Enrolling my firstborn into Kindergarten was as big a milestone for her as it was for me. I didn’t know what to expect, and was probably as nervous as she was for the first day of the school year. As I was talking to a seasoned mom friend of mine (who I have the utmost respect for), she gave me one piece of advice that I thought would be important to share. Her advice had nothing to do with how to teach my daughter to read, or which activities to enroll her in, or anything related to academics and school.
Her advice to me was, “Make as much of an effort as you can to get to know the other moms and parents while Noelle is still in Kindergarten because it will be a lot harder when she heads into 1st grade and above.” She told me that Kindergarten is where nobody really knows each other that well yet, so people are naturally more willing to get to know new parents. It is also the year where parents are more likely to walk their kids to the classroom. I don’t know if this is true for all Kindergartens, but I found it very true for ours. At our elementary school, parents are required to park their cars, and walk their Kindergarteners to their classrooms every day. This was no longer true even for first graders, where I’d often see parents roll up to the curb in their cars, and have their children jump out and run off to class on their own.
My friend mentioned the benefits of getting to know other parents, such as being able to arrange carpools for one. It was another way of expanding my village; another way of easing the juggle, challenges, and stress that comes with parenthood. I was a little nervous putting her advice into action because I’m not a natural extrovert. I can make conversation, and I wouldn’t say I’m an extreme introvert, but it does take me some time to open up. Initiating hangouts or even starting conversations with new people is not my forte. Nevertheless, as the first day loomed near, I kept her advice in mind. On the first day, nobody really talked to each other while we waited around for our kids. I questioned whether a mere 5 minutes before or after class would help me forge these new potential relationships.
Perhaps not, but I’ll never know because shortly after school started, we got an invitation to a classmate’s birthday party. I really made an effort to talk and get to know some of the other parents during that party. It also helped that Noelle had an early in the school year birthday (January), so it gave us the opportunity to seek out and invite her classmates and their parents. Then a couple weeks after the party, we invited some of the parents over for dinner. We took that first step in the initiating process beyond just bumping into each other at school, and in turn, they continued to reciprocate.
As the school year went on, we started texting each other on the regular. One of the moms who regularly volunteered in the classroom often told us stories of what the kids were up to — conversations heard and actions taken that I didn’t get to see. We were each other’s eyes and ears, and sometimes, each other’s hearts. We coordinated summer camp schedules so the girls could be together at least some of the weeks, and we arranged carpools so one would do pick-up and another would do drop-off. One kind mom even offered to shuttle Noelle to her activities – WHAT. Being in similar life stages, and our girls’ friendships, gave us a natural avenue to connect. I don’t know if it’s because the parents became close that our daughters became the best of friends, or the other way around. But somehow, we all felt a sense of connection. I have come to really appreciate this newfound community I’ve found in these parent-friends, just as Noelle’s found her place with their children.
My friend was right on the mark with this one, and I am so glad I took her advice. Parenthood is a lonely journey at times, but it doesn’t have to be. I am ever grateful for my village – the old, the new, and the yet-to-comes.