You watch her dance across the room; light, unencumbered. She weaves in and out of family and guests and dogs, occasionally pausing to watch the Super Bowl. You knew it was coming. Of course it was coming. She’s in second grade. She’s half-way through second grade. It’s really no big deal when you think about it. It’s just a sleepover. A rite of passage. She doesn’t even know she’s been invited yet. For a moment you hesitate, but then you realize you’re not really hesitating. You’re just taking her in. Your daughter. No longer growing out of babyhood, or even into childhood, really. She’s heading into life.
Some of her friends have been having sleepovers for years. She’s mentioned them a few times, but only because she wanted to know when she could have one. First you told her second grade. Then you said third. Definitely third. She was satisfied with that and didn’t ask again. But lately she’s been doing a really good job at growing up. She’s working hard in school, she’s consistently polite, and she’s even found respectful ways to communicate her displeasure when you disagree, which has given you time to reconsider, and often times change your mind. You are existing together in this reprieve from the stormy start at life you had. You want to reward her. Besides, you’re pretty sure she’s ready, which is a strange feeling. You think you’re ready too, which is even stranger.
You sigh. Sleepovers mean so much more than actually sleeping at someone else’s house. They start the race for freedom. The taste of life elsewhere. The grumpy disappointment of retuning home, exhausted and full of comparisons. You can’t help but smile, though. Sleepovers. Giggling, secrets, late-night snacks, card games, movies, crushes, dreams, more boys, M.A.S.H., periods, bras…
Speaking of bras…
You’ve been so caught up in the melancholy of watching your 7 year-old race toward 8 that you didn’t notice what your 5-year-old, who’s been sitting on your lap this whole time, has been up to. Her giggles snatch your attention, though. You look down. She’s been stroking your boob. Right there. In front of your guests. For who knows how long? Fascinated, no doubt, by the fact that you hadn’t even noticed. And how could you? It’s pretty much as padded as a pea under 100 mattresses. You swat her away. You can’t bring yourself to look up at your guests. It’s her fault you don’t have boobs. Her sister’s fault, too.
“Is she dancing in her underwear?” exclaims your 7-year-old, as Beyoncé pounds the stage. “I don’t understand. Why does she want everyone to look at her privates?”
Ugh…because she has them. They sell a look. They sell a song. They get her another show. All things her voice could still do, even if paired with clothing. Though padded bras are what? A better message? They certainly must feel good, though, because you’re not fast enough and your 5-year-old cops another feel. You still haven’t looked up at your guests to see if they’ve noticed how fast your kid got to second with you. As you tickle her hand away, you do the math. By the time she’s old enough to have sleepovers, your then 11-year-old will probably have bigger boobs than you do. And she’ll be dying of embarrassement as you take her bra shopping, trying to convice her that she doesn’t need the same padded bras that you wear because she’s beautiful just the way she is. (Besides, it’s not like they’ll make her look like Beyoncé. With the genes she’s inherited, she’s lucky she needs a bra at all, though you won’t mention that, either).
Ahhhh…sleepovers. The very activity that will no doubt give voice to her inner monologue; the constant companion who will distract her from what’s really going on for the rest of her life.
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