Something happened during the pandemic that I am forever grateful for. My four- and six-year-old son and daughters became the very best of friends with our neighbors. Our 68-year-old female neighbors.
It started innocently enough when my kids would go play outside after virtual school. My kids would yell, “Hi Ms. Janie! Do you want to play?” across the street to her. They showed off all their skills including running, jumping and the playdate usually ended with a dance performance.
During the summer of 2020, we were relatively isolated with no plans. This doesn’t bode very well for three active little kids. We started to plan times to see Ms. Janie and Ms. Jeri each week. Our neighbors loved listening to my kids’ stories with their imagination running wild. We took a walk every morning and my kids enthusiastically recalled each of the animals we saw. My kids zoomed around on their scooters or bikes calling out, “Watch me, Ms. Jeri!”
Their relationship continued to grow into the fall, as two of my children began kindergarten virtually. While they enjoyed interacting with their peers online, I truly saw my kids light up during their special time spent in person with Ms. Janie and Ms. Jeri. They ran across to Ms. Janie’s driveway, asked to move her bench from her porch to the driveway and took turns “going to sleep” on the pillows. I was walking hand in hand with my youngest daughter back to our house when she turned to me and said, “Mommy? Ms. Janie is my best friend.” They had formed such a special relationship that was so cherished during an uncertain, stressful time.
In the winter, my children ventured into Ms. Janie’s backyard. They had the biggest smiles on their faces as we played good guys and bad guys, chasing each other around. They learned Spanish from Ms. Janie and listened to stories about her childhood. During the torrential snowstorm in February in Texas, Ms. Janie watched our kids throw snowballs and sled down the street from her window. We texted often throughout the power outages, and Ms. Janie had to go stay with friends due to the heat going out in her home.
As restrictions began to lift in the spring and vaccines were given, my kids started to visit Ms. Janie at her house. They played I-Spy, card games, and loved playing her piano. My oldest daughter excitedly planned a dance and song performance. She said that she was nervous to perform because she usually only did it for her family. Ms. Janie smiled and quickly responded, “It’s okay. I’m your family now.”
I worried about my twins celebrating their sixth birthday during a pandemic. How would I make it meaningful for them? It turns out that all they really needed was their new friends — their neighbors. It was a perfect day, complete with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and LOL Dolls theme, ice cream and gifts. My son’s constant giggles and shrieks during Red Rover said it all.
We came full circle as the summer of 2021 loomed ahead. We each started to venture out more and resume our normal lives. We may not see each other as often as before, but the bond that was formed over a year ago remains as strong as ever. My kids continue to ask to play with Ms. Janie and Ms. Jeri after dinner and return to our house full of stories and smiles following their visits.
I have had the unique opportunity to watch an unlikely relationship form that has changed my kids for the better. The neighbors that we barely knew a year ago have become a second family to us. It has been the most wonderful gift to see Ms. Janie and Ms. Jeri embrace and love my children as their own.