This room is a special place. Twice a month, women from all different neighborhoods of the city and varied life situations come together here for brunch, socialization and practical help in topics related to parenting, while the kids have a great time upstairs, playing or doing crafts and hearing stories. At times the conversations can be inspiring and uplifting, or wise and insightful, or serious, or down-to-earth practical, or belly-laughing-out-loud funny. It's the local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group that meets at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, a few blocks from my house.
Every few years, representatives from area schools visit our MOPS group to be part of a panel and answer questions about their schools, whether public, private, magnet, charter, or homeschooling co-op. We've learned from experts about the importance of play for young children's cognitive development; the stages of grief for children; common pediatric illnesses and how to know when to see the doctor; organization tips; marriage advice; how to teach kids financial responsibility; early preparation for literacy; common sleep issues in children; how to talk to kids about race; dealing with postpartum depression; nutrition and meal planning; yoga and fitness; and how to help kids engage with art.
I had heard of the concept of MOPS before we moved downtown, but I had never imagined how much I would appreciate being part of this group. MOPS uses the term 'preschoolers' to mean infants through pre-kindergarteners. Its website states, "We've all been placed in this time and place in history, as the tribe of women who are raising the world. And the beauty of it is that we don’t all have to agree with one another but everyone is in and we all need each other."
One local MOPS group is in Carmel, two in Speedway, two in Southport, one on the east side of Indianapolis, one near Williams Creek on north Meridian, and one in Broad Ripple. And then there's the downtown group at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (16th & Delaware).
It can be hard to form lasting real-life friendships with new people you meet in this age of social media, and groups like MOPS that focus on a common interest (parenting) help in this endeavor. When we moved into this neighborhood from Irvington four years ago, I hardly knew anyone who lived close, let alone any families with children. We moved from an area with lots of young kids, where both our wonderful next-door neighbors were having babies. We had heard that there were lots of families with kids north of us in Herron-Morton Place and Fall Creek Place, but weren't sure about the Old Northside. We quickly learned after moving here that there were no other families with young kids on our street for several blocks in both directions. (The Old Northside has changed quite a bit in the past four years, and young families are moving in.) Many neighbors on our street are retirement age or older, and we have developed great friendships with them in the past few years. But MOPS has been instrumental in bringing us into contact and community with other young families living in the downtown neighborhoods, with similar experiences and goals (like surviving this crazy, messy stage of life as well as raising kind, caring and responsible little citizens).
So if you live in Indy and crave community, there are many different options and types of groups to get involved with. Some neighborhood associations downtown are really vibrant social groups, and there are a lot of other common-interest-based groups and organizations. Urban living has been shown to correlate with increased social capital, which means a network of interpersonal connections, acquaintances and friendships, which turns out to be beneficial to your health and happiness as well as productivity [the more people you know = the more community projects you can get done]. MOPS at Redeemer is the group that has helped me find community and friendship here in this urban life with kids, and I am truly thankful.