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The Ladies of 50-Somethingth Street

We reassure each other that we’re all normal, it’s just our kids who are bonkers

Bus stops.

They’re the place to be in the mornings.

And the afternoons, too.

They’re the local support group, where we can share and connect as we catch our breath.

They’re where all the action happens, as you watch all your friends and neighbors rush down the steps, waving frantically to the bus driver to wait for them as they hold on to their child with one hand, trying to stuff a barely eaten grilled cheese sandwich into the kid’s pocket with the other hand as they explain to him in as calm a voice as they can manage that now is not the time to ask for a mitzvah note.

That’s when you look at your neighbor and think (or say aloud), “Glad it’s not just me!”

One morning this past summer, I made it to the bus stop with half my kids having eaten breakfast already. The other half of my kids waited until we got to the bus stop before announcing that they do want breakfast, and that when they’d  said no to offers of cold cereal, hot cereal, frozen waffles, or toast, they had really meant yes, and now they’re starving.

As we waited for the bus, a friend of mine joined us, feeding her toddler a bag of potato chips as she walked. “Oh, are you eating breakfast?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Well, we’ve been up since dawn, and we’re way past breakfast, finished lunch, and now we’re up to snack time.”

A few minutes later, another friend walked over with her son and confided, “A lot of bribery had to take place to get him up, dressed, and willing to go to the bus stop this morning.”

I looked at my friends. “Look, this definitely feels like winning at parenting to me. I mean, we’re all here at the bus stop on time with our kids who are all fully dressed, and most of them even have shoes on, right?”

And then we all agreed that, yes, clearly we were doing all right as parents, but we also agreed that we were feeling more than a little mom guilt, and then we decided that what we probably needed was a nap, but since naps for moms are generally as attainable as unicorns, we went our separate ways in search of coffee instead.

Sometimes support comes from understanding friends who seem to know what you need before you do.

One Shabbos morning, I left my hectic and busy house to go borrow an onion, which my neighbor Miriam gladly agreed to give me.

We got to chatting a bit, and ten minutes later I said, “I really should be heading back to my house, if you don’t mind getting me the onion.”

“Oh! You really need an onion?” Miriam turned toward her kitchen. “I thought you were talking in code and that you just needed an excuse to take a break from your house!

“You should know that I also have salt,” she said as she handed me the onion. “In case you need to borrow something else later today.”

A friend who has an emergency code in place before I even knew I could use one? A neighbor who knows that all moms could use a bit of a break without judgment? Everyone needs a neighbor like that.

During the school year I’m lucky enough to hang out with The Ladies of 50-Somethingth Street.

As we wait for our buses to come each morning, we reassure each other that we’re all normal, it’s just our kids who are bonkers.

I watch Chumie tell her four- and five-year-old girls that having a competition to see who can stand closer to Mommy isn’t the best game, and that standing on Mommy’s feet to be the closest isn’t actually so much fun for Mommy.

She’s lucky, though, because when my boys play that same game, they simultaneously try to stand closest to me while also trying to whack their brother in the face to put him out of the running.

We turn to each other to commiserate about the nights when three kids threw up at 2 a.m. but don’t have fever, what to do about our third grader who decided he’s  totally done with going to school ever again, how to determine if our 13-year-old is really sick or is just trying to avoid a test, and see if anyone can identify that really weird-looking rash on their toddler’s face.

My neighbors are there to show up on Friday with a cake for Shabbos when they know it has been a week of sick kids, canceled babysitters, and now you’re hanging on to your sanity by a teeny-tiny thread (thanks Ruchelle!). We remind each other (after we finally make it to the corner) that it’s Rosh Chodesh so you better race back to your house and up the stairs to change your kid so that he’s not the only one without a white shirt in cheder.

If you do the math, we probably have around 100 years of parenting experience between us. Which everyone knows is the equivalent of three medical degrees and a PhD in childhood development.

If there’s an issue that the Bus Stop Support Group is unsure about, don’t you worry — we have no less than five recommendations for professionals whom we’ve used before or whom our sister-in-law was happy with or whom we went to school with.

It definitely takes a village to raise a family while keeping your sanity. And the ladies on my block have my back.

If you don’t yet have a bus stop support group on your corner, it’s really easy to start one. Just make eye contact with that exhausted-looking mom yawning across the street as she waits for her daughter’s bus and lift your now lukewarm morning coffee in a salute of solidarity. And just like that, it begins.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 782)

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