On Tuesday May 23rd, 2006 my entire life changed. At the time I was adjusting to life with two children, my 3 month old daughter and my 2 1/2 year old daughter. Things were going very well. Where I had struggled with breastfeeding my eldest daughter, my younger daughter was a natural. Remarkably, both girls were great sleepers…even at just 3 months old! We were getting comfortable with the adjustments that had been made to our daily routine. Life was full of celebrating milestones, walks along the boardwalk and playdates…lots of playdates.
A playdate is the term our generation has applied to a get together for moms and kids. Back in 2006, my girlfriend of some 15 years, Molly, was also on maternity leave. She had a 9 month old boy. We had a playdate every Tuesday afternoon. Some days we would go for walks and somedays we would simply sit and chat.
Is it because we are women, because we are mothers, or simply because we are human that we flourish when we connect with others? While being at home with a newborn never leaves you with much time to breathe…let alone think…it is not the most stimulating environment. Your mommy brain can only stand so much time reading nursery rhymes and conversing in child talk. Thus, creating a support network with other moms is essential to our sanity.
I looked forward to our playdate all week long. It was wonderful to watch my friend’s child grow and see how comfortable he was in my presence. Not only was our lifelong friendship deepening, our children’s lives were now becoming entwined. The kids were unknowingly being introduced to the all important concepts of sharing and patience. The kids also had an opportunity to watch their moms laugh, relax and chat with a friend…and we all know the value of modeling positive behaviour to our children.
On that particular Tuesday afternoon in May our playdate was progressing as usual. It was a bright and sunny day. Spring was in the air. We were considering heading out for a walk along the beach when the phone rang. It was my mother phoning. She asked if Molly was with me, there was something she wanted to tell me. She had been at the doctor’s that afternoon and he had diagnosed her with colon cancer. I remember hearing the words in my ear and looking at Molly. Our eyes connected and she knew. She simply sat patiently while my mom filled in the basic details. After a few minutes of chatter, I put down the phone and tried to explain what my mom had told me. My mom had known about our weekly playdate and had hurried home to phone me while Molly was still there. She understood the power of having a friend with me when she broke the news. We sat stunned for a few minutes.
We then decided to pack up the kids and go for that walk. Our playdate moved from indoors to out. From being all about diapers, feeding and sleep – to cancer, family, life and death. The shift was dramatic and appropriate. We discussed what we thought it all meant, we stayed positive and even laughed a little. The kids kept right on being kids who needed us.
I have had many playdates since then, with many different people and children. What I have learned is that playdates are powerful. The support network mothers create is critical in the development of a healthy mother, woman and child.