My daughters each had a friend sleepover last Saturday night. It was a last minute decision, so there weren’t any grand plans. I bought snacks, inflated air mattresses and then left four girls, ages eleven to thirteen, to their own devices. For over an hour I heard chatting, giggling, and squealing before knocking my eldest daughter’s bedroom door to check in. When I opened the door I was shocked with what I saw.

One girl was sprawled across the bed flipping through a magazine. A second was sitting at the desk enjoying the snack buffet. Girl three was french braiding girl four’s hair. There were several conversations happening at the same time, and they were all talking and laughing over each other. What was so shocking? They were having a blast despite that fact that there was no master plan or effort to provide entertainment. 

The girls were doing exactly what I did as a kid with my friends. The sweet and salty snacks, the silly photos of ourselves (substitute an iPad for a film camera), and the topics of conversation were all pretty similar. So much has changed since I was a teenager, but the truth is that kids are still kids. Yes, life looks very different than it did forty years ago, but we still crave and seek connection, and we need to provide time and space for it.

We live in a “go big or go home” culture, and this has translated into how we interact with our kids. Family nights, birthdays, and vacations have all become over the top events instead of the simple time of connection they were meant to be. Even playdates and hangouts have become overly planned and unnecessarily managed. 

There is no judgement here. I’m guilty as charged. I’m striving to find the middle ground between letting my girls run wild in the neighbourhood from sunup to sundown and micromanaging every moment of  their downtime. This is not an easy task for a type-A planner and list maker.

I joined my daughters and their friends for a few precious minutes. They talked about clothes, braces, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. I giggled along with them and marveled at their confidence and exuberance. As I left the room, I asked if they needed anything. My eldest replied, “We’re all good mom. We know where to find you if we need you.”

They needed help finding more hair elastics and snacks but that’s about it. They made their own fun into the wee hours of the morning. I’m going to continue to think about keeping things simple even if it’s a planned gathering or event. I want to create time for conversation and connection with the people in my life, and to be surprised with what naturally transpires.