The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The group

It's Tuesday afternoon and my kids are sleeping. Normally, that's all I could ask for -- 2 sleeping kids and some peace and quiet and time to myself. But it's Tuesday, so I can't wait for them to wake up.

Tuesday is playgroup day. Our little group assembles religiously on Tuesday afternoons -- 6 mommies, originally toting 6 babies, now escorting 12 children between us with a 13th on the way. Three years ago this week, we met for the first time, cautiously hopeful that new friendships would help alleviate the loneliness and boredom of those first few postpartum months. I remember being afraid to breastfeed Julia in front of strangers that day and Eileen gave Ryan one of his first bottles there because she felt the same way. I can still recall the fits and starts in conversation -- there was so much we all wanted to say, but no one wanted to come off as anything other than a competent, happy Mom so no one said much of anything that mattered. We traded life histories and admired each other's babies, and for the first day, that was enough. Lauretta put out dozens of appetizing snacks and played soft music on the stereo in her spotless home. It was warm and peaceful and quiet as our babies laid on blankets and we slowly got to know each other.

There will be no crudite today, just some goldfish or pretzels to keep the kids happy, and the only music will come from whatever electronic toys the kids set off as they chase each other around the house. Cynthia certainly won't have cleaned for us -- we all used to make sure our homes were spotless for playgroup but now we leave the house good and messy since the kids are just going to mess things up anyway. There will be nothing peaceful or quiet about 12 kids running and laughing and fighting and screaming. There will be nothing held back amongst the mommies, either. The polite restraint went out the window years ago. Now it's who can talk the fastest and the loudest before someone else breaks in. Nothing is sacred -- our kid's faults, our relationships with our husbands and our failures as mothers are standard conversational fare. We probably know too much about each other at this point, and like it that way. No one's holding much back, that's for sure.

This group, randomly assembled from mothers I met at the gym and at Gymboree, has been my lifeline these past 3 years. Their husbands have become Paul's golf partners and their children are my children's oldest friends. We do girls' dinners out, couples' evenings and family BBQs. This spring, the 6 of us are finally doing a girls' weekend away in NYC. We've talked about doing something like this for years, but it had to be carefully timed -- after Evan and Owen were weaned and quickly before Suzanne delivers again.

We are absolutely nothing alike in our parenting styles. Kim never put a child to her breast, I never put a drop of formula in my kids' mouths and everyone else netted out somewhere in between. We sleep trained early, late, not at all and offered solid foods on similarly different timelines. We are permissive and strict, intense and laid back, we plan and we wing it. Amazingly, no one has ever said a derisive word about a single parenting decision made by another member of our group. We support each other unconditionally and we universally agree that we're all good mothers and we've each made the right decisions for our families even if those decisions might not be right for other families in our group.

Our kids are equally all over the map. We've all got one of each now -- there are 3 older boys, 3 older girls and 3 of each gender in the younger set. We're waiting for Suzanne's baby to break the tie and tip the scales one way or the other. We have kids who walked at 9 months and at 16 months, early talkers and late talkers, easy potty trainers and kids we're still holding out hope for. Sometimes the kids play beautifully together, other times they just coexist, occasionally they fight. As long as they don't interrupt us too much, it's all good.

The first time Julia got sick, Lauretta showed up at my door with cheesy magazines and a candy bar to help keep me sane. Every time since then that one of my kids has been sick, at least one of my playgroup friends has called to check in on us. I've borrowed clothes and baby equipment and maternity wear from pretty much everyone in the group and my stuff is scattered throughout their homes as well. When I was put on bedrest during Evan's pregnancy, Suzanne was on my doorstep within 12 hours bearing weeks' worth of meals she'd prepared for my family. The group met at my house for those long 2 months, arriving each week with food and magazines and news from the outside world. They ran the show, even changing Julia's diapers when need be, as I laid on the couch and reveled in the normalcy and the time with my friends. When Evan was born, I called the whole group from the delivery room, just as they'd all called me.

I've been blessed with many close friendships in my life, and there are certainly a handful who hold more important roles in my life. But this group of women came into my life at a time when I desperately needed them and have stood by me through the most trying and triumphant years of my life. We've got the kind of bond that comes from worrying about each other's prenatal test results and rejoicing over each other's potty training successes. We've shared sleep deprived days, "haven't seen the sunshine in a month" days and "oh my God, if you touch your brother again I'm not responsible for what I say to you" days. And we've been supportive of each other even when we weren't quite sure we deserved any support in return.

As the most rigidly child-schedule focused member of our group, I'm not one to wake a sleeping child. But now that I've finished writing this entry, I'm off to wake both of mine. It's playgroup day. And some things are more important than a nap schedule. If my playgroup friends were reading this now, they'd probably be a little shocked to hear me say that, but they'd know me well enough to recognize that I just paid them the highest compliment I can.


At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Gretchen C. said...

Aaaah! Another schedule mommy like Mary! That's okay, I like you anyway. That's definitely true about respecting people's parenting choices; it's clear that everyone finds what works for them, and the good choices are all over the map.

I'm so jealous of your mommy group. I always figured such groups were not for me, but if a smart, well-spoken career girl like you can find a good fit, then there has got to be some hope. Hmm, I wonder if anyone in my local Mensa chapter would be interested in starting something up? A bunch of nerdy mommies and babies hanging out -- this could be the start of something!

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Another one I could have written. Mom's groups are good to have. And, let's face it...they're *Mom's* groups oh so much more than they are playgroups...

I still won't wake my children for mine, though ;-)


Post a Comment

<< Home