She’s eight and wants a stay away? I’ll sleep on it

I was keen to cram a few more items into Keola's bag. Getty Images/iStockphoto

I was keen to cram a few more items into Keola's bag. Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

She loved every minute of her first school residential, but I'm not so sure about Keola's next plan, says Jo Malone.

Sleeping bag, two pillowcases, sheet, slippers, torch, wellies, sun hat, sun cream, winter hat – and no aerosols.

It's Keola's school residential trip and she's running through the list of things they've been told to bring.

It's a sensible and comprehensive list too, her school has done this three-day, two-night trip to Holt Hall before, and I know Keola thinks I'm fussing when I keep suggesting she needs more.

She turns down everything. Spare gloves, spare trainers, pens, toys, a light-up balloon (it looked useful to me) all get a no.

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She takes after husband Rob for minimal packing. He's the man who went to spend four months in Australia with only two t-shirts and arrived in New York with just one spare sock, not even a pair.

If Keola could have taken just her wash bag and one change of clothes she'd have been happy.

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Luckily, we had the list of essentials, and naturally I squeezed in spare tops, and socks, and 'have fun' notes from Thalia and I when she wasn't looking.

Helping her pack didn't prepare me for her actually not being there for two nights. With Rob in Holland and Sunny at uni, it was just Thalia and me for two nights – and the house felt so empty.

I thought it would be good for Thalia to have mummy to herself and we did have a few giggles, but it was either Thalia saying 'Do you think Keola's had tea? Do you think she's found my picture?' or me thinking similar every few minutes.

This was Keola's first night without either mum and dad or a sister, and for those of us left behind, it was too quiet!

She hasn't had sleepovers with friends. Big sister Sunny has basically ruined that for her sisters. She used to either complain that she fell asleep and missed all the fun or she stayed up nearly all night and took five days moping about to recover.

One of Sunny's sleepovers at ours involved a late evening guided canoe trail, in a huge thunderstorm. She and her friend were well under ten and I had to pretend all was fine – all was actually very alarming – and the rest of the night, with an anxious friend, was rather challenging. We all took at least five days to recover.

My enthusiasm for sleepovers hasn't returned. Once your child stays at their house, your child wants to host and I'm not that confident with other people's children.

What if they won't eat our food? What if they're allergic to cats? What if they're mean to the cats? What if they have an asthma attack?

What if they sleepwalk and fall down the stairs? What if they run away? What if they're sick? What if they leave Thalia out? What if they don't like something and don't say?

My list of 'what ifs' goes on.

So I've stuck to the 'no, Keola doesn't do sleepovers' when friends ask.

She returned from Holt Hall full of stories; of the girl who talked nearly all night, of boys who were fussy and others who helped the more squeamish gut fish, of orienteering, of finding amazing orange pebbles, of rock pools, endless games, tidying plates, wiping tables and a talent show.

She had 'the best time ever' and she can't wait to stay away again, she says.

Now she's been asked on a sleepover and I don't want her to go.

But I can't think of an excuse.

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