Ryann started Kindergarten this year. It has been a much anticipated milestone in this house. She has always loved school, loved the friends, loved the teachers and the learning. She also super loved that all of her preschool classrooms had multiple toy phones. I think the lack of toy phones is the only downside to Kindergarten.
In our little tribe of “friends who have become a family of sorts” there are three other kiddos starting Kindergarten this year, too. One in each family. Each kid started “big school” at a different school last month. Many months ago the moms dreamed up “Kindergarten dinner.” We wanted to take these soon-to-be Kindergarteners out for a special dinner, just them and their moms, to celebrate this big milestone.
A few weeks ago four moms and four five and six year olds met at Portillo’s for Kindergarten dinner. We ordered hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken nuggets (and a few chopped salads) and moved a few tables together for our feast. As we’d finalized our plans the week before I’d wondered if Portillo’s was the right choice. Should we have done something more “sit-down” and grown up to celebrate the big occasion? After watching their squirrelly excitement multiply with proximity to each other I knew we’d made the right call. They may be "big kids" but they’re still unable to sit still when they all get together. We gave each kid a chance to share about their schools and classrooms, what they loved, who they sat by, what the best part of the day was. They excitedly found similarities in each other’s school lives (“I go to the library too! You have recess?? Me too!”) and they all reported that they liked their teachers. At the end of dinner there was a lot of coordinated hands in the circle “go teaming” to the shouts of Kindergarten! (Five and six year olds are so funny!) At some point in the meal they’d started planning the band they were going to form and, outside of Portillo's, the drive through line was treated to four raucous kindergarteners singing/playing four different songs on imaginary instruments. I predict their first record will go platinum.
In this little Kindergarten cohort there are two boys and two girls. Finn and Grayson were born just a few days apart in August. Nine months later Ryann was born and six weeks after that came Caroline. I’ve known their moms since high school, but it was when these guys were babies that our tribe fully came together and we started meeting intentionally and regularly. Charity and her family had just moved back to the area and Kelly and her family came into the fold all around the same time. For the whole of Ry’s life she has known these three women. Finn, Grayson and Caroline have been her constant playmates. They’ve celebrated each of her birthdays, she knows the ins and outs of all their homes and their families. Outside of her siblings, these are the kids that are closest to her, her people. And their moms are her second moms. She knows Lauren will pick her up and give her the biggest hug when she sees her, Charity will stop everything to hear about her day and Kelly will cheer her on in whatever she does.
At one point in the dinner Charity told the kids she was really excited that there were four amazing kids going out into the world to be brave and kind and loving and that we wanted to mark that with our little celebration. I added that I wanted each of them to know that there are four moms here who love each of them so much and who will be cheering them all on every step of the way as they go out into the world.
There’s been lots said about the need for a village. Jen Hatmaker calls them “bonus moms” in her new book and writes a more beautiful tribute to them than I ever could. Whatever you want to call it, a tribe, a village, bonus moms, second mothers, the experience of other people loving and caring about my kids has changed me and shaped my kids lives in incredible ways. I am so incredibly thankful for these women in my kids' lives. Thankful that I get to be in their kids' lives.
At the dinner we decided that this would be a tradition for the (many) kids we have coming up behind these four. (Between the four families we have 12 kids…so far.) This is the only year that each of us have a kid starting kindergarten, but we decided that in the future all four moms will attend the Kindergarten Dinner, even if we don’t have a kindergartener that year. Because we want all our kids to know that all the moms care about them deeply, that we’re here for them, that we’re cheering them on, rooting for them, eager to celebrate their successes and help pick them up after the losses. These kids have a tribe and I’m so happy to be a part of it.