My eight year old daughter tried some new extracurricular activities this year and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity this presented me…
Why? A few reasons, actually. I get to see her trying- and excelling at- new things. I get to see other parents parenting (which sometimes- admittedly- makes me feel better about my own parenting choices). I have made three friends who have become invaluable to me.
My eldest daughter is in the second grade. This year, I encouraged her to take Tap and Jazz, which she has not done before. She also played basketball this past winter. (That was another “new” activity for us. I didn’t dance or play basketball. I am neither tall nor coordinated.) Dance class is every Wednesday evening, which means every Wednesday evening, I can be found sitting in a small waiting area with other parents making small talk. Or entertaining my 5 year old daughter. Or checking my work email.
Anyway, I met three women there who obviously were already good friends- and who happened to be the moms of my daughter’s three closest friends. They included me in their catching up every Wednesday and soon I became “one of them”. We shared snacks, carpooling duties and stories. We started getting the girls together more on the weekends; we did the Santa Run together in December. Add in Monday night basketball practices and Saturday morning games for three months, and we started spending a lot of time together. I admire each of these women because they are all so unique, yet are so caring and dependable. And they genuinely love my children. They are honest with themselves and one another and like me for who I am (sadly, even in my 30s, this is not always true with other women). I appreciate that quality more than they know and always look forward to seeing them.
We pick up each other’s kids if someone is running late. We take each other’s daughters on the weekend if someone has plans (heck, I enjoy spending time with these eight-year-olds).
We have become a friend unit that is so strong and dependable, the girls are sometimes confused when their own mothers pick them up from the after school program.
These women helped me realize that no matter what your situation is (married vs. single, two kids vs. one kid, work you take home vs. work you leave at work, etc.) the basic issues we all face as women and parents are the same in every home. Or, at least, those of us living with an eight-year-old girl.
As I began to spend more time with these ladies, I realized that I am average. I am good. They have shown me that it is OK to feel frustrated with being pulled in several directions.
It is OK that my daughters were up 30 minutes late because we played with friends after school. It is OK that my eldest refused to brush her hair before school. Life goes on.
I was raised by a very independent, strong and loving Italian mom. My dad traveled a lot for work when I was little and I see now that my mother’s independence resonated with me more than I realized. I have always known that a woman could run a household alone and do it well. I managed my household alone while I was married and I did it after I was divorced. I divorced three years ago and made a point of running an organized home without leaning on anyone.
These new women friends taught me to let people in.
It actually makes me happy to lean on them. It makes me happy to see my daughters having fun and being loved. It makes me feel good knowing that if I need anything, they are there for us. And vice versa. I love having friends in my life who “get it” and who I would help in a second.
The next “new activity?” Softball. Which I am coaching with one of my new best friends. No, I have never played.
Kids may gain a lot from new activities, experiences, and challenges, but so do parents. Sometimes by encouraging your child to participate, you end up even luckier than they.
Written by Sarah Kessler
I grew up in Vermont and even though I have lived in different towns over the last several years, I have ended up back in my hometown of Colchester. I live there with my two daughters, Isabella (8) and Louisa (almost 6). They keep me super busy and entertained on a daily basis. They also help me maintain perspective, and for that I am grateful. We love to read, go to the beach, bake, run, eat ice cream, and snuggle. I work at Marathon Health and have been in the healthcare field since I graduated in 2006 (although, most of my career was spent at UVMMC). I earned both my undergraduate degrees and my MBA from Champlain College and plan on going back for my MPH, but need to decide where and with what free time!