I am finding that raising a little girl is different than raising a little boy. I am finding that raising kids in a city is different than raising kids in a small town. And I am discovering both of these things fast and furiously as I venture into the realm of two school-aged children.
Let’s talk about the gender factor first. My four-year-old daughter is now coming home from Junior Kindergarten using phrases like “best friend,” “she said she didn’t want to play with me,” and “hurt my feelings.” These are all phrases that her brother, three years older, has never spoken. She feels things deeply, she notices friendship nuances, she’s finding her way amongst her peers.
And the big-city versus small-town element, well, this is something that I’ve written about before. I’m a small town girl, and I was raised in a town of 250 people until I was ten years old and we moved to a town of 2000 people. Everyone knew everyone, for the good or the bad, so it seems unnatural to me to send my children into a classroom, knowing few other families, and having them talk about kids that I’ve never met.
Now, to be fair, we moved into this neighbourhood less than two years ago; we’re still finding our way and meeting people as we go. But I suspect that this not-knowing-everyone is simply a side effect of city living, even though my kids attend a school of just 300 students, small by city standards. So, while there are more and more familiar faces at pick-up and drop-off, and more and more hellos at the playground gate, the fact remains that I want to know my children’s friends and their families.
I was chatting about these things with a friend; this friend lives in a different neighbourhood and has children that are older than mine. She’s been down this road before, and like the good friend she is, she sent her parenting wisdom down the motherhood pipeline: she suggested that I host a friend party for my daughter. Now, why oh why, I hadn’t come up with this simple solution on my own accord is one of the reasons I often preach that “The World Needs More Girlfriends.” Girlfriends help and support, and help and support she did.
A friend party it would be.
We printed off eleven invitations, one for each girl in her class, and asked her teacher to put them into the children’s backpacks. “We’d like to get to know you,” the invites said, “please join us on Sunday afternoon.” So, this past weekend I had six little girls running around my basement, laughing and playing and building their friendships. And I had six families in my kitchen, meeting and talking and building their community.
This friend party was for her, but as it turned out, it was also for me. You see, she’s nurturing relationships with girls that she’ll go to school with for the next decade and beyond (girls like this and this), and I’m nurturing relationships to build my small town within my big city.