The Monday before Christmas I drove to Rockville, MD by myself with all three kids.
I was very, very nervous.
It’s just a 2-hr. drive, and I know, two hours is not a big deal. I have friends who have flown across the country, and across the Atlantic Ocean with kids. My sister flew from Taiwan to Virginia with three young children by herself…and she was pregnant.
But I’m the kind of person who gets overwhelmed by the logistics of spending all day watching TV on the couch. Who will bring me Cheetos? When will I take bathroom breaks? That sort of thing.
I was nervous because the traffic from Richmond through Washington, D.C. is unpredictable in a way that the drive might take two hours, or it might take so long that my kids will grow out of their clothes on the way up.
I was actually more worried about the unpredictability of the traffic than about the unpredictability of my 7-month old baby.
But I was going to visit some of my dearest friends, which made the drive a no-brainer.
These girls, they feel like home.
When we arrived we were welcomed with our favorite drinks and snacks and toys, and the hostess combed her house for ducks for Mary Virginia.
That’s the kind of friends these are.
The four of us don’t get to see each other as much as we like, but we wanted to make the effort because there are so many awesome things happening in our lives that it just felt good to touch base, ya know?
We all became friends in college, which means we had the luxury of building our friendship on hours and hours and hours of hanging out. We talked and talked and talked on road trips and sleep overs and over coffee. Then we talked on the phone and on AIM.
But, thinking back on our visit, I’m not sure we had one full conversation. Because of kids, right? Because children WILL NOT BE SILENCED. Kids do not care that you want to ask one friend about her maternity leave plans or the other what song she’s walking down the aisle to. Kids do not want to hear about what it’s like to audition for SNL. KIDS DO NOT CARE. And they don’t care because they can’t find the toy Joseph that’s supposed to be in the nativity and NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT.
If you’ve ever tried to hang out with your lifelong best friends who you haven’t seen in over a year and also children, you probably know exactly how this visit went. I was there for most of a day and we barely got to catch up because Mary Virginia and Amanda Giobbi kept bursting out in song.
Or because Candace started doing an activity with Jamie. Or because Andrea stopped everything to look for a piece to a toy David wanted to play with.
They didn’t have to do those things, but they did.
I wasn’t a mom when I met these girls, but now that I am I can tell you this: as a mother, there is nothing more meaningful than watching people love your kids.
The weird thing is that it isn’t a given. It’s much more normal to just ignore the kids; to try to brush them off to a place where they aren’t seen or heard. I’m guilty of it all the time. When I take my kids to a playdate, I get frustrated if they do anything besides leave me alone because mama wants coffee and adult conversation.
Not that there’s anything wrong with adult conversation.
It’s just that when I told the girls that I could come visit, but I’d have to bring my three kids, they responded with an entire screen full of exploding confetti emojis.
They were like, um, duh we want you to bring your kids, it would not be a reunion without them.
That response means so much, and it’s just the kind of girls these are — loving, welcoming, excited, inclusive. It’s how they’ve always been. When you hang out with people all the time you take that sort of thing for granted. But when there are years between visits, qualities like that become all you think about on your five-hour drive home.
You read that right.
The two-hour drive home took almost five hours. I hadn’t planned to stop for dinner, but just three hours into the trip it was already past dinner time, so I stopped at a McDonald’s.
David asks to play in McDonald’s play places all the time, but I always say no. That isn’t really a playground, I tell him. But he’s drawn in by the colorful twisty slides, the characters, the deep-fried sodium.
When I pulled into the parking lot David was glowing with the news that we were going INSIDE! And he could PLAY! And while I was thinking through the difficult logistics of a rest stop with three kids and only two hands, David hugged me before jumping out of the van, “Mommy! This is my best day ever!”
I smiled. Mine, too, bud. Mine, too.