Wednesday, December 9, 2009

That's what friends are for

There's an idea that's been rattling around my head for many months now. It's a concept that I forget about from time to time, but eventually I come back to it.

It's like I have a blindfold on and I'm in a big empty room. Most of the time I wander around aimlessly in this room, alone, forgetting that the walls are there. But eventually, I bang into something and I'm reminded that, "DUH! There's that wall again."

Somehow, in my brain, that analogy does make sense. Doesn't always translate to the written word, however.

Anyway.

The concept I'm talking about is community. That's the word (or the walls) that I always come back to. You know the phrase "sink or swim"? Without the help of a community, I can safely say I would sink. After parenting for 9 1/2 years.....I KNOW that I would sink.

I am a hugely independent person. I pride myself on this independence. Yet I don't honestly believe that parenting is a job that can be done alone (by myself or anyone else, for that matter). There is a sense of well-being and peace that comes with knowing there are people around who are on my team. Your community might consist of your siblings, neighbors, friends, church members, or anyone else who is interested in the well-being of your family. Mine grows a little more every year as I meet more and more parents from our school.

Today, this concept was front-and-center again. My boys had a half-day of school, due to parent teacher conferences. They got out at 11:20. Alexa was in school and she got out at 11:30. Their schools are 15 minutes apart....when it's not pouring rain. Which it WAS today. So when I dropped Alexa off, I asked Mrs. A if she could bring her home for me. Alexa was thrilled because she adores Mrs. A's little girl. If not for her help, I would have needed to pull the boys out early so we could make it to Alexa's school on time. Or Alexa would need to sit with her teacher and wait for us to get there.

(And the best part? Mrs. A's daughter will be going to our elementary school and they live only a few blocks from here, so I know we'll continue to be in contact for many years....helping each other as needed.)

We had a busy afternoon lined up and I called on Mrs. L to see if she could do me a favor. Nick was coming home from work early so we could attend conferences at 1:30 and 1:45 and then take Benjamin to a follow-up appointment at the pediatrician. The boys are very good at sitting quietly during all of this. And Rachel is such a shy Momma's girl that I know she'll sit quietly on my lap. Alexa, however, is the unpredictable variable.

"Mom. I have to go potty."
"Mom. I'm thirsty."
"Mom. Did you bring anything to eat?"
"Mom. I'm thirrrrsty."
"Mom. When can we go home?"
"MOM! Iiiiii'm thirrrrrrsty!"

So Mrs. L and her 2 children entertained Alexa for the afternoon. I could hardly contain my happiness.

Need more examples of how priceless and necessary-as-the-air-we-breathe this idea is?

After Alexa was born in December of 2005, my mother stayed with us for a month. Besides saving our sorry butts from the Laundry Pile of Doom, she walked Nicholas to and from school every day. When she left at the end of January, I was faced with the task of walking to school twice a day, in the bitter cold, with an infant Alexa and Benjamin (who was 3 1/2 at the time). Our friends, Mr. and Mrs. T, stepped in and offered to walk with Nicholas every day until the weather brought warmer temps. My mother, Mr. T, and Mrs. T all came to my aid in the same way when Rachel was born in April of 2007.

We've also managed to save money by relying on our circle of family and friends. My sister-in-law gave me her crib when Rachel was born. Alexa was only 16 months old at the time and not ready to move out of her crib yet. The same sister-in-law lent me her double stroller for the girls. My neighbor's daughter lent us another, larger double stroller when the girls got bigger. Mr. and Mrs. T gave us the bike and scooter that their girls outgrew. We've received hand-me-down clothing for the kids.

And do you know what I enjoy most in this whole thing? When I'm able to pay it forward. I've passed along countless bins of maternity and baby clothing, a swing, a playpen, an infant car seat, a booster seat, a bike, a scooter, a vacuum, a recliner, a leather loveseat....the list goes on and on. When Mr. and Mrs. S when away for an anniversary weekend, their son stayed with us from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. When our neighbors went to Florida for a wedding, their adorable mini-Schnauzer stayed with us for the weekend. When my mother stayed with us and mentioned how she'd love to see a Broadway show, I gave her tickets to see "Chicago" for Mother's Day.

So is this what it means to become older and wiser? This sort of give-and-take can't possibly be a new thing in my life, right?

I think it's always been there, but I haven't always been this aware of it.

Well if this is the sort of wisdom that comes with age, then I'm thrilled to be another year older soon.

I'm excited to see what other things I'll be learning.

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