Capable. I don’t know the etymology of this word, but I have to think it means someone with super powers who is deserving of a cape? Wonder Woman comes to mind. Yet, it’s a loaded word. It’s almost smug, like the phrase “that’s how we roll.” It’s meant to be positive, but there are intimidating implications.
Today was my first-grader’s last day of school. All of the first-grade girl moms got together to put on a party, spearheaded by a particularly brave, confident mother of two girls who hosted it at her subdivision clubhouse. There was pizza and a bouncy house and cookie cake and white wine and little girls singing Lady Gaga karaoke. In other words, it was the perfect combination of #girlpower and #mombonding.
Where I grew up, we didn’t have named subdivisions or clubhouses. My mom was friends with other moms but she had a career and wouldn’t have been able to attend a party in the middle of a Wednesday. I had two friends who’s moms I was comfortable around. I felt (and still feel) that they loved me, disciplined me, and treated me as their own (Mary and Sally, I’m talking about you.) Because of their example, I make an effort to treat my children’s friends in the same informal way: full of laughter, affection and praise, but punctuated by a stern lesson when appropriate. As a kid, I mostly viewed “other moms” as intimidating and standoffish. I could plainly tell they took no particular interest in me: a tall, self-conscious usually quiet and shy little girl. It should be said that I was born in Iowa but grew up partially in northern California which was the hipsters paradise before hipsters were a thing. In Mendocino it was normal for children to refer to adults by their first names, even teachers. Almost thirty years later in American history, this dynamic would not fly in even the most progressive city in Kansas. As a rule, I ask my children’s friends to call me Miss Emily instead of Mrs. Kuhlman. Some call me Mrs. Kansas, which I find particularly tender and endearing. Some just shout out “Bye, Emily!” And I love it, because I love them and I’m rooting for the adults they might eventually become.
I often say that you can tell a lot about a child by getting to know their mother. But the key is in the “getting to know” part. If you judge a mother on what you see at the very beginning, you might be missing out on a future soulmate. Women make snap-judgements about each other for all sorts of reasons…too brash, too sentimental, too religious, not religious enough, too ambivalent, too overbearing…the point is, whatever people see in you, there is a grain of truth in it. The sooner you can embrace that about yourself, the sooner you can forgive it in others.
This is one of my longer posts so I hope you’re still reading because I am about to tell you a story about a little girl I saw today.
In my child’s grade, there is a little girl who uses “walking sticks” due to a special leg condition, we shall call her “H”. She was in my daughter’s class last year and I lingered at drop off to watch wistfully every time I saw my daughter stop and wait for her so they could walk in together. At the end-of-school party today, there was a bouncy house. “H” cast off her pink walking sticks and declared she wanted to go down the bouncy house slide. I happened to be standing nearby when a little blonde, we will call her “C”, poked her face through the bounce house net and said, “H wants to go down the slide, we need your help to carry her up there.” There were a lot of moms standing around that she could have asked, and I was flattered that she chose me. So I thought to myself, well I could go in and hoist her up to the top, but maybe there is a better way. So I offered to C the idea of having H use her hands to climb, while C guided her feet (rock wall style). Another little girl instinctively ran to the top of the slide to simultaneously cheer on “H” and help her to the top. To the kids, it was a normal problem-solving game, but to me it was an example of the normalcy of the values of inclusion, responsibility, and integrity my children are learning from their peers. They didn’t work for it, question it, or expect praise. It was normal to help their friend. As it should be.
I already know and love “C’s” mom, but after watching this beautiful child patiently guide her friend’s feet so she could experience the joy of the slide, I believe I have struck pure gold in the Mommy/Daughters friendship department.
From time to time, many moms, myself included, feel particularly hurt by comments from women “friends” (and usually rightly so), but in the group of women I’ve met through my daughter’s school, judgement and toxicity need not apply because you will.be.shut.down… with a smile and a forgiving heart, by the moms and daughters alike. They are a super group of fun, wondrous and “cape-able” advocates for their daughters and women friends.
That’s how they roll.