A lot of things about being a parent happened as I had imagined:
▪ Pregnancy felt physically weird.
▪ Giving birth hurt.
▪ Babies don’t sleep much and they cry a lot. Both situations are very frustrating.
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A lot of things about being a parent felt very different than I had imagined:
▪ The angry-strength of Mama Bear moments.
▪ How hard saying “no” is.
▪ How traumatic teaching a kid to drive is.
And then there are the emotions for situations that I never saw coming at all. One of the most surprising of those? How other people’s kids would find a place deep in my heart. Specifically, the kids who I met because they are friends of my own children.
Like everything with our own Trailblazer Child — the first kid, the one who taught me how to be, and how not to be, a parent — our eldest made friends first. It started as soon as she began preschool and began her own friendships with kids I didn’t know at all. Every single time I met these new friends, I was inexplicably drawn to them. Was it the gratitude I felt because this child saw enough awesome in my kid to call her “friend”? Was it seeing what my daughter saw in the new friend? I doubt I’ll never know.
Makayla was one of the first people I can remember holding this special place in my heart after she and my daughter met at Daisy Scouts in kindergarten. Between the things that Bekah told me about Makayla, and things I learned when she came over to play, I quickly grew to love her. Not exactly the love I feel for my own child, but the feeling is definitely a sub category of that love.
Makayla was a free spirit with a kind soul who was forever trying on new looks. One month she was sporty, the next she was goth, the next an artistic creative…her clothes changed, her hair color and style changed, her name even changed —but her personality never did. Ever. Outward appearances are important but I was proud of her and loved her, not just because she was Bekah’s friend, and not because of how she presented herself to the world but for who she was…and I still do.
As my boys entered school, more kids took a place in my heart next to Makayla. The kids were all unique, the qualities of them that I admired were all different but my feelings for them all were the same.
Feeling surprised when I realized how important these kids are to me has always been the same, too. I got to experience that special feeling of surprise, pride and love again last week when my middle child graduated high school. It wasn’t my first offspring to graduate and celebrate this milestone, but when my son’s friends’ names were called the emotion felt fresh each time.
Name announced: With pride, “Oh! I know them!”
Walk across stage: With love I loudly applaud.
Get diploma, shake hands, pose for photo: From deep in my heart, “Yeah, you! Whoohooo!”
It’s not all unicorns and fairy dust, though. Over the years things have gotten complicated in my heart when, as kids do — heck, as adults do — friendships fell apart. My loyalty is with my own child, but I have a hard time turning it off for my kids’ friends over a conflict of personality or an error in judgment. I do, but it hurts.
Life is full of surprises for parents. When they are heartwarming and long-lasting, like the feeling I have for other people’s kids, it’s the best kind of surprise life can give.