On Monday, they have VBS. I drop the kids off in the church basement, which is decorated for a journey into both outer space and scripture. Even Nolan, at three, is old enough to join his brother and sister. They all wave to me cheerfully, hardly a half-glance back after I sign them in. Their friends greet them with smiles as they race to their spots on the floor to learn a new song and hand motions.
“Have fun!” the volunteers tell me before I escape. I give them both a smile and a silent prayer of thanks for their willingness to step in here so I have a morning to myself. They’ll spend the next three hours singing, dancing, creating, snacking, and laughing while I run errands, write words, and rotate loads of laundry in a quiet house.
I walk up the steps and back out into the sunshine. It’s amazing how much easier I can breathe without six little hands pulling on my arms, my shirt, bumping into my legs, without little voices asking for a snack, if they can go to a friend’s house, wondering where the moon is during the day.
Tuesday afternoon, we set up a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway. I’m sure we’ve become a familiar sight to the neighbors since we’ve been out here at least once or twice a week for most of the summer. Caden’s cries of, “Lemonade! Lemonade! Who wants lemonade?” reverberate around the neighborhood.
A lawn crew drives up and stops. They walk over and contribute two whole dollars to our cause. Nolan pours wobbly cups of lemonade, and my daughter hands them out. The nine-year-old from around the corner stops by, too. She passes her quarter to Caden and says she told her friend we were outside, that she would be over soon to drink lemonade and to play.
It doesn’t take long before we’ve gathered an entire group of neighbors in the front yard. Kids ride back and forth on the path in front of our house on scooters, balance bikes, and skateboards. Another mom, a friend from just down the street plops in the grass beside me. Some of the older kids race around to the back of our house to play on our playset and Nolan follows. I’m grateful for these pre-teens. I need a break from his energy, and they can wear him out better than I can. I take advantage of their enthusiasm until it’s time to go inside for dinner.
Wednesday, I text with a group of friends from the twins’ first year of preschool. We text often and still see each other occasionally for playdates or cocktail hour. They’re an easy group of moms to be with—they’re funny and easy-going. I can tell them that my kids are jerks and receive commiseration, not judgment. They understand, they’ll say, since their kids are jerks, too.
“I may have set a world record for the number of curse words said in a single morning,” I send out one day.
“It’s something in the air!” one replies, “I called my mom and dropped them off with her so I didn’t hurt them yesterday!”
“My husband and I have nicknamed our five-year-old ‘the little twerp’ this summer,” another responds.
I’m in good company here. Despite these text threads, no one takes anyone else too seriously. We still think all of our children are lovely, intelligent, delightful human beings. Except for the times they’re not. And then it’s nice to have the space to vent without fear of judgment.
On Thursday, my kids go to a local park for a summer program. Unlike the ease of drop-off at VBS, Nolan is not happy about this. Though they’ve been going all summer, he calls for me today: “Mommy!” and tries to run after me. A teacher stops him, sits with him and his big crocodile tears in the grass. I keep walking so as not to prolong the inevitable.
“Wait for Harper to come!” he had told me, wanting me to stay until his very best friend arrived. I did, but today that wasn’t enough.
“I was there for a while and he cried the whole time,” Harper’s mom, one of my own best friends, tells me when we come back at noon to pick up the kids. Nolan sees me and runs over with a smile on his face, tells me he had fun. Harper’s mom and I look at each other and shrug.
On Friday, I use an app to talk with a group of women. We chat here almost daily. They’re all moms and all writers, so our interests naturally overlap. Despite being scattered across the entire country, from California to Texas to Minnesota to Pennsylvania, they’re my people. I never expected to have such a close-knit friend group scattered across the country. Technology is both weird and miraculous that way. We often wish we lived near each other. When life gets too hard (this is often), we talk about gathering all of our families together and starting our own commune.
Mostly, though, we talk about anything and everything else. We talk politics and writing, faith, and feminism. We share ideas for summer activities for the kids, give advice on breastfeeding, share photos of both the first day of school and the furniture our children have scribbled on. We send sleepy vibes to each other’s kids and coffee gift cards to each other.
As moms in 2019, we often hear about “the village” or “finding your tribe.” That we should have one is a foregone conclusion according to social media. Admittedly, I don’t think too much about mine.
This village is often portrayed as a single unit, one solid friend group that comes together to provide meals, companionship, advice, and support for one another. Really, it’s not unlike the commune my friends and I joke about forming. As though motherhood were like “Friends,” but with more spit up and less time to drink coffee on an overstuffed couch at the local coffee shop (though, ironically, with more coffee). Yet this idea of the village is as impractical as it is unrealistic for most of us. I don’t have one group, one neighborhood, one single cohort of mom friends who fulfill my needs as a mother.
My village isn’t one thing, one place, one group of people. It’s the entire fabric of my life woven together and so much more. It’s my twins’ t-ball team and their swim coaches, my three-year old’s dance teacher whom he adores. It’s the parents and grandparents and cousins who take the kids overnight and celebrate with us on holidays. It’s the people in our church and our friends from preschool and the teachers at the summer park program who console Nolan through his tears. It’s the neighbors I can grab when he splits his chin open and I need someone to watch my two three-year-olds so we can go to the ER. It’s my best friend who watches out for my kids just like I do and the app that gives me access to my strongest support group and fiercest advocates at any time of day.
My village lets me vent, meets me for pedicures, edits my writing, shows up in my front yard on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon. It’s not until I sit down and reflect on a week in the life, a completely ordinary week in so many ways, that I realize how large my village actually is.
Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography
Shannon is an interior designer turned stay-at-home mom. She and her husband have always been overachievers, so they kicked off this whole parenthood thing with not one, but two babies (yup, twins). A third followed exactly two years and two days later. A complete bibliophile, Shannon also finds it impossible to say no to iced coffee, pedicures, or a good beer. You can find her scribbling her thoughts on motherhood and life on her blog and on Instagram.