I saw the school’s phone number light up my iPhone screen and I immediately grabbed for it, as any caring and available parent does when they see such a thing.
“Hello, this is Julie,” I said…feigning a calm I did not feel. Usually such a phone call means my girl is sick, or something has gone wrong, and I was an hour away from the school. I took a deep breath as I waited for any one of the very wonderful and caring office workers to tell me what was going on.
But to my surprise, it was her voice I heard.
“Mommy?” she said, and I responded quickly, “Yes…honey…what’s wrong?”
“Nothing really…it’s just, you know, today is that special lunch at school and I didn’t know if you could come or not.”
We’d talked about this already. How I could not come and eat with her today at school. How I had to be at my office in Lexington. I reminded her of that, and she said, “Oh yea….”
My heart sank. Fast and hard.
I thought fast, somehow sensing that for whatever reason she needed one of her people today. She needed someone in her village to be at that school for her. I asked, “What if I see if someone else can come?” And she agreed that would be fine and I promised I would do my best and we exchanged “I love you’s” and hung up. And I took another deep breath and fought back tears and thought, “Ok, who can do this?”
Every. Single. Prop. in the world today to my friend Joel, who works down the street from my girl’s school, and who is most definitely one of her people, and was willing to brave a noisy and chaotic elementary school cafeteria so that she would, in fact, have a person there just for her.
I’m beyond grateful to him.
This, y’all, is what people mean when they say, “It takes a village.”
This, y’all, is community.
This, y’all, is how I have any success at all as a parent. Because I do not parent alone. Not a single moment of a single day. Even when it feels otherwise. And I am so very, very lucky in this.
Because parenting is not for the faint of heart.
But seriously. It’s not. This is why entire industries have emerged on helping folks parent well–because we’re all so desperately (even if subconsciously) searching for the one thing that will help us do it all just right. Because we don’t want to mess up. We fear messing up. We fear that we will somehow, maybe without even realizing it, say or do something that causes harm or inflicts emotional pain or keeps our precious ones from being all they can.
It’s not just me, is it?
Jobs. Fragile economies. Difficult relationships. A so very too fast paced society. Divorce. Extra-curricular activity schedules. Keeping up with the Joneses (or whoever else). Managing money and time and careers and kids and grandparents and fitness and a balanced diet… All of it. All the time. In our faces. Screaming for our attention. Making us feel less than.
And it’s so damn easy to give in to it all. To believe that we have to keep up if we have any hope of our children being successful. To honor the false gods of competition and constant busyness instead of paying attention to the human beings our children are trying so hard to become. To think we have to read the right book or take the right class or listen to the right person if we are to have any hope of getting it right.
But here’s what I’ve learned…or at least, am trying to learn. Curly Girl, with few exceptions, does not care where we live, or what my job is, or how we spend our time as long as we live our life together. As long as she knows she is loved, and safe and not alone…well, everything else is peripheral. It took me a long time to realize this truth about her, but now that I have, I’m learning to set aside my own mistakes and inadequacies and focus on just being her mother. On loving her with all I’ve got. On helping her be someone who loves.
I do not care about her success. I care about her wholeness. And I believe that if she knows wholeness, even when life hurts, that the successes will come. And I believe that a key part of wholeness is being part of a deeply loving and truly authentic community. This is why I sing the praises of the men and women and peers who make up her village. She and I both are stronger for their presence in our lives.
This is all why, too, I wish we could stop with the blaming and shaming as parents. With the assumptions we sometimes make that we have it right and they have it wrong. Because the truth is that no one formula or way of being or set of rules works for every family. Most days, I truly believe, we’re all just doing our best and that best would be so much easier to live into if we’d offer one another more support instead of often judgment. It’s hard enough to traverse this journey.
Tonight CG and I will do our Monday dance–ballet, homework, dinner, books, and probably an episode or two of Jessie or Girl Meets World. And we’ll both fall asleep exhausted. And likely with lots on our minds and even more in our hearts. And tomorrow we will do it all again.
But we will not do it alone.
And the thing is? This is how we can do it at all.