Friends help carry the load

These holidays, a friend and I continued one of our traditions: school book-covering day. We’ll pick a day in the December holidays, stock up on tea/wine/juice/whatever dulls the pain sufficiently, sit at opposite ends of her large dining room table, covering books, listening to music and chatting. Our 5 children play happily in the background and an otherwise monotonous task is finished in no time.

Our friendship is as old as our boys. She likes to tell the story this way: 12 years ago, we were the moms whose babies wouldn’t move. They would sit like abandoned marshmallows on the paving outside the crèche they shared while all the other babies crawled and shuffled around after this red ball or that shiny object. “Never mind,” we’d console each other. “Yours will move any day now. I can tell. Look, he’s leaning over in just the right way.”

Now with our moving, jumping, romping boys going to Grade 7 at the same school, and 3 more children between the ages of 5 and 9, we share memories of further pregnancies, first school days and many, many birthday parties.

She was the one who threw my baby a first birthday party. An exhausted mom of 3, I had neither the inclination nor the energy to do it. She offered up her house, invited some close friends and provided snacks and activities for the older kids so that we could all celebrate Joe’s birthday together.

Both divorced now, we buoy each other up. Our philosophy, only slightly filched, is: “It takes 2 single moms to raise a child.” And so it does. When she’s away on a work trip, I’ll check on her boys to ensure all is well. When I’m in a late meeting, she’ll fetch my three and feed them. One of us always manages to lose an important school notice. A quick phone call and we’re up to speed again. She’s watched as one of my sons has become more confident as he gets older, and I’ve been impressed by her son’s improvement in reading.

As I watched our boys playing together recently, I marveled at the fact that they’ve been together for 12 years. Another friend said that he was more in awe of the fact that she and I were still friends after all these years: making friends and maintaining friendships as an adult is hard to do. Work commitments, a busy family life and sometimes different parenting strategies can pull friendships apart. Not so in our case. We’ve accepted each other for who we are, ensuring a lasting bond that won’t easily break.

As our kids start another year of school, I’m looking forward to them making new friends, learning new things and having new adventures. One of my greatest wishes for all of them is that they meet a friend like mine: one who’ll be at their side through it all.

Do you find it hard to maintain friendships as a parent?
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