"We had a good run," I say, and wrap my arms around her. "We did," she answers, squeezing back. We're not teary or ecstatic. We're the perfect blend of both for two moms on preschool graduation day.
Our boys are weaving between conspiring whispers and (failed) tree-climbing attempts. They face each other with glimmering eyes that I've learned to appreciate for the fun they might bring. Their shoes are scuffed, their knees mirror the feeling. But, my goodness, they're happy.
And, truly, so am I. It's a golden day. The sun warms my shoulders and is a perfect reminder of why I love this state. We might have six months of winter, but when the sun shines, everything glitters.
Brody finished preschool this week with one cold, one graduation ceremony that melted my heart over (twice), one picnic on a golden day and a handful of amazing friendships for both of us.
Slightly more cautious than the boys he befriended, he looked at me questioningly with his big hazel eyes every single time one of them climbed a tree, jumped from a retaining wall or made it to the tippy-top of structures that, without friends present, I so wouldn't have allowed him to try climbing.
The truth is, I learned as much from these moms as he learned from their sons.
With my girls, I had three kids under the age of 5, and I don't know if my eyes were too bleary and my body was too tired to realize this truth, but by Brody -- my youngest, my last, and my only boy -- I definitely understand this truth: School mom friends are life lines.
Here are the five kinds I was blessed to have these last two years.
1. The Cool Mom
Nothing seems to phase this mom. She not only laughs and plays and runs with her kid, but everyone else's as well. She's the one whose answer is yes to jumping on the trampoline, to going for long bike rides, to playing a rousing game of Toilet Tag -- and she doesn't just send the kids off to play, she joins them. So when you drive into the school parking lot just one cup of coffee in, hair in a ponytail, outfit barely presentable, she's the one playing tag, keeping up with the kids, backpacks piled next to her purse. Actually, no purse in sight, that would just get in her way.
This kind of school mom friend is a blessing because: She reminds you to play, to join in, to have fun, to say yes more often than no, to forget about the outfit and to focus on the kid. She's a daily reminder that there's a difference between young and youthful; only one has to be fleeting, and our children can be our pathway to the other.
2. The Responsible Mom
This mom knows when things are due, where the library books are, what days you need to be where and what you're supposed to bring with you. She's always just a text or a phone call away. She'll watch your kid, pick him up when you're running late and let you know (honestly, authentically) which moments need to be parented, and which ones really and truly don't. And she'll do all of these things with warm eyes and a wide smile and not a single ounce of criticism. She's not responsible at you; she's just organized. You're not, and she could care less.
This kind of school mom friend is a blessing because: She reminds you that the village is there if you just let them in -- you're truly not alone. Also, that most help comes happily, willingly and with judgement thrown out the door. She's a daily reminder that this world is filled with goodness.
3. The Warm Mom
This mom looks at your kid with soft eyes. She sees the magic in him, even (especially?) when you don't. Her support -- of him, and of you -- is unwavering. She'll lead you where you need to be without advice or what-to-dos or even hints that her thoughts differ from yours. Because she doesn't care about any of that. She loves wholly, unconditionally, and -- most importantly -- kindly. She looks for, and therefore sees, what's right in this world. She's inclusive and forgiving and doesn't believe in keeping score.
This kind of school mom friend is a blessing because: She reminds you that most things can be fixed with a smile. That kindness always wins. That it's rarely important to be right. And that there's not much better than laughter in the sunshine. She's a daily reminder that kindness is so where it's at.
4. The New(ish) Mom
This is the mom with a preschooler in hand, a toddler hanging on her leg and a baby on her hip. It's her eyes that meet yours in a bleary look at your past self. Her conversations are cut short by the never-ending needs of the little people in and on her arms (legs, hips and sometimes shoulders).
This kind of school mom friend is a blessing because: She reminds you that you can be -- and often are -- in the position to help others. You can be the one to hold the door, to carry the backpack, to run after the flyaway painting. To say, "You're such a good mom," because those physically demanding, hands on days of young motherhood stab you with doubts. She's also a daily reminder that, my goodness, time passes quickly. Weren't you just that mom? Enjoy your littles; they'll be graduating from preschool in no time.
5. The Seasoned Mom
This mom has been there, done that. This isn't her first rodeo. She has at least one kid older than yours and has juggled, dropped the ball and picked everything back up again. She's a reminder that there's something to love and look forward to in every single stage of childhood -- and motherhood -- so loosen that grip and trade those tears for smiles. Because the next stage will most definitely hold its own brand of magic inside of it.
This kind of school mom friend is a blessing because: At one point or another we'll all get there. We'll sit in the sunshine with new friends and old and wonder how we got so lucky to have such great kids, and such great friends.
We might carry these roles with us wherever we go, becoming a specific kind of friend to every woman we meet. Or, maybe we all play each of these parts within different times, stages and friendships melding and molding what we gift as our kids (and we) grow and change.
It's pretty amazing to realize that these lifelines are right there if we're willing to see them and to note their glitter. (It might be even more amazing to realize that we can be someone else's lifeline.)
What kind of school mom friend do you think you are right now?