As I pulled into my driveway the other day, I saw one of my neighbors heading for her backyard. I jumped out of the car and jogged across the wet grass to say hello. While we chatted, she kept turning her head to check on her 3-year-old son. A minute later, we saw him chasing the dog around with a plastic bat. After taking care of that situation, we heard silence. Since quiet children usually means trouble, I followed her through the gate. Before I came around the corner, I heard her groan and say, “You got the hose out?”

Just then a very wet dog ran past and the little boy giggled even though he was headed for time out. A second later my friend came back around the corner with her soaked 1-year-old on her hip and that “Is it bedtime yet?” expression all mothers can recognize. I felt very sorry for her, since it was not even 10:00 in the morning.

She made her way back through the gate and kept apologizing for the chaos, which I found humorous, considering the household disasters I face on a daily basis. Just as she attempted to close the gate, the wet dog muscled her way through my friend’s legs and charged off for an adventure. I tried to catch her, but I was no match for her strength and her wet fur just slipped through my fingers. As I am no stranger to chasing giant Labrador retrievers down the street, I took off in pursuit. After a nice morning jog, I dragged the dog home and gave my friend a smile. She kept shaking her head. I knew exactly how she felt.

We shut the dog in the backyard and let her wet toddler run free on the grass while we talked. She let out a huge breath. “I know I’m doing the right thing by staying home,” she said, “but sometimes it’s just so hard.”

I sympathized with that mom. I remember the endless days of my two girls’ preschool years. There were times when I thought I would lose my mind and times when I almost did. It is exhausting and the stress of staying one step ahead of a strong-willed toddler is a job fit for a Marine. I took the time to assure her that things change quickly and invited her to our summertime play group. For me, getting together with friends and letting the kids play has been a key restorer of my sanity. I felt almost guilty as I walked back to my quiet house, but I knew in a matter of hours I’d be chasing my own children and probably steam-cleaning the carpet …