“That was amazing!” my friend Paula exclaims as she wraps her arms around my eldest daughter. “You played so beautifully. I was totally blown away.”
My daughter had just performed a violin piece that was, indeed, impressive. And as proud as I am of her, I’m equally moved by the sincere praise and admiration being showered upon her by my friend. Her love for my daughter is palpable, and it’s mutual. Paula is like a second mom to my kids, a role that I am eternally grateful for.
My kids have had many Paulas in their young lives. I am blessed to have a whole cadre of friends who are not only supportive of me, but who love my kids as if they were their own. They ask about how my kids are doing. They sympathize when they’re struggling. They take joy in their accomplishments. They offer words of encouragement when they need it.
They provide a social and emotional safety net for my kids. I like to think of myself as a pretty decent mother, but I can’t be all things to my children all the time. They need other adult examples and mentors who can help teach them how to be a solid human being. They need a village of elders who can provide different perspectives and life experiences, who can provide nuggets of wisdom in ways that my husband and I can’t.
I love knowing that my children are well taken care of when they are under my friends’ care. I love knowing that if tragedy should strike my husband and I at the same time, my kids will have ample arms to catch them and help them through their grief. I love that my kids have adults they can turn to when their parents just aren’t getting it. I love that my friends take their role in my children’s lives seriously, even as they provide an element of fun for my kids that I can’t always provide.
My kids are blessed to have diverse examples of grownups in their lives—quiet introverts and bold extroverts, lighthearted optimists and stoic pragmatists, ambitious go-getters and chill down-to-earthers. Each provides a model for a different way to approach and interact with the world, and I love that my kids can see different parts of themselves reflected in my friends’ personalities. When we have lots of people to look up to, who are conscientiously engaged in our lives, it’s easier to figure out who we are and how we fit into the great puzzle of humanity.
But mostly, I’m just glad my kids have so many manifestations of love and acceptance in their young lives. I still clearly remember the impact that our close family friends had on me as I grew up. I still appreciate how I can look back at my memories of childhood and know that I was not only adored by my parents, but by so many others in my community. I love that my kids are growing up with that same kind of support.
To all of you who love my kids so well, I hope you know how much you mean to me. You are the village that is helping raise my tiny humans to be extraordinary adults. Your contributions to my and my kids’ lives are real, significant, and oh so appreciated. I wouldn’t be the mom that I am, my kids wouldn’t be who they are, and the world simply wouldn’t be as lovely and loving a place without you.
Thank you, friends, for giving so much to my family. I am eternally grateful to every one of you.