By Shannon, Ladybug’s mom
Play dates for 6-year-olds are all kinds of awesome. And I mean that from my perspective. I just offer the occasional snack (they prefer baked cookies, but could care less whether they’re homemade, so why should I?), the occasional called-from-the-other room instruction, and just now, a bit of Caladryl for a bug bite. Really not too taxing.
Previously, with the under-age-6 play date, it was all kinds of taxing. They wanted to paint, they wanted to cry, they wanted to break my house like so many matchsticks.
Two and a half hours into this one, I’m hearing their cheerful chatter in Ladybug’s bedroom while I catch up on some blog reading and a little work. Of course, it depends on the child you’ve invited over. Some are more easygoing than others, of course. And some are more polite. Polite is very important to me. Impoliteness can result in one invitation only. We’re sticklers for the polite (it’s really my husband). (And NO, I’m not saying my daughter is the Queen of Polite. But if we’re in hearing distance, we require it from her).
On this day it’s not only a play date, but a full-blown SLEEPOVER, Ladybug’s first (cousins excepted). And this guest is very polite. Case in point: I just asked the girls if they’d like frozen pepperoni pizza for dinner (as in, not from a pizza parlor) and the sleepover friend nicely inquired, “Could I have mine warm, please?”
I think it helps that she has an English accent and nearly everything she says sounds nice. Everything went swimmingly, until that evening. Ladybug wouldn’t – couldn’t — go to sleep. The play date friend apparently has a 7 p.m. bedtime at home, which I absolutely can’t imagine.
My daughter’s internal clock is tuned to eternal night owl. She prefers to stay up late and sleep late the next morning. I thought kindergarten would cure that. Just before she started “big school” last fall, my mom friends with older kids told me in a knowing voice: “She’ll be falling asleep on the way home” and “You won’t have to ask her to go to bed. Mine was asleep by 7 o’clock – kindergarten is tiring!” (Shush with the 7 o’clock, people. It’s disheartening).
They were wrong, wrong, wrong. Yes, she went to sleep a little earlier, but she wasn’t dropping off on the way home from school — or even by 7. I know that much of the sleep situation is my fault. I get Ladybug into bed at a decent hour, but she often derails the early bedtime by something as simple as a thought-provoking question. She’s learned I can hardly resist answering those, which is what my savvy 6-year-old is banking on.
Take the other night: She tells me she has to ask me one thing. Against my better judgment, I walk to the door of her room. “Yes?” I say. She asks: “Which one: lion or hyena?” (We’ve played this many times. What she means is: in a face-off, which animal would win?) Nothing like talk of slaughter to lull you to sleep.
I pick lion. I turn to leave so she quickly calls out “duck or chicken?” A tough one. “I’d have to vote for the chicken. Their beaks are sharper,” I reply. As I reach the living room, she raises her voice and asks one more: “Orca or blue whale?” Knowing I should refuse to be reeled in, I walk back to her door and say, “Hmmm. Orcas are toothed whales, but the blue whale is the biggest whale in the sea. I’ll have to choose the orca.” I call out to my husband for a second opinion: “Orca or blue whale?” He replies without a beat, “Orca. They have teeth and they usually don’t travel alone.”
The night of the sleepover, Ladybug’s friend got to answer the never-ending list of questions. She even asked a few of her own. I finally sent Ladybug to sleep on the couch so her friend could close her eyes already. Then they both went to sleep, mercifully. The next morning they asked in unison: “When can we have another sleepover?!” I told them soon. Soon.
Frozen pizza: $3.50
Movie rental: $4
Someone else to listen to endless questions before bed: priceless