I remember sitting in the required parenting class at Women & Infants Hospital when I was pregnant with my first child. The instructor talked about ways to reduce stress in our daily lives. They were common sense things, like sleep when the baby sleeps, take a hot shower, go for a walk, talk on the phone… Talk on the phone–that one seemed silly to me.  How does talking on the phone reduce stress?

Fast forward a few years. It’s the five o’clock witching hour as I (try to) prepare dinner. Everybody is tired and hungry, including me. My husband is not expected for hours, which means I’m on my own for the dinner-bath-bedtime routine.  With the spaghetti boiling over and the kids calling for cookies, I mentally run through my bank of common sense things. I grab the phone and dial.

“Hi,” I say, “I have like half a minute.”

“Me too,” she says.

“Crazy day.”

“Same here.”

The quick exchange is enough to get me through the evening.  Parenting is laborious, worrisome, wonderful work and one phone call to this long-time friend is a reminder that we all get stuck in the weeds.  When we have more time, we discuss everything from play dates and nutrition to schools and vaccines.  We share our greatest delights as mothers and our deepest (sometimes irrational) fears.  We help each other cross things off the worry list.  When we have even more time, we make the trip.

We’re driving to Cape Cod. It’s February and the ride isn’t easy. My car is small and my kids are right in my ears. They start off excited but turn cranky by the time we hit the bridge. They’re bored and hungry and we have to stop in every public restroom off Route 6.  Finally, we pull up to a quintessential Cape Cod house on a quiet, snowy hill. My phone call lives here. We don’t get to visit often so everything is magical and new: the toys, the rooms, the view, and a cat named Soccer to boot. The four kids are staggered in age and complement each other beautifully. They slip into a gentle world of play that comes with friends you only see a few times each year.  My phone call and I sip lavender-chamomile tea and talk about winter things: short days, vitamin D, hectic school-week routines.  We trade hand-me-downs and make plans for apple picking and the zoo. These plans might never happen due to time and distance, but it doesn’t matter. It’s good to dream.

The next time we visit, it’s summer and we walk to the beach.  The girls play mermaids and the boys conquer Crab Kingdom.  We swim and talk about summer things: sunblock, late nights, the lack of routine.  Back at her house, I begin the countdown and gather our things.  No one wants to leave, including me.  I look out her window at the quiet, grassy hill and ask, “How do you stop yourself from just laying in the grass all day?”

“Ticks,” she says. “Everything’s menacing.”  We laugh. I know just what she means.

Who do you call when you’re stuck in the weeds?

Photo credit: Christie O’Campbell