My littlest muffin is pretty outgoing at times, but her umbilical cord is still pretty short. She will talk to almost anyone, but she likes to have her mom nearby. Only rarely has she ever been separated from her parents, and on those occasions she's always been with a sibling or two, and she's almost always been at home. She's never been away from home without siblings, and almost never without a parent. It was only about six months ago she stopped breastfeeding. Most nights she still ends up in her parents' bed. At every personal slight or bump she needs a hug and cuddle. She always wants to come with me if I have to run an errand, or on the half-day trips to Nelson for Erin's piano lesson. She likes to be close to me, my little one. And she loves physical contact. When she joins me in the family bed at night, she invariably wraps all her limbs around me, tight.
So imagine my surprise when about three weeks ago she decided that she wanted to go and spend the night at her grandmother's. I'm not sure where she got the idea. The older kids used to do an annual pre-Christmas sleepover at grandma's, but that hasn't happened in almost 2 years and Fiona clearly had no recollection of that, because she thought she was the first to ask for such an date. She was tenacious with her idea. She brought it up many times with me, and persistently with her grandma.
Grandma had a trip away, then we were away, and then Fiona got a cold. We kept putting it off. But finally this morning, with her cold tapered off into just some sniffles, she woke up and packed her backpack and announced that today was the day.
After supper I drove her down to grandma's. She suggested I could come as far as the door with her, or maybe come in for a minute, but then it would be time for me to leave so she could get on with the sleepover adventure. I said "maybe I'll stay for a couple of minutes to make sure you're feeling okay about everything." She said "well, you don't have to see how I'm feeling, because I'll be feeling fine." Such confidence!
She waltzed in with her bedraggled, too-small backpack with the broken strap. I watched as she unpacked to show off all the treasures she'd brought. She'd brought her toothbrush, a comb, two hair elastics, some lip balm, pyjamas, a tiny night light, a cuddly toy and a book. Pretty good packing for a 4-year-old, completely unaided. (She looked so sweet that immediately upon arriving home I ordered her a lovely on-sale Hanna Andersson backpack set with some of those curiously strong Canadian dollars.)
She sent me off. She had plans for "drawing, a snack, a bath, a game of cards and a story." I half-expected a call at 10:15 saying that she'd like my company overnight in the guest bedroom. But it's past midnight now, and no call. I guess her confidence was more than bold intentions. Although I never would have imagined it was so, she seems to be ready for this big jump in independence. Who'd have guessed?
Well, apparently she knew perfectly well that she was ready. I think when children are not pushed towards independence before they're ready, they know exactly when and how to lead the process.