Our lovely little one is now six and has been a veteran of the overnight playdate - the sleepover - for a couple of years now.
Kids are so much more sophisticated than we were at their age, aren't they? I didn't stay the night at a friend's house until I was ten and even then I had a few tears in the middle of the night and wished I was back in my own house, in my own bed; hearing the familiar creaks of our old house instead of the frightening, unknown creaks at Samantha's. Also, Samantha's beagle had a rather disconcerting habit of licking any sleeping hands or feet that slipped outside the sheets, which was only slightly better than being slurped across the mouth whilst dozing off.
Our mini sophisticate on the other hand, barely turns to say goodbye when we drop her off. Before the front door's closed we can hear her chattering away to her friend and reminding her friend's mother: "I'm allergic to cats. You don't have a cat, do you? If you do, can you keep it outside please? I like most foods except mushrooms and bananas. We're not having those for tea, are we? Mummy said that I have to remember to say 'please' and 'thank you' and that you are the boss of me whilst I'm here........"
Darling husband Love Chunks and I have a child-free night. We select a restaurant that does not have nuggets and chips on the menu or crayons and butchers' paper on the table, and one that accepts our entertainment discount vouchers. We select dishes that are spicy, seafood-y and experimental. We select an aged bottle of wine that that compliments the meal well. And we talk endlessly about politics, current events, music, our travel plans for the future. Nah, scratch that last sentence. We talk about our daughter. "Wasn't it lovely this morning when she said ....", "Maybe our next holiday could be one where Carly gets to ride a pony and .....", "I just love it when she......"
All the other dining couples around us are in animated conversation. We, on the other hand, now find ourselves sitting there in silence. Not that we're not enjoying ourselves, but we already know each other's news, stories and life events. Love Chunks knows that I'm a sure thing; I know that he's a sure thing and that we'll be taking each other home - there's no pressure on us to win each other over or to worry about who will be offering to pay for the meal.
We're both wearing clean clothes yet are quite obviously out of the loop when it comes to the latest fashions. I am not wearing a sequinned tank top or 4 inch silver heels and LC is not in paint-spattered designer jeans or a diagonally-striped body shirt. Instead we both play it safe in dark denim high-rise (yes, high rise - no tides of stomach flab lapping the shores of the waistbands for us) jeans, dark-blue top for him and basic black for me. LC notices the effort I've made - I'm actually wearing earrings and have put on some lip gloss. Shame about the mascara though. I'm so unused to wearing it that I've already rubbed my eyes and now resemble Jon English with a hangover.
It's now 9 o'clock; we've had our entrees and mains, finished the wine and are both starting to yawn. We're too tired and too full for dessert. Besides, what's worth paying $11.50 for when we've got four different flavours of Cadbury family blocks to choose from at home? When we're in the front door, the heater goes on, my pinching boots get kicked off for ugg boots and LC turns on the Friday night footy game.
Footy's rather fun to watch when the mute button is on. We both sit upright on the sofa like two shy virgins for another hour before going to bed. We have to - our stomachs are no longer used to eating at 9pm and we don't want to risk indigestion, or - god forbid - an increase in the number of nocturnal dutch ovens...!!
The following morning, we wake up at seven am. The house feels eerily quiet, yet still resonates with the vivacity and spirit of our six year old. Even the dog sniffs in her room looking for her. It's nice having the opportunity to sleep in, even if we both still have to visit the loo, let the dog out for her morning whizz and walk past Carly's doorway and see her empty bed.
At lunchtime, we can hear Rebecca's car in our drive as Carly is dropped off. We both rush to the door, fighting to see who'll get to open it and hug her first. Five minutes later Carly's happy chatter turns to whining. She's run out of petrol, good humour and ability to function. Staying up talking all night and waking at 5am in Holly's room has taken it's toll. LC and I look over her head at each other - we're in for a long day. It doesn't matter though; she's home and the house feels complete once more.