By Meredith Baker Originally posted on her personal blog: lifeofabaker.blogspot.com
Olivia and I are part of a play group in the summers that is connected to our church. We've been going for the past 3 summers, and as we attended our last one of this summer, I reflected on how much this group means to us. To me, especially.
Today, after play group, I reflected on what a special thing we have together. I took a step back from the immediate moment-by-moment of what happened, and saw something beautiful, for which I found myself overcome with gratitude.
Today, I arrived late. I am late to everything, and these folks know that. No one gave me a hard time, and the conversation started instantly and easily. Olivia clung to me almost the entire time - wanted to sit on my lap, eat the breakfast I couldn't convince her to eat all morning, watch and listen to the adults. They engaged her in our conversation, asking her questions about our recent vacation, etc.
No one was bothered by the presence of little eyes and ears as they drifted in and out of conversations, and when my child finally left my lap, someone else's was on theirs. And no one minded when we all, inevitably, had to take turns stopping mid-sentence to attend to sandy feet, wet bottoms, hungry tummies, or little bodies demanding swings.
One parent had to work, so the babysitter brought those kids. She knows us all and we brought her into the fold. She knows our kids, too, and they enjoyed having her there to play and help.
A few other parents had been gone most of the summer but were there today. We made sure they didn't feel out of the loop just because they hadn't been involved in every single playtime for the past 9 weeks. The group does this for me every summer, too, as I rejoin while they've carried on throughout the school year.
Everyone helped someone else's kid. Everyone disciplined someone else's kid. "Leave the sand on the ground." "Wait your turn." "Share the toys." "Do you need help?" "Can I help you while your mom/dad is busy?" "Would you like some _____" (fill in the blank here: snack? sunscreen? toys?...)
One parent's child had a meltdown, and when we all asked how to help, they simply said, "I don't know what to do. We might just have to leave." But they didn't leave. And there was enough trust in that group to admit not knowing, and to stay through the difficult part, knowing that the community would support them. It was profound and powerful.
We shared stories of our insecurities as parents, as people. We sat with our common wish that sometimes, someone would just tell us exactly what is right for our kiddo and exactly how to do that, when we all know that there's no way to know until you guess and check and get it right.
We laughed about times when we've messed up and we shared happy stories of things we've done this summer and summers past. All of our kids ate one another's snacks because we've all had a week where we've forgotten a snack and that is, of course, the week that our own kid is ravenous the moment we arrive to the park.
Today was not special. Today was not unique. I find this community every week when I bring Olivia to this group. A place where we can feel understood and welcomed and vulnerable and human and that's all OK. We get to be with people who love us and we love them back. And for that I am so thankful.