Did you ever imagine, all those years ago when we were younger and less wrinkly, that we would one day watch our children grow up together?
Back then, in the era of late nights drinking cheap wine from the box in our dorm rooms while we talked about our imagined futures, did you ever think that our children might do the very same thing one day—together?
And while we were growing up together, experiencing many of life’s big changes simultaneously—graduating from college, falling in love, getting jobs, moving away, getting married—did you ever think we would be lucky enough to grow up as mothers together while our children also grew up together?
Sure, we talked about it. We hoped for it even. But if we’re really being honest, I think we both thought it was a fantasy, a pipe dream that was too good to be true.
Because life gets in the way.
Because friendships change.
Because kids have their own plans, which usually have a way of fucking up our plans.
So while I hoped our imagined children would be friends with each other, I was also realistic enough to know that we might not be that lucky.
Yet here we are. Friends for more than 20 years, mothers for nearly 10 of those years.
And I can easily say that these years—the friends-as-mothers years—have been the sweetest. The hardest, yes, but also the sweetest. And they are made all the sweeter by our children’s friendship with each other.
When you first told me you were pregnant, I was happy for you in a way that only a best friend can be. But truthfully, I was also a little jealous and a little worried that you might leave me behind in the wake of parenthood. We might diverge on different paths, with you going down the path of diapers and pacifiers and late-night feedings while I stayed on the path of waiting.
Fortunately, I followed close behind you, and we delivered our firstborn sons within a few months of each other. I will admit that, like a little sister following in a big sister’s footsteps, I sometimes felt weary that we—my son and I—were always a half step behind you. But like most sisters, over time I realized that there is no measuring when it comes to things like friendship, love, and motherhood.
And so I celebrated when your son said his first words, and you clapped when my son started walking. We lamented the sleepless nights and offered each other potty training tips. We complained about the hard days and wondered what the fuck we were thinking when we decided to have kids in the first place. And then we laughed, if for no other reason than to ward off the tears.
When we got together with our families in those early days of motherhood, our sons played together in the way that toddlers and preschoolers do—which means they played next to each other, fought over toys now and then, and basically had no use for each other.
As they grew, their differences began to emerge. Your son took a liking to sports early on, shooting hoops for hours, while my son preferred animals, rattling off names like Sichuan takin. I suspected that as they grew their differences would become even more pronounced, and the best we could hope for was benign tolerance until they eventually went their separate ways in adolescence when they weren’t forced to hang out with their families anymore.
But something interesting happened somewhere along the way. Instead of their differences becoming more pronounced, they narrowed and their interests began to overlap. But even more than that, their differences and varied interests just didn’t seem to matter to them. When we were all together, our boys often ran off with each other, eager to introduce the other one to their latest obsession.
Sure, there were squabbles from time to time, but for the most part, you and I let them figure it out on their own. We didn’t rush in to shape their friendship, but instead let it develop over time and in its own way until, at some point, a friendship independent of ours emerged between them. They are not just the children of two friends; rather, they are two children who are friends.
And it is, quite simply, magical.
Last summer when we spent a few days at the lake, you and I sat on the dock, feet dangling over the edge, and we watched our boys. We watched them splash and float on a raft and kick their little-boy legs. We overheard their words as they debated whether or not to swim farther than allowed and they rattled off the names of their favorite baseball players. We listened to them laugh and squeal, occasionally argue about something and then forget about it when their next laugh bubbled up.
And I tell you, it filled me up with a joy so deep and true that my heart almost burst wide open. Like looking at the sun, it was so intensely bright and stunning that I almost had to look away.
But I looked anyway. I looked long, and I looked hard.
Because there is nothing more beautiful than witnessing the buds of our children’s friendship growing out of the roots of ours.