There’s been a group of us who have been walking together since our girls began kindergarten. They became fast friends, and so did we. And 15 years later, with our oldest kids off at college, we still make time to get together and walk.
Whether our walks are separated by weeks or many months, whether it’s just two of us or all four, it doesn’t matter. These walks and these friendships are an integral part of my life. We’ve raised our kids together.
Maybe from the outside, it doesn’t seem all that difficult — this business of raising children.
But all that driving, organizing carpools, making snacks and lunches, cooking dinners, baking cookies for bake sales, filling out school forms, scheduling doctor and dentist appointments and parent-teacher conferences, cheering Saturday soccer games, buying new shoes when the old ones don’t fit, finding lost jackets and retainers, planning birthday parties and playdates, keeping track of deadlines for permissions slips, big school projects, SAT tests and college applications takes a lot of work.
And though there is joy in all of it, none of it is simple.
This my girlfriends understand.
We walk, and we talk, and we listen, and we worry, and we problem solve, and we make each other feel better.
Will the kindergartener who is not good at sharing grow up to never share? Will the middle-schooler who doesn’t have any friends be forever friendless? What do we do when one of our kids chooses a best friend we don’t like?
There’s the fifth-grader who won’t raise her hand in class and another one of us who has a kid that raises her hand too much. Will an awkward phase that’s awkward for everyone be a permanent identity? Will the child who challenges everything in third grade be forever challenging?
There was that strange rash in second grade, and the ER visit two nights in a row that had us so concerned, the pesky tummy troubles in eighth grade we couldn’t seem to figure out. There’s too much screen time and staying up too late and sorting through complicated young girl friendships.
When do I bite my tongue and when do I speak up? When do I need to have more patience?
These friends, they’ve helped me figure it out.
Many years later, when the girls were in high school, we talked about how to have productive conversations about more serious stuff, like making good choices, driving and healthy relationships. Suddenly, we’re discussing dorm essentials and what we’re making for dinner the night before they leave for college.
And after we have given our kids everything, they are annoyed by us and push us away.
That’s the way it is supposed to be, but we remind each other we’ve done good. They’ll come back around, and they do. We assure each other, everything will be alright, and we don’t just say it, we mean it and we know it.
Today, I see their daughters, all grown up, bright and beautiful and so capable and strong, and I am amazed. I look at these young women, and I see little girls in pigtails and braids with missing front teeth running around the playground. I see them in Halloween costumes sorting through candy.
Now we are three. And the loss of our fourth, so recently, makes the memories all the more poignant. My feelings are too raw now to write more about it, but I do want to say this: I remember your homemade ice cream birthday cakes. The first dance our girls attended. How one of your daughters had her nose stuck in a book everywhere she went. How you took my kids one weekend without question because my hubby and I needed a break.
I know all of these friends are with me for the long haul, whether they are here with me today or with me in spirit. They’ve got my back, they love my kids, they are my cheering squad and they are always in my corner. And for this and so much more, I am eternally grateful.