Other people’s children populate my life. It’s gratifying to have the confidence of someone who is not my child, but is the age a child I could have had would be. They are fascinating people. Kids I’ve known since they were babies, brand new to the world. They send emails or call, sometimes they spend a weekend or a summer. We go out for meals or shopping, to a game or a show. I won’t allow them to pay for anything, I remember young and broke very well. Mostly, they talk and I listen. I keep the occasional secret and offer advice sparingly. I am grateful to call their parents my friends.
My friends, who are also their parents, have generously shared the joy of their children with me. From time to time these exceptional kids will struggle in opposition to their parents, who themselves will suffer from worry over their kids. It is not uncommon for the kids to voice numerous complaints over their parents’ shortcomings to me. My customary reply is- “Parental relationships are difficult, with unreasonably high standards and lofty expectations, you and your parents will work this out eventually.”
It is not my right to undermine my friends’ parenting endeavors. Choosing sides would not add anything to the relationship. The kids don’t want me to side with them against their parents. They expect me to remain comfortingly neutral, like Switzerland, to keep my place in the land of older, wiser adults, a sanctuary of predictable stability.
There was a woman in my mother’s life who ran an unrelenting, subversive campaign to undermine my mother to all of us kids. It was always confusing to me. That woman knew my mother before any of us were born. She was close to my mother, who was her peer, yet she dragged my mother through the dirt so she could stand tall on her broken back. Even when Mum died she behaved that way. I learned a lot from that perfidious hypocrite.
As much as I love my friends’ children, I love my friends more. They have trusted me with their precious children, given me the gift of effervescent youth, the chance to watch them grow like flowers in a garden. I cherish that gift so I honor it with loyalty.