At the end of dinner, as the kids played outside and the parents lingered over weekend plans, abruptly, one of the 5-year-olds began crying inconsolably. She realized this was it. She, far ahead of her friends, realized she wouldn’t be seeing her very best friends at school on Monday (never mind that some of them were going to be going to the same camp together). And in a few short weeks, all of them would head off to different kindergartens.
And while I was sad for the girl who was crying, and for my daughter, I looked around to the other parents gathered that night and I realized I was also sad for me. In a few days, I’ll have to go ahead and find some new “mom” friends. And while I’m sure there will be many in the years ahead, I’m not sure they will ever be quite the same as this pre-school group of mamas.
These are the ones you could text one minute before pick-up in a panic and ask them to entertain your kid because, D.C. traffic, again. By the time you arrived, no kids would look up from the story being read to them. They are the ones who apologetically sent late night e-mails because their daughter wound up with the flu/pink eye/strep throat after dinner and the likelihood of a transfer to a best friend was more than high.
They include the one who got down on her hands and knees to console your daughter crying over a slight from her girl. The one who taught you to bring five times two of every type of snack (to account for siblings and a backup) to play dates. The one who threw your daughter over and over in the pool because you were holding the baby.
The physical lift of the first few years – of toddlers and pre-kindergarteners – is hard to put into words to anyone who has not gone through the mostly happy but exhausting experience. All of these moms know it, and have lived it, from regular days to our D.C. furlough fun days. Of course this intensity diminishes, probably more quickly than we realize, and other, bigger problems, replace those day-to-day challenges.
But that’s why when one mom recently said, “I don’t want to make any new mom friends,” I began nodding in agreement. More than any other friends you have had in your life, these are the ones who were in the thick that is toddlers and new babies right next to you. Moms mostly from somewhere other than Washington, D.C., without the regular promise of family help when needed. The ones, there on a daily basis, who helped you figure out in real time the most daunting of things: how to raise a little person.
We all sense this looming milestone of kindergarten. We all read the blogs and articles that leave us unable to make out the words on our screens. We all know we are on the brink of losing something known, and of moving on to something exciting, scary, and unknown.
That’s probably why, in the last few weeks, we have said “yes” to almost everything. We have packed in more play dates, more sleepovers, more picnics at the pool than ever before. We are scrambling to hold on to every last moment before kindergarten.
Earlier this summer, a lot went wrong for our family at the same time. Over a three-week period we faced a severe illness for daddy, strep for one daughter, pink eye and impetigo for the other; a cancelled vacation; multiple household breakdowns including the air conditioner, and more.
Without asking, a lot just happened from these moms who didn’t ask what we needed, but instead just started doing. Texting that they would pick my daughter up for a playdate, planning two consecutive sleepovers at different houses, helping at the solo parent birthday party. That kind of automatic response that happens when it’s most needed. That I’m going to miss most.
So, to the mamas of “The Fantastic Five,” when we are all at our respective drop-offs, as we walk away from the school bus, or drive away from drop-off and pull over to collect ourselves: take a deep breath. Group text the picture of them walking away. And please, let’s meet for drinks soon.
Melanie Fonder Kaye is a communications strategist, writer and former Director of Communications to Jill Biden. She lives in Silver Spring with her husband and two daughters and tweets @mfonderkaye.
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