Playgroup: Tending and Befriending
It’s a Wednesday morning in April 1989 and it’s my turn this week to host “playgroup.” My toddler has me up before dawn and the baby is still sleeping. I have tons of time to bake muffins, tidy up, and put on a fresh pot of coffee. At around ten o’clock the moms and babies begin to arrive.
The five toddlers clamber downstairs to the playroom to dig into the myriad of Lego, Fisher Price, Ghostbusters, and Ninja Turtle toys awaiting them. Oh boy, there will be a big tidy up when this is over.
The five moms gather around the kitchen table, some of us with babes in arms, some expecting number two or three. The talking began as they walked in the door. All of us trying not to miss a piece of any of the two or three conversations going on at once. Our eldest of the moms (we will call her One for this article) always makes a point of stopping and going around the table checking in on each of us and any stories left pending since last weeks gathering.
Our conversations range from kids clothes, eating habits, toilet training, work, housekeeping, cooking, marriage, sleep, sex, extended family, health … you name it. We have three or four hours a week to get it all in between our toddlers needs and squabbles, babies crying or spitting up, and a few diaper changes.
One topic that needs to get settled on this particular April morning is our birthday night out. All five of us are born April/May and we have begun a tradition that we go out to dinner with no kids or husbands each year for our birthdays. It is a big night for us to get to talk for over three hours without interruption and having to cook a meal.
This birthday tradition continues today, twenty-two years after we first met in pre-natal class. We have nine children amongst us who have all grown up into amazing young adults. Two of us have moved further away, but all of us are dedicated to what has now evolved into a birthday weekend (and one evening at Christmas time).
Nothing stands in our way of getting together. We have done this in a hospital, driven hundreds of miles, worked around crazy kids and work schedules, and I believe there was serious consideration of a trip to the middle east when I lived there (we just did it in June instead).
Why is this bond so strong? We are like sisters without the emotional baggage. We can laugh at ourselves and each other (sometimes with legs crossed). We have held each other up through all the challenges motherhood brings ranging from childbirth, miscarriage, illness, toilet training, sleep deprivation, and tragically, even death. We have celebrated everything from our babies’ first steps to their university graduation.
This past weekend we managed to organize ourselves (not without some serious schedule juggling) to take our dear “One” away to the beach in the Bahamas to celebrate her 50th birthday.
The energy around this was so high, nothing could possibly have gone wrong. And it didn’t. We had a perfect trip. The weather was fabulous and we spent two days bobbing in the ocean or at the swim-up bar chatting over tropical drinks. The level of ease that we have amongst each other is amazing. There are no squabbles or serious issues to speak of. We seamlessly moved through the weekend without much discussion about what to do next.
We know each other so well; there is no judgment, just acceptance of each other and all our idiosyncrasies.
Can you imagine how great that is?
Every time I meet a new mom I try to encourage her to find a few other new moms to bond with. Motherhood can be both the most difficult and joyous part of any woman’s life. If you are lucky, you will find other moms to openly wade through it all with you. I am not sure how it all would have turned out for me as a mother without them. It made the whole journey so much easier. It can be a lonely place, and knowing others who are willing to be real with you about their struggles is truly a gift.