Why Our Kids Need The Folks Who 'Fill The Gaps'

Our Kids Need Adults Who Can ‘Fill The Gaps’

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Parents, we can’t be everything for our kids. We just can’t. That’s why trusted adult role models are such an important part of childhood. They walk next to us on this parenting road, and they help us usher our children from infancy to adulthood.

Just like us, our kids are whole people with complicated interests, needs and feelings. Given the unlimited ways that people can be knit together, it’s highly unlikely that any of us is raising a child who exclusively loves what we love and wants to know what we know. Kids need a chance to explore their own interests and to discover who they are and what makes them excited about life. They need to know that they are loved and important outside the four walls of their own home.

Let’s take a minute to sing the praises of the adults who love our kids and teach them some of the valuable lessons we couldn’t possibly cover on our own.

Let’s raise our glasses to the grandparents who show up.

Grandparents are probably the only people who truly love our kids as much as we do. Sure, they might let our kids eat unlimited treats, stay up way too late, and throw the rules out the window. But they also show up for every game, recital and performance. Our kids’ success feels personal to their grandparents. Our babies are the next generation of the family legacy. When our kids excel, grandparents feel the same pride they felt when their own kids did something great. Grandparents love our children so completely. Grandparents are some of our kids first non-parent role models. Our children learn about unconditional love from them.

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Let’s hear it for those devoted aunts and uncles.

Aunts and uncles without kids of their own can be the coolest. Maybe the cool uncle isn’t the first person you think of when the word role model comes to mind, but they’re important! They are laid back in a way moms and dads can’t always be. Every kid needs that one aunt or uncle who will be their ally when their parents are SO MEAN and just DON’T GET IT.

Aunts and uncles with kids are cool, too! When our siblings have children, our kids get COUSINS! Cousins are built-in buddies, saving our kids from deadly boredom at family reunions and stuffy wedding receptions. There’s nothing quite like a friend who is also your family. Cousins are some of the first best friends a lot of kids get to have. Without aunts and uncles, there wouldn’t be cousins.

Shout out to incredible teachers.

Our kids spend more waking hours at school than at home for most of the year from preschool to high school graduation. Teachers keep our children safe and happy while also teaching them incredible amounts of information. Nobody ever chose to be a teacher because they thought it would make them wealthy. Teachers often spend their own hard-earned money on our children to fill in the gaps when the budget is too tight.

Not only do teachers have to teach our kids and keep them safe — they also have to be able to look at a sea of 30 little faces and spot a kid who is struggling so they can get the extra help they need to succeed. Teachers impart all the knowledge our kids will need to succeed in higher education or a career, and they do it while caring for their emotional and physical needs as well. Teachers are superheroes.

A round of applause for coaches and instructors.

A lot of the time, the people who facilitate our kids hobbies and activities have skills and knowledge that we just don’t have. If you can’t keep your balance on an ice skate, you’re probably not going to help your kid become the next Wayne Gretzky, but a great skating coach can get them ready to join that hockey team. Your kid might have the ability to become a world-class concert pianist, but if your training never quite made it past Chopsticks, you can’t help them reach that potential. A fantastic piano teacher can.

Learning the skills to excel at the sport or activity of their choice is important, but coaches and instructors teach our kids so much more than how to play. They teach our kids about teamwork, perseverance and trying hard. A great coach can sometimes be one of the most beloved role models in a child’s life.

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A huge high five to our fantastic friends.

Our friends love our kids because they love us. They’ll buy a bag of fundraiser popcorn. They are there for every birthday party. Their children are friends for our children. Friends know how we parent, and unlike grandparents and cool aunts, they’re likely to make our kiddos stick to the rules. We know if our friends offer to hang with our kiddos for a few hours, it’s unlikely that we will come back and find our kids all hopped up on sugar, shout-singing Baby Shark. They’re on this parenting journey with us, they love our kids, and have our backs.

Friends are important because they’re the family we choose. A kid needs to know that the people in their life love them, and not because they are tied to them by the obligations of family. Some people are in our kids’ lives just because they choose to be there. Friends are priceless.

Can I get a big WOO HOO for therapists and specialists?

These professionals help exceptional kids live their most extraordinary lives. They are so important! They’ve dedicated their careers to studying exactly how atypical kids work, and they spend their days making sure no child is forgotten. And their work doesn’t end when your child’s session is over. When your child is born with needs that you just don’t intuitively know how to meet, a compassionate, amazing therapist or specialist is the one who will teach you how to be what they need.

They give our children the gift of a well-equipped parent. Kids with special considerations need people to celebrate their specific milestones, and that’s just what their team does. A child can excel when they are supported by people who believe in them.

To all the people who love our children on purpose and help us along the way: THANK YOU.

We couldn’t do it without you.