The precious gift that comes from being in a friendship group of parents was made clear to me afresh recently.
You see, for the better part of the last decade, my wife and I have been staying in touch with two other sets of parents. Their kids and ours had attended the same playgroup from the time they were barely two years old.
Maybe because all our kids were boys. Maybe because I was then also colleagues with their mothers. Or maybe our boys just got along brilliantly. Whatever the reason, we’ve stayed in touch and met up fairly often over the past decade. That also meant our boys continued fostering a deep ‘brotherhood’ that has lasted some ten years now and counting.
However, thanks to Covid, these past two years have put quite a dampener on our get-togethers. With restrictions that hovered between allowing a maximum of two to five unique visitors to congregate on any one day, it was just impossible to meet up in person altogether.
Until last Sunday.
“Who’s up for a bit of outdoor camping and yummy BBQ?”
Since April 26, when the government lifted the cap on meeting numbers, many have resumed lives that looked more like the days before Covid. No doubt a welcome change from the movement and meeting restrictions imposed these past two years of the pandemic.
That meant of course that our little parenting group could finally meet up. And so we thought, what better way than over an outdoor BBQ by the sea?! And while we’re at it, why not throw in a bit of beach camping to boot?
Now by way of a disclaimer, I must declare upfront here that I’m no BBQ fan. In fact, I’m even less of a camping fan! Call me lazy or an ignoramus, but I just don’t fancy all the fuss of preparing and executing a BBQ party, nor the sheer logistics of setting up and tearing down a tent and spending a night swatting sand flies and sleeping on hard ground.
In short, I don’t even like putting together any kind of party when work and logistics are involved.
Okay go ahead. Call me names. I won’t blame you. Cos I know all too well how very outnumbered I am in this regard, going by the global popularity that are quintessential BBQ parties and outdoor camping adventures.
And I get it. The conversations and camaraderie that are forged in many such gatherings are hard to replicate in any other settings.
Take last Sunday for instance.
A BBQ to remember
Thanks mainly to other more ‘normal’ adults like my wife, the idea for both a BBQ party and an overnight camp by the sea was mooted a few weeks ago.
Swinging swiftly into action as always, my diligent wife booked a BBQ pit located at Changi Beach towards the eastern part of our country where our families lived.
Preparations began the week before with a checklist of food and camping-related items put up, and all of us marking what we could take charge of to bring for the big cook/camp-out.
The week before, I was down with the flu (after two years without) and feeling miserable, but secretly glad for the excuse to do nothing by way of contributing to the preps. Not that I would be of much help anyway.
Thankfully on the day of the BBQ, I recovered enough to play my usual role of chauffeur to drive my family down. We even had my wife’s teenage nephew and niece joined us for the party.
It turned out to be a fun and long overdue meet-up for which I’m most thankful for.
Parents and friends on the long road of parenting
That evening, the food and fellowship flowed easily. It was as though these past two years of the pandemic had simply melted away with the heat from the BBQ pit.
As we cooked and ate, we the parents eagerly swopped stories about how our kids have been and what they have been up to in their respective new schools (they started their teen lives this year as newly-minted Secondary 1 students — each in a different school). All that went on while the children were busy running about and behaving, well, like all kids ought to in such an idyllic setting.
We the parents also shared our concerns like how to parent teens (always a hot topic among parents new to the world of parenting teens) and what were some of our deepest worries. Like excessive digital screen times, the new friends in their lives, and longer hours in school plus the doubling of subjects to conquer.
What I relished most from the gathering was a strong sense my wife and I were not alone in our journey as parents, something I took great comfort in despite the fact that we each must still walk our own parenting path. But at the very least, we now have fellow parents who walk a parallel one with us.
And who, over the decade, have become firm friends too.
For that gift, I am forever grateful.