We're Old Hat At This
On Saturday, A. threw another one of her (now somewhat famous) slumber parties. It's amazing how the entire process has evolved for both of us. When she first became interested in throwing slumber parties, I found myself full of anxiety and worry, terrified that no one would show up, and nervous that the entire event would become one serious social faux pas after another. I stressed about cleaning the house, I would buy all of the food and snacks in the world, and I'd try to make sure the girls had access to all kinds of games and activities in case they got bored. I was pretty much a basket case and a tense ball of anxiety whenever we would host one of these events.
Now, however, it's almost as if we've become old hat at this. I don't stress too much about the house being immaculate, because I know it's only going to be trashed after the party anyway. It's easy to let A. take the lead. We both clean house together, we both go shopping for snacks together, I order pizza and pretty much let the girls take care of themselves. We are dealing with preteens, after all, and they are relatively self-sufficient, which makes the entire situation much more laid-back from my perspective.
Our slumber party on Saturday was a pretty amazing success. Three of A.'s good friends from school came over, and they ate pizza, snacked on candy, shared sketchbooks, watched silly Internet videos, watched anime together, and made crazy movies with Pokemon figurines. It's interesting how much everyone has changed in the few short months since the last time we had a sleepover. The girls are more mature, are more adept at keeping track of their stuff, are a little less loud and chaotic (though they still like to shout and engage in playful antics, thankfully -- I'd hate to see them grow up too fast!) They're toting along tablets, laptops, and smartphones now instead of Pokemon cards and stuffed animals, and they engage in conversations about dealing with the deaths of relatives. Conversations about death ended up being a good teaching moment for me and A. When her friends were sharing their news about their grandmothers and aunts dying recently, they did not show very much emotion about the events -- I'm guessing they've probably had time to heal somewhat, and death is always a difficult conversation topic no matter what your age. Because A. didn't perceive that they were upset, she didn't comment on the conversation topic, and instead would try to move the conversation to Internet videos and other shared interests (like she usually does.) After her friends left, I got to talk to her a little bit about how to react when someone shares such sad news, even if they don't seem very sad themselves -- that death is a difficult thing to discuss, and there's never really anything you can say to make things better, but that it's polite to at least acknowledge the news with "I'm so very sorry to hear that," or something similar. I think A. understood what I was trying to tell her. It's interesting, because I think those sorts of reactions are exactly why so many people assume that autistic individuals have a difficult time with empathy. I could be wrong, but I don't see that as being the issue with my daughter at all. If her friends were visibly distressed, she'd be distraught herself, and would want to help them feel better. I think where my daughter struggles is with understanding specific social situations that may cause someone to feel upset, especially if it isn't an obvious visible reaction. It's difficult for her to understand that someone calmly talking about a sad or disturbing subject might be suffering if they don't explicitly express or demonstrate that suffering. On the other hand, when she witnesses someone suffering, she's one of the most empathetic people I know.
Other than this small social misstep, the rest of the party seemed to go pretty smoothly. I had to redirect her once or twice to get her disengaged from the Internet or to suggest she find an activity everyone could participate in, but for the most part I just relaxed in the office with my husband while he played video games and I started work on digitizing my VHS collection. I had them all come upstairs into the bedrooms around 1am, but they stayed up until 4, talking, playing board games, and apparently playing several rounds of Uno -- which was a big surprise to me. A. has always had difficulty playing games with others, but she seemed to have a really great time playing this card game with her friends. I was immensely proud of her.
I was also interested to see that A. didn't suffer from the usual social burnout that generally accompanies the end of these slumber parties. Generally, she's ready to have some time to herself once the party starts winding down the next morning. This time, however, she was sad to see it end, and remained social and interactive up to the last girl leaving the house. Later that day, she got a little teary-eyed, and told me that she wished these friends were her siblings so that they could stay together forever.
It really is incredible to watch her social evolution over the years. I'm interested to see where it may go next.