Some of you will be familiar with the MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) program which is designed to support and validate mothers of young children in local networks. MOPs is usually hosted by a church body and features child-minding, freeing the mothers to network, snack, listen to an edifying talk and make a little craft item.

Mel drove down from the Sunshine Coast (1.5 hours!) just to take me to a local MOPs meet-up and introduce me to some of the friendly ladies she had recently met at the annual MOPs shin-dig over the past weekend. We drove to a local church that met in a community hall, only to be overwhelmed by the number of senior-aged people congregating in the foyer. Oops, the hall was been hired out for a school performance, and the MOPs meet-up was in a smaller room off to one side.

We put our kids into the dedicated child-minding area — a bit reluctantly. The 3-5yos appeared to have only one supervisor — a young man, and there were at least ten kids under his care. Aisha and Brioni said that they were quiet the whole time. (They have this thing about not talking to strangers, even their Sunday School teachers!)

The under-3s were in a separate room with a single hardly-out-of-school girl as well, though another lady turned up to help at some point before I collected Calista. So I was uncomfortable with leaving the girls and perhaps if I had brought along some toys I would have kept the girls with me, playing quietly on the floor.

Our program consisted of some housekeeping announcements (it must have been a close-knit group — Mel and I were obviously the new faces), an encouraging talk from a grandmother and some time spent making little paper boxes. I modified my boxes into little handbags to give to the girls, assuaging my guilt for leaving them in the care of others.

During the grandmother’s talk (she has four grown-up daughters), I heard a message that I wanted to remember. She told about a lady knocking on the door of a mother’s house just after the mother had endured a horrible, no-good, very-bad morning with the kids. Upon being invited in and seeing the state of the house, the immaculately-dressed lady blurted out, “Oh, I’m glad to see you have those days too!”. This led to a great friendship between the two women.

It reminded me that we all have peaks and troughs in our parenting and housekeeping styles. I’ve had one friend who hated the fact that I occasionally dropped in unannounced, because then she was caught in her pyjamas with the laundry piled in the living room, TV blaring, children still wearing most of their last meal on their faces and clothes. The friendship did not survive because she could not allow herself to be vulnerable to me. But I wonder if I had presented a gracious reaction to her in the first place, perhaps she would have found me a safer friend.

I’ll never know.

But in the future, I definitely want to be gracious to others. And if you come knocking on my door, you’ll find me (and the house) in whatever state we’re in, and I won’t apologise. (If you’d like it tidied up in advance, you’d have to bring my mother-in-law with you for a scheduled visit.)

***

It was great to see Mel again, and although I’m not really sure about the MOPs program (craft? — eek!, child-minding? — eek!, free food — I’m there!), I was happy to spend the day with Mel.

After the program was finished, we went to Ikea for lunch, allowing my three and her one child to play before, during and after lunch. We didn’t get home until 3pm — way too late for a siesta, but that’s not what I told the girls!

Calista, 16 months old, + Brioni, 2yo, August 2009
At Ikea, Brioni snuggled up to Calista who was resting on a toddler bed. Brioni was lightly fingering Cali's cheek in the same way that she likes to play with her top lip when she's trying to unwind.

David is away for a couple of days. He’s laying the floors in a house a couple of hours away and sleeping in the truck. It’s been terrific for him to get a big job like this. Each sale means we’re one roll of carpet closer to being able to put the house on the market. We’re certain that God has a specific sale planned for each piece of stock, and we’re looking forward to seeing it all go to new homes!