I try to explain to people what my community of parents is like here in Chicago, but somehow I can never explain it properly. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else. Perhaps an example will help, although it may be so convoluted that you’ll give up halfway through. I want to remember this, however, so I’m going to try.
On a warm spring day last week, I was to bring Baxter and two other 3rd graders from his elementary school in Lake View up to meet their parents at their younger siblings’ preschool in our neighborhood as I do twice a week on a regular basis. However, on this day we had invited a friend over after school and so I had one more child than space in the back seat (thus the discussions about which 6-seater to buy this summer). The complicated arrangements that ensued for the next hour and a half were worthy of some kind of chart, which I would attempt if I had any idea how to do it. But it went something like this:
I asked a good friend – we’ll call her Mom A – if she could drive one of my charges in her minivan. She agreed, and said that in fact she’d bring the child and all three of her own girls to the park by the preschool to play with us. We met there 20 minutes later with my 3 boys and her 4 girls, about 10 minutes before preschool got out.
One of my charges’ mothers – Mom B – called me all of a sudden from around the corner, to say that her youngest child had fallen asleep in the van and asked if I could get her daughter from preschool when I went in to get Lyle so that she didn’t have to wake up the little guy. Of course I said yes and started to take the 4 big kids with me. Mom A offered to keep them all at the park with her, and so I went to get the 2 preschoolers and left Mom A to watch 7 elementary school kids at the park.
I went in and got the two preschoolers and ran into Mom C who was getting her preschooler, and let her know that her daughter had driven home with Mom A and was across the street at the park. I delivered Mom B’s preschooler to her van and went to the park with Lyle. Mom C showed up with her son as well to collect her daughter from me and join in the fun.
When I arrived back at the park I found that all 7 of the older kids were holding ice cream bars or popsicles from the omnipresent ice cream man, thanks to Mom A. Suddenly all the preschoolers were flocked around them, with 3 kids taking bites from Baxter’s ice cream bar at once (he’s an awfully nice kid). Before I knew it, yet another parent who had arrived, Mom D, had bought ice creams for the preschoolers when she saw her son engaged in the attack on Baxter’s ice cream.
By the end of the first half hour, I was surrounded by at least 6 or 7 of my favorite parents and about 12 kids eating ice cream and racing all over the packed playground. If it sounds like it might’ve been hard to keep track of whose kids were where that afternoon, you’re right. Quite often I stopped chatting to count kids and had to really think hard about which kids exactly I was responsible for.
However, when it comes down to it, the point simply is that we were all responsible for each other’s kids at one time or another that afternoon, and every 5 minutes someone was offering to do something generous for someone else and their kids. Eventually we headed home, my two boys and the friend we’d invited over, and did homework until the boy’s family came over to join us for a pizza dinner; with five boys around our table, the day continued to be wild, crazy, and a whole lot of fun.
And that’s exactly what I mean when I say that we are a part of a fantastic community of parents. It might be hard to follow but sometimes kindness is complicated.