My teenage daughter bid farewell to ballet recently, deciding after extensive debate to, as they say in the corporate world, pursue other opportunities.
Hannah realized school and other activities, including her violin, meant making choices. I told her that I'd support whatever she decided, and praised her willingness to weigh options and set priorities.
Meanwhile, I fought to subdue a selfish thought: I didn't want to say goodbye to the Dance Moms.
Since Hannah started ballet classes as a preschooler, I have spent countless hours in waiting rooms, dressing rooms and backstage corridors. The women who waited alongside me became dear friends.
We bonded over coffee and costumes — never simultaneously, of course, because Rule No. 1 is NO COFFEE AROUND THE COSTUMES! We shared secrets. We traded recipes. We swapped parenting stories. We laughed at each other's foibles as well as our own.
Every mama needs a tribe, and these women are mine.
I know Patty's coffee order by heart (grande nonfat white chocolate mocha). I know Kathy loves historical biographies, and Dyan loves royal weddings. I celebrated Stacey's first marathon and bemoaned Lupita's recent move to Houston. I know Brenda's legendary kitchen disasters, including the time she sprayed a skillet with Lemon Pledge instead of Pam.
I watched Sandy knit beautiful socks, scarves and mittens and squealed with joy one Christmas morning when a pair of those mittens appeared under my tree.
Dance tuition was cheaper than therapy, we often joked, and probably more effective.
I once shared a moment of hilarious confusion with Stephanie when she asked if my family had a bar at home.
"We do, actually," I told her. "It was there when we bought the house. It's built right into the living room."
"Really?" Stephanie said, looking perplexed. "In the living room?"
"Wait," I said. "What are you talking about?"
She was talking, of course, about a dance barre bolted to a wall where Hannah could practice ballet, not my '70s-style wet bar and wine collection. Though truthfully, which is more crucial?
In her new book, "The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood," author Meagan Francis lists "find your tribe" as the fifth secret to happiness, right between "keep it real" and "go with the flow."
Francis argues that a support group — a collection of friends who pull for you in tough times and stir the margarita mix when you want to have fun — is as vital to moms as a first-aid kit or no-fail baby-sitter.
How true. I can't imagine the past several years without my posse of Dance Moms. I'll miss them every bit as much as Hannah will miss the girls in her class and the other soldiers and candy canes come "Nutcracker" time.
I know we'll stay friends — maybe better ones now that they won't have to cover for my lack of sewing skills. But leaving the studio after Hannah's last show felt like waving goodbye at the end of summer camp: You hug and promise to write, but know it will never be the same.
This month I signed my son up for swim team and attended my first parent meeting, where I learned about bullpens, timers and "clerk of course." One friend told me which jobs would be best for a newbie parent. Another warned me that swim meets can last hours.
I think I just met my new tribe.