When our first son was born, I was not quite 24 years old. We were attending a church where I felt supported and cared for, but many of the moms I knew with children my son’s age were much older, or they had older children who had other activities. Very few of my friends had children, so the concept of playdates seemed out of reach.
By the time my second son came along, not too long after the first, a few more people had kids, but now it was a mammoth task to try to get out of the house with both of them and keep everyone alive. We could handle small, contained places like the Chick-fil-a playground, although there was always the possibility I’d have to climb up into the play structure to retrieve a disobedient child who didn’t want to leave. Parks, libraries, museums… they were my worst nightmare.
The good thing, though, was that once my younger son was about 2 or so, he and his older brother were natural playmates. They didn’t always get along, but it was nice that we didn’t have to leave the house in order for them to practice social skills. They were socialized all day, every day, in the safe and familiar context of our own home. The problem, though, was that I wasn’t getting much time with other adults. It was me and the two boys most of the time.
Fast forward what feels like many years, and here I am with an 8-month-old baby girl. My boys are at school all day, so most days it is just me, the baby, and the dog at home. As 2017 drew to a close and I found that our days were becoming more predictable with the baby’s schedule, and as my closest friend and her baby girl moved halfway across the country, I knew that I wanted my daughter to develop friendships with children her own age, and I knew I needed to develop deeper friendships with moms I already knew a little bit.
A long time ago I read a book by Sally Clarkson in which she said that after moving to multiple places when her children were young, she found that if she wanted to find community with other moms, she was the one who had to initiate it. If she waited for someone else to, it would never happen. I’ve thought of that many times over the years, and I’ve taken action in smaller cases with individuals, but I never really tried bringing together a large group of people. To be honest, it felt risky. What if I tried and no one was interested? What if it started strong and then fizzled out? What if I was the only one feeling lonely and isolated at home some days?
I decided that I would pick something that I was going to do anyway: taking my daughter to the children’s room at the local library. It’s a newly renovated space that’s perfect for crawlers, early walkers, and older children. Then I picked when I would go: Wednesday, after her morning nap but before lunch. Then I made a list of other moms who I thought might be interested. Then I sent some individual texts to each mom. After that, I also posted it in a Facebook group for moms at our church in case I left anyone out or there were some new moms who I didn’t know yet.
The first week approached. Most of the moms I texted personally told me it sounded great and they hoped they could come, but from experience I know that doesn’t necessarily translate into action. I sent a reminder text the night before, but only one mom confirmed that she was definitely coming. I told myself that if it just ended up being me and her, that would be great. She’s a new mom who truly wanted to come for adult interaction, and we would be able to talk plenty if it was just the two of us.
The morning we were scheduled to meet, I received one more text from someone asking for the address of the library. OK, two other moms! When we got inside, there were two more moms already there. As we began to talk and I introduced a few of them to each other, more moms and kids trickled in. By the time everyone was there, there were nine moms, including me, and all of our kids: eleven out of the womb and three still in the womb. Two other moms texted me while we were there to say they had been hoping to come but had gotten sick. Then, to top it all off, before we left, one of our moms met another young mom who was there with her daughter. I introduced myself as well, and she asked me if we were part of a playgroup. I told her that if we were, it had just started, but we would be meeting weekly at this time and that she was welcome to join us.
I left feeling lighter. I don’t know if there will be nine moms next week. I don’t know if the mom we met will come back. But I’m going to be there next week, and every week that I can from there on out. It’s obvious I’m not the only one craving fellowship, relationship, community. And what’s even more amazing was that it was so simple. All I did was pick a place, time, and date that was good for me and said I was going to show up. And then a bunch of other people showed up, too.
As we drove home, my daughter talked to her stuffed dog and I listened to Jill Phillips’ song Show Up:
We’re so used to an immediate response
So used to giving up when things don’t work
We know the long obedience is hard
No short-cuts will make it easier
‘Cause the journey is so long
But the difference is made
By the million small steps along the way
You don’t have to save the world
All that hero talk is only superficial stuff
If you want to change the world
All you got to do is show up, show up, just show up