Several days ago, my hubby and I ran into another couple whose children are out of the house. In the salad dressing aisle, we discussed how life changes as our kids grow and spread their wings. The mom advised us to cherish this time of running around after the kids doing sports and activities on evenings and weekends, that it “goes fast.” The dad then commented that when the kids are gone, “You go pick apples and then go to the grocery store on a Saturday.” That comment resonated with me as did they compassion in their eyes. They “got” what we were feeling.
Recently, I read a Young Adult novel entitled Posted by John David Larson. In it, the protagonist talks about how we assemble tribes of like-minded people who share our interests. As one whose kids are growing up, I am struggling with the life change. Our tribe is clear when our kiddos are little, are immediate families, our extended families, and perhaps some coworkers. You don’t really have time or energy for much else. As your kids grown and present you with new challenges, you begin to realize the value of speaking with other parents, perhaps joining a club like Mom’s Club. We do this to establish connections with similar people who understand the rthym and chaos of our lives and may have some wisdom to offer us.
As we change over time, so does the makeup of our tribes, but they continue to be about tapping into the shared human experience. Recently a dear friend of mine posted the following comment on Facebook, “Friends this morning was a hard morning as a mom. It hit me hard that my baby is growing up and I can't control everything. There were tears...lots of them. I am so thankful for the mom friends in my life who boosted me up and helped me feel better.” This is the power of the tribe, to alleviate pain through sharing it. Life is hard and we all need tribes to help understand and navigate it.
I have found the collective wisdom of my tribe particularly helpful in dealing with the physical changes of age. For example, when out with a group of women of a “certain age” two topics inevitably arise, insomnia and irrational mood changes. I am completely convinced that the woman who sleeps between the hours of three and five am is as rare as a unicorn. But somehow knowing that there are others like you out there makes it easier to focus on breathing, to let go of stress and worry, and to eventually fall back asleep. How many women can relate to breaking into tears at a Sam’s Club when your husband and kids didn’t order you an ice cream because they didn’t know what flavor you wanted. Perimenopause can make you bonkers. As I age, the kinship and wisdom of my tribe of women friends is proving critical. When I thanked a friend for a recent kindness, she replied that she “was not sure... [her advice was] always wise, but it’s definitely REAL.” That’s what tribes do, they allow us to connect with each other and so better understand ourselves.
I am learning to accept the reality that one of our chicks has flown the coop. I am proud of him for this accomplishment. I want him to soar, but I will admit to feeling chagrined that I don’t hear from him as much as I would like. Another wise companion pointed out that this is the natural order of life, that we should want our children to be confident enough to stand on their feet and face their own challenges. I truly want that for him, but it’s not easy to let go. This is another strength of the tribe, to allow us the perspective to get past our own selfish desires to see the greater good.