Thursday, September 26, 2013

Motherhood and More: Whole-family friendship is much more fun*

This past weekend my family had a long-overdue get-together with some friends.

As many parents know, trying to find the time to leave the house is extremely difficult when you have three other schedules to work around, as is the case in my household of two parents and two small children. We have soccer and birthday parties and work and school and general life duties that take up much of our time.

So carving out a chunk of a day to spend relaxing with friends is hard. But what makes it even trickier is finding people you have commonalities with, and whose kids play well with your kids.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes you don’t mesh well with the parents but your kids are friends. Or maybe the kids’ personalities conflict and create great chaos, which leads to parents spending the entire visit monitoring the children and making sure no one goes home with a black eye.

But sometimes you find people who are your people. They think a lot like you and they parent similarly. And they pass the ultimate “couples with kids” friendship test — the kids become friends, too.

I look for what I call the ability to “free-range parent.” I will be there to kiss boo boos and be the parental presence, but I expect the kids to play without my interference. I do them and myself a disservice by hovering when they’re interacting with other children.

And this weekend we had the perfect blend of nice weather, nice people and nice behavior. The two other mothers and I became friends through work at The News-Enterprise and our kids are all close to the same age, ranging from around 3 to 6 years old. Our husbands cliqued, too, which was helpful.

When I told my kids who we were going to visit, they both were excited. My son declared he was going to run up and hug the boys he’d been missing.

We can’t seem to find the time to visit as frequently as we probably should, but carving out an autumn Sunday to spend together was pretty amazing.

There was zip lining and baseball and trampoline time — all in one backyard. The children took turns and played nice and ate copious amounts of cookies. The adults watched football and talked and ate. And then ate some more.

But in spite of all the junk food and belly aches from too many cookies, it was a fantastic day. Since I spend most of my time with my kids at home, it’s so nice to be in adult company — especially pleasant adult company.

And even though we wait far too long between visits, it’s great to know that whenever we do find the time again, my kids will have their own friends ready to go.

And that means I can actually enjoy myself instead of worrying. Which is pretty great.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on September 25, 2013.    

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