We came to Portland to visit Natalie’s sister, Emily, and some of our mutual friends (one of whom is pictured above). A portion of the friends are some of my oldest and dearest, who have seamlessly folded themselves into Natalie and Emily’s lives as well. I have known these people for a decade, and shared some of the most profound experiences of my life with them. In addition, they have been loving my children since the beginning of my experience in parenthood. They moved to Portland some years ago, but we have maintained close ties and continued regular visits to each other since. And each time, we immediately reconnect with each other, pick up where we left off, meet each other’s “new” friends, and continue on as though there had been no interruption at all. The same is true for our girls.
In many ways, these people are an extension of our normal, home village. They love and treasure our kids and our kids love them right back, and we all share in the joy and (to a greater or lesser degree with each kid and each adult and each situation) the responsibility of caring for and guiding the girls. And like our other village at home, we feel safe as well as honoured to have these people parenting our children with us. BUT — in this scenario, in our extended village, at our home away from home — none of the other “parents” have their own children!
I am sure you can guess, but let me tell you exactly what this means. This means that Natalie and I have twice found ourselves sitting snuggled together in the middle of the day without simultaneously addressing the needs of any of our kids. This means that for stretches of time long enough to be noticeable, our girls are huddled up with an adult other than us discussing some delicious subject, and/or giving and receiving important information, and/or looking at some amazing thing, and/or playing some fantastic pretend. It means Bella and Xi got to have three different wrestling sessions with three different people other than me. It means Echo got held and carried around by someone other than Natalie or me. It means all three girls have had their own individual interactions with an adult who had no other agenda whatsoever than to be present.
This is all because there isn’t someone else waiting for these loving adults to come back. There isn’t a child eagerly (or enviously) watching for his parent to stop playing with or paying attention to our children. And there isn’t anything else in these adults’ lives that even comes close to having children — so they are stoked to get to play with ours for as long as the girls are satisfied. Seriously, there have been moments when I am actually the one waiting enviously for one of my daughters to want to play with me. I have even caught myself trying to be a little more entertaining, and a little more interesting, and even a little more present with them.
When it comes to it, aside from all the other benefits I can think of (which are virtually innumerable), one of the things I like most about this scenario is that I find myself not just being more open to, but actually stretching toward being more for my girls. I find not just that I have more energy for it, but actually more burning interest in playing, talking, reading, and just being with them. I find myself leaning into the next opportunity to steal my kids back from the rich bounty of other ready and willing village-parents. I find myself utterly delighted in both their outward explorations/interactions, and in the moments when they return to me filled up and brimming with love and energy and contentment. I even find myself anxious to finish this moment, so that I can reunite with them before they are off to their next adventure.
And so, with that, I bid you adieu. Be well.