Friends vs Village
Growing up, I had plenty of friends. People I spent time with and shared a few common interests. We went to movies or roller skating. Sometimes, we just hung out and talked. As I grew older and my life changed, I found myself needing something different. I had children before any of my friends did, which set me apart from them. Believe it or not, having kids changes your priorities and lifestyle. I needed friends who understood sleepless nights and last minute cancellations because of children. I needed friends who understood booger and poop talk, but weren't grossed out by it. I needed people who didn't shy away from the raw, real life of parenthood.
I thought I had those people after my first two children. They kind of ran away when my third came and food restrictions came up. Many didn't understand the strictness with which I handled food. Others didn't want to endure the restrictions I had to impose. I lost people I thought had been on my team.
I found others. Those who could handle the limitations or who seemed like they could. Get togethers were rarer, though. Then, Will started being more intense with his explosions and needs. And Mack grew more destructive with his sheer size and strength. More dropped off.
Leigh and I were largely alone in parenting. We...well, I had a group online whom I could talk to about various kid things. Those who had done the allergy thing and the intense kid thing. I didn't have friends with kids like Will. Not really. Some kind of understood Mack. Most loved Rory. She was smart and mature and kind. She wasn't troublesome in any way. Will was fine as long as he had been fed and was in a good mood and I gave him transition time or rushed him out without giving him time to scream. Mack, though. Mack climbed their walls...or mine. Mack showed other kids how to destroy stuff. Parents don't like that.
Then, I started spending time with Dani. At the time, we were both very pregnant. We spent a lot of time at either my house or hers. She lovingly cleaned and prepared safe foods without question. She fed her then four-year-old twins only those things that were safe for Mack. Once our babies were born, she happily hiked with us and brought safe picnic foods.
I also started to cultivate a relationship with Saucy. She too had safe choices for her kids while we were around. She didn't complain once and quickly adjusted her life and home so they were safe for Mack. Her oldest son and Mack became quick friends because they shared their fervor for disassembling and examining all the things. We call them "brain trust" because they are brilliant, but impulsive. They are wonderful. Saucy trucked her kids to parks and museums with me.
I even got Saucy and Dani together and the three of us formed what we called "sister wives". We held each other up and loved on each other's kids. We began celebrating birthdays and holidays together. Our kids call each of us "aunt".
About a year ago, I also brought in another friend, Beth. She had expressed a need for kids and mothers who wouldn't be intimidated by her son's rough play tendencies. I commiserated. We got together and Mack and her son became fast friends. They are wild and crazy and love being together. I knew Saucy's son and Dani's son would love each other too.
Now, I have a tribe. These women understand my plight. They don't struggle with food allergies or autism (that we know of), but they love and support my children who do. They don't question the need for safe, inclusive spaces. They are happy to have children tear through a room screaming and jumping. We parent together. We support each other. We complain and rejoice together. We watch each other's kids. We aren't intimidated by them. Massive meltdowns and wall climbing are common place.
Friends are lovely to hang with and sip coffee. A tribe is home. A tribe is family. I am beyond thankful for mine.