My boys spent their first night apart this part weekend.
My eldest son was invited to his best friend's house for a sleepover. Although we've had many sleepovers with friends over the last few years, we have always hosted the boys' friends at our own house. This was the first time either of my big boys have spent the night at a friend's house.
Though there's always a little bit of anxiety when your child spends the night anywhere other than home, I wasn't worried at all. My eldest is a confident kid, comfortable in almost any social situation; he's well-mannered and courteous so I have no concerns about his behavior in other people's homes; and he's grown used to sleeping away from home over the years with once-a-week visits to his dad's and an occasional sleepover at his grandparents'. I know his best friend's parents well and trust them completely. I knew my boy would be just fine.
But this is the first time in their entire lives my two older boys have spent the night apart.
We are a family who spends a lot of time together. I drop off and pick up my boys from school every day. We attend our boys' soccer and baseball practices and games together as a family. Date nights with my husband are spent at home together after the children are in bed and our weekends consist of board games, field trips, and family movie nights together. We don't have our kids in daycare, hire babysitters for evenings out, swap child-minding duties with friends or send the boys to their grandparents' for the weekend. Family is the focus of our lives, and our family spends a lot of time together.
The first time my boys spent the night away from home or from me was when my eldest was four years old; though their father moved out of our home when they were only one and two years old, their fist visit alone with him wasn't until a year and a half later. That was hard both for me and my boys, but as time went on grew accustomed to the idea of my babies being away from home one night every week or two and the boys eventually adjusted to sleeping at someone else's house every now and then.
But what made that adjustment so easy is that they had each other.
No matter what changes or new experiences they've ever had in their lives, my boys have always had each other.
When I returned to work and they had to spend a few hours a week in daycare. When I started dating the man who would become their stepdad and my brother helped out with babysitting. When they started visiting their father once every week or two. My boys have always had each other.
Never once in their lives had they ever spent a night apart until this weekend.
It's not that we don't encourage our kids to be independent; we do. As much as we are all about togetherness and family time, we also encourage them to think and make decisions for themselves, to exercise their own judgement and learn from their mistakes, to make their own friends and explore their own interests and choose their own activities.
Somehow, though, perhaps because they are so very close in age, our eldest two boys have spent much of their childhood acting as - and being treated as - a unit; "the boys" rather than two separate individuals. They share a bedroom (they won't have it any other way!), they play with the same kids at recess, they have the same favourite toys and books and games and even their favourite playdate friends are siblings. Rarely are the two boys ever separate - even if they want to play different games or watch different shows they'll do one together and then the other rather than just play separately or go in different rooms.
So spending the night apart was a pretty big deal.
Not three minutes after saying good-bye to his brother Middle Child turned to me and said "it feels weird that he's not here."
I knew it.
We talked about it a bit, how the boys have never spent a night apart and it was going to be an adventure, how much fun Eldest Child was going to have with his friend and what we could do to make our own night special, what we'd do at bedtime so it didn't feel strange. We planned a make-your-own-fajita dinner and make-your-own sundae dessert. We played his favourite board game and he got to choose the DVD for movie night. And at bedtime we set up the extra mattress in his bedroom and he and Baby had their own special slumber party, just the two of them.
Eldest Child had a blast on his first sleepover at a friend's. Middle Child had a lovely evening at home on his first night without his big brother. And both my boys moved a tiny step closer to independence - not just from us, but from each other.
You might also like...
Can boys play with girls' toys?
"Mom"ing other kids
Coffee dates with the kids