J. and I are blessed with a large group of very good friends. These are not your average run-of-the-mill friends, but more the call-in-the-middle-of-the-night-for-help type friends. They are supportive, encouraging, generous, and just plain fun. What's even better is that some of them are also parenting children from hard places. There is nothing like having someone you can talk to who intimately understands that day's frustration or struggle or who appreciates a milestone that may seem small to the greater world, but is huge in your own. It makes parenting a little bit easier.
It is also good for our children to be friends with someone who has faced the same experiences and who may share some of the same struggles. Sometimes for these children, anything that is out of the ordinary can be difficult. It can cause fear and anxiousness to well up in the child, even if the child is not consciously aware of it. That makes some rites of childhood a little tricky. Take, for instance, the sleepover. I know not every child is comfortable with this, but most navigate it and even those who don't it, the consequences may only involve some tears and a midnight car ride for the parent. For some of us, we worry that it will be more than some tears. There is always the possibility that more extreme behavior will emerge and we would hate to put our child or an unsuspecting parent into that situation. I know there is no rule that children must have sleepovers, but when they see their friends and siblings having them, they want in on it, too.
So back to my friends. It is a perfect situation to have a friend who is not only knowledgeable about parenting a child with a hard background, but is actively doing it. Especially when between the two of you, you have four 8 and 9 year old boys who are friends. That way, you can break the whole experience down into manageable bits and practice them. Last night was the first 'sleep under'. TM and D. welcomed their friends ZG and ZT over for a post dinner movie, after which the friends went home to sleep in their own beds. It went very smoothly and fun was had by all. Of course there were some requirements... they needed popcorn... and they didn't want any big sisters with them. (The second requirement stemmed from having been ejected from the room more than a few times when the older sisters had friends over.) Here are the four boys engrossed in their movie:
Dinner and a following activity may be next on the list. Then we'll see what happens from there, but for now, at least, they feel as though they have moved up to 'big kid' status.
Did I mention generous in the list of characteristics our friends have? Because they are. Very. Sometimes that generosity is monetary or in the form of unexpected food, but sometimes it is just plain fun. Take a look at what another friend dropped of at my house the other day:
Can you tell what it is? That would be five rolls of paper, some regular weight and some heavy and semi-glossy (which is great with markers) and two reams of very large flat paper which is heavier than normal printer paper. (He rescued them from being tossed in the dumpster at work.) I use rolls of paper all the time for various projects related to school, plus everyone just likes to draw really big pictures on it. And when you live with gerbil children as I do, you can never have enough paper. I haven't quite figured out the best place to store it, so it is decorating my dining room. I need to move it soon, though because L. has spotted it. This would be the two year old who perpetually has a pen or pencil in her hand. (Yes, I know it's not good to allow this... and my stairway walls show it. But you try living with 9 children and also keep all writing sticks under lock and key. I'm not really sure it is possible.) Anyway, L. is a bit obsessive about drawing and would like nothing more than to get her hands and writing stick on that pile of paper. As cute and precocious as it is that she can already draw funny round people heads, I'm not sure I want to just let her have at that pile of paper.
So thank you to all of our friends for, well, just being you.