Editor's note: Meet Kelley Helfand, who will be writing columns for the Foothills section about once a month.

Helfand, 36, is the mother of two boys who attend Catalina Foothills School District schools. She and her husband, Michael, moved here from Chicago three years ago.

In her column, Helfand will explore family and women's issues.

I hung up the phone and turned to my husband Michael.

"Preston was just invited to his first sleepover at a friend's house. I said we would get back to her. So what do we think?"

Preston recently completed first grade at Manzanita Elementary. He is nearly seven and is independent and outgoing.

He has had many sleepovers at his grandparents' house in Sahuarita, and he certainly doesn't miss us when he is away from home. He was ready.

The question was, were Michael and I ready? We knew and trusted the family with whom he would be staying. We knew that many kids in his class had already had sleepovers. We believed that he would behave well.

We were hesitant because this was a milestone, albeit a minor one, in the life of our son.

When Preston was a baby, we were eager to see him reach milestones - talking, walking, blowing kisses, becoming potty-trained. Now we are more anxious than eager about milestones. We want Preston to learn and mature and experience life, but not grow up too fast.

When do we allow our son to call his friends on the phone just to chat? At what age do we leave him home alone while we run to AJ's? At what age do we allow him to have his own e-mail account or cell phone? How do we know if he is old enough to see movies like "Avatar" and "Iron Man"?

We know the answers depend on our child's personality, our parenting style and beliefs, our experiences from our childhoods, and yes, to some degree, on what his peers and their parents are doing.

Still, these decisions are not easy.

A few days after the sleepover invitation was extended, I called back to say yes. We packed Preston's pajamas, favorite blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste, and Michael's cell phone number in Preston's backpack.

We dropped him off at his friend's house. Their night of fun included a trip to Blockbuster to choose a video, gelato at Frost and a visit to the Apple store to play with the iPads.

Michael picked up Preston the next morning. They walked into our home, Preston going on and on about his big night, his eyes a little more tired than usual.

Then Preston's 4-year-old brother, Griffin, looked up at me and said, "Mommy, when do I get to sleep over at my friend's house?"

E-mail Kelley Helfand at foothills@azstarnet.com