One of the weekly events I have is because of a dream of mine. Some people dream of vacations in old age, but I dream of being the 85-yr-old woman on the block that preschoolers want to play with. I have it all pictured in my mind: a small tow-head telling his mom in a piping treble that he's headed over to see if Miss Susan can play.
I remember and treasure the adults I knew in childhood who knew how to play. They are my heroes.
A friend nearby is in a position very familiar to me, because I was there just a couple years ago. Single parenting because her husband's often working on the road, two young kids at home with energy and nap schedules that make outings draining, and one of those children being frighteningly smart, curious, energetic, strong-willed, and verbal. Ever had one of those? It's like being on a tilt-a-whirl in a hurricane some days.
These kinds of kids are enchanting and delightful. In small doses. Whenever someone offered to take my toddler, I'd push back a bit in warning: "Are you sure? She can be a lot to deal with." If they persisted, I figured it was caveat emptor and they had been forewarned. Once I saw a haggard look on their face or a stunned sort of shellshock, THEN I knew we could talk honestly about whether they were up for watching her again. Sometimes it would take multiple exposures. In the middle of my firefight, it could be so very, very frustrating to have others look surprised that I thought my kid was difficult. I often wanted to protest that I wasn't a bad mom; they just didn't know my child like I did. If they had to spend every day as point person, they'd agree with me! I knew they would.
These experiences sank into my bones. Seeing someone else in the same predicament made it a no-brainer for me: I get a weekly playdate with her kids. She's still point person. She still has the dirty work. I just know that I'm uniquely positioned to understand her and understand her kids, too! It can be fun when it's just a couple hours in a week. And oh, the difference between 24/7 and 21/7... The day I got a break automatically became my day of worship. I looked forward to that time all week. Monday was doable because Thursday was coming. I got the bliss of setting down the heavy weight I hefted the rest of the week, and because my parenting muscles got a break, they had a chance to rebuild.
I don't believe in karma. I don't even think I'm doing anything terribly hard. My friend probably thinks I'm a saint and her savior and that I hung the moon and walk on water. For me, it's paying it backward in recognition of where I was and how hard that time was. It's about paying it forward so that I CAN be the senior citizen every kid wants to visit. More than anything, it's about encouragement. Sometimes it's nice to know it's possible to survive young children without committing homicide or winding up in prison. You know, the little things in life.