they were going to watch. One was a scary movie.
I knew that this movie would scare Ashley beyond her limits. In a few years, it would be no big deal, but with her current maturity and fear tolerance, she would probably be afraid for a while.
One evening at bedtime, I sat down on top of her bright yellow coverlet scattered with large red and pink blooms, and we talked about options.
“I want you to go,” I explained. “I’m so excited you were invited. But I’m worried about you watching this scary movie.” I told her it was not a movie that was wrong to watch, but if she watched it, she would probably be scared to be alone in the house and have trouble at bedtime.
She agreed. She did not want to be scared.
We brainstormed a few options.
I could pick her up before the movie, which was slated to begin at midnight (because what better time is there to scare one’s self than midnight)? But then Ashley would miss out on the morning activities.
I could call her friend’s mother and explain that Ashley was not allowed to see the scary movie. But the other girls were excited to watch it, and their parents were okay with it. No need to ruin the party.
Ashley finally decided to just go to bed while the girls watched the last movie. That way she wouldn’t be so tired the next day and she wouldn’t get scared. Problem solved. Plan made.
I knew this would be a hard choice for Ashley to keep and execute, but I agreed to her plan.
This would be a good learning experience and opportunity. For the last few years, I had been involving her in more decisions that affected her, helping her slowly gain independence. I wanted her to learn that choices come with outcomes and consequences. Choosing clothes, activities to participate in, discussing vacation ideas, planning a party, and letting her be in charge of her homework gave her opportunities to make choices. This was how she was learning—on small decisions that carried small consequences. I hoped in a few years when she needed to make bigger choices, she would know how.
Together we practiced answers she could give when and if the other girls questioned her about not watching the movie. I gave her full permission to blame her mother.
A few days later I picked Ashley up from the crowd of pajama-clad girls, all sporting adorable bed hair.
We hadn’t driven very far down the dusty, half-mile gravel drive when Ashley burst out, “I did it, Mom!”
When the scary movie came out, she explained to the girls that she was going to bed because she didn’t want to be scared. She glanced at me sideways. “I also said that my mother told me I could not watch it.”
“No problem,” I laughed. “You can always blame your parents and make us the meanies. That way the girls will be mad at me, and not you.”
“You’ll never guess what the girls said,” she gushed. “They said I could watch it and you would never know. That they wouldn’t tell on me.”
“So, what did you say?”
“I told them I would know, even if you didn’t. And if you asked, I would not lie to you.”
My heart swelled.
She went on to share that a few of the girls had admired her choice and told her so that morning.
I squeezed her hand.
I was so proud of Ashley. She had stuck to her decision and came away braver, and better able to follow through with her choices, despite peer pressure. She had proved I could trust her.
Now I needed to be braver. Let her make more choices and trust her to do the right thing. I knew I would sometimes have to let her make mistakes, too, and hope she would learn from them and grow. The very idea made me uncomfortable. But being a parent involves being brave. Brave enough to gently and slowly release my grip on her as she heads towards adulthood. One small opportunity at a time.
Theresa Boedeker likes to tell stories, write, and laugh, but not necessarily in that order. As a mother of two children (15 years apart), and a wife, bravery is something she works at. She blogs at TheresaBoedeker.com and is passionate about eliminating the stigma that mistakes carry, the lies we believe, and the shame we hold onto. She is currently offering a free resource on her website with ten tips on how to let our children make more decisions and, in the process, make some mistakes. Theresa enjoys people, flowers, laughing, being outside, and doing creative things.